Group Stranded near Parunuweap Canyon

April 09, 2016 Posted by: Zion National Park

On August 26, 2015 at 1217 hours, Zion Dispatch received a 911 call an overdue party of 2 hikers suspected of being on the East side of Zion National Park. The reporting party (RP) stated that the overdue party was planning on doing a day hike in the area of Fat Man's Misery, but could not confirm location. Due to the large search area Kane County Dispatch was notified and asked to assist. The Kane County Sheriff activated the Kane County Search and Rescue team (KCSAR) and coordinated with Zion Search and Rescue (ZSAR) liaison.

The party departed at 0630 on August 25th for a day hike somewhere on the East side of Zion National Park. Friends became concerned when the two did not show up for work on the 26th. The reporting party (RP) was later able to provide a vehicle description and NPS Rangers located the vehicle unoccupied and parked in a pull-out near Checkerboard Mesa.

With a narrower search area, KCSAR Incident Commander and the Deputy Sheriff contacted the Chief Ranger at Zion advising of their plan to launch a helicopter to conduct an aerial search of the Barracks and Fat Man's Misery Canyon areas.At this point, it was unknown if the missing party was located inside Zion NP or not.Due to staffing concerns, Zion requested that Kane County take the lead on SAR efforts and the park's Chief Ranger would serve as the ZSAR liaison.

At approximately 1702 hours KCSAR helicopter located the overdue party on a ledge in a canyon West of Fat Man's Misery.The party appeared to be ledged-out in an area approximately 400' from the Parunuweap Canyon floor and unable to travel up or down from their location.Hand signals between KCSAR and the party indicated a "thumbs up" okay.The helicopter was unable to safely land in the area and was required to leave the area due to an approaching severe thunderstorm.That evening KCSAR and the ZSAR liaison worked together on a technical rescue plan for the morning of August 27th.

On August 27th at 0730 hours, KCSAR and ZSAR teams conducted a team briefing with pilot and crew of Classic Helicopter.KCSAR and ZSAR teams were then shuttled to an unimproved helispot close to the party. Here the teams set up and tested the area for the technical raise operation, but during testing the area was determined to be unsuitable due to loose and falling rock and rescuer safety concerns.A second site was located and operations for a 125 foot raise of both parties started.The party was successfully raised to the rim without incident and checked out by the NPS Medic and denied any further medical assistance.

Contributing Factors:

1.Unfamiliar with the area and they relied upon guide book description.

2.Did not hike far enough East to enter correct canyon.

3.Followed visitor made rock cairns in the wrong direction.

4.An interview revealed that the party came upon the Plaque route exit trail on their way toward Fat Man's Misery canyon and at that point, they thought they had gone too far.They turned around and followed this route back the way they had come.At the head of a canyon west of the NPS boundary, the party reported seeing footprints leading into that canyon and they mistakenly determined that this was the Fat Man's Misery canyon. They followed this canyon down past obstacles and pulled their rappel rope only to find out they were stuck on a ledge approximately 500feet above Parunuweap canyon without any way to go down or back up.

Canyoneering, Search and Rescue

Last updated: April 9, 2016

Park footer

Contact Info

Mailing Address:

Zion National Park
1 Zion Park Blvd.

Springdale, UT 84767


If you have questions, please email Listen to recorded information by calling anytime 24 hours a day. Rangers answer phone calls from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. MT, but a ranger may not answer if they are already speaking with someone else.

Contact Us