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Canyoneering Rescue
Zion National Park

          On Saturday, September 1, 2001, a father and son intending to descend Mystery Canyon made a navigational error and entered the wrong drainage.  After spending the night in the canyon the father was able to descend the canyon to a point where he could call for help to the tourists below hiking the Temple of the Sinawava Trail.  Zion Search and Rescue, considered one of the best high angle rescue teams in the country, removed the trapped canyoneers from the canyon wall Sunday morning.

2 Stranded Canyoneers

          After viewing the picture above, the following account was graciously supplied by Bo Beck, a participating member of the Zion Search and Rescue Team.

          Since I didn't interview Richard and Blake I'm not sure as to all of the rhymes and reasons, however I do know that 175' of rope, 50' of webbing and a bunch of 5mm accessory cord is what is seen in the picture.  Apparently the accessory cord got snagged on the way down, however when I finally got down to the bottom there was a large pile of cord on the ground, must have unsnagged at some point! 

          When we arrived just above Blake (20' down in a horizontal oriented slot with a nice sandy bottom) we set an anchor that I used to rappel to Blake to supply him with Gatorade, then continued down to Richard to supply the same and insure that he was secure.  Both were in good spirits, definitely ready to arrive at terra firma, dehydrated (mostly Richard from being exposed to the elements) and tired of just hanging out. 

          I jugged back up, waited for a 600' rope to arrive, (we already had 2-300's). We used 2 separate anchors, 1 for belay, 1 for lower; the 2-300's were our belay which using a Radium LRH we were able to pass a knot without interruption, the 600' was used for the lower.  Belay was done using tandem 8mm prussiks and lower was accomplished using brake rack with bars and a hyperbar.   The main and belay were tied together using interlocking longtail bowlines.  I clipped into an inline figure 8 about 4' above the interlocking bowlines and prussik backup on the belay.  Once I was lowered to Blake I clipped him directly into the interlocking bowlines and tied him into the longtail of the main, we then were lowered tandem to Richard at which point I clipped him into the inline figure 8 and tied him into the longtail of the belay, I then transferred onto Richards hanging rope and the team then lowered Blake and Richard tandem to the ground. 

         Once down the mainline was fixed which we rappelled down on, last man down tied the 300's and 600' together, we anchored the 300's to a tree and he rode the 600 down' then we pulled the 300's to retrieve the 600.  As for how Richard and Blake faired, I think they are quite happy to have gotten down OK but they can probably fill you in more as to the whole situation.  Hope that this answers a few questions?

Bo Beck - Zion Search and Rescue - September 5, 2001

          The incident above should serve as a warning to everyone who explores the backcountry.   The rewards are tremendous, but the cost can be steep.  There is no substitute for experience, skill and common sense.  Please use caution in your backcountry travels.


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Copyright 2001, Shane Burrows