April 01, 2014
On the morning of March 23rd, Sean Leary, a well-known and accomplished climber and BASE jumper, was reported missing by his wife after failing to return home to California from a trip to the park. Investigators soon discovered that Leary had planned to BASE jump from the top of The West Temple in a wing suit on the evening of March 13th, intending to fly the notch between The West Temple and the Three Marys, which are east of West Temple.
Rangers working with the Grand Canyon helicopter located Leary's remains on the north side of the Three Marys approximately 300 feet below the summit on the afternoon of March 23rd. A recovery was not attempted due to the strong crosswinds mixing near the ridgeline. Based on favorable weather forecasts, rangers instead planned a recovery effort for March 25th utilizing Grand Canyon's helicopter.
Two rangers were short-hauled to top of the Three Marys and rappelled to Leary's location for the accident investigation. Leary's remains were then long-lined from the scene and the rangers were short-hauled from the summit.
Leary held the speed record for climbing the nose of El Capitan in Yosemite and interest in the climbing community was high. Several of Leary's friends independently climbed Gentleman's Agreement, a 5.13b, 900-foot climb up the Three Marys on March 24th and fixed lines to the summit. Four of Leary's friends with climbing and NPS rescue experience joined rangers to form a raising team on March 25th in case the helicopter operation was not possible.
Although BASE jumping is not permitted in the park, this was the second such fatality to occur in Zion within the last six weeks. The first occurred at Mount Kinesava. A third fatal BASE jump this winter occurred at Grand Canyon.
Last updated: April 2, 2014