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11/28/2021 Death in Heaps Canyon Zion - Discussion

Discussion in 'Accidents and Near Misses' started by ratagonia, Nov 29, 2021.

  1. ratagonia

    ratagonia

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    • SPRINGDALE, Utah – This weekend, the Zion National Park Technical Search and Rescue Team responded to an emergency call at the exit of Heaps Canyon. Rescuers found two canyoneers stranded on a rock perch about 280 feet above Upper Emerald Pools. They also found one canyoneer suspended from a rope about 260 feet above the pool (20 feet below the perch). The canyoneer who was suspended, 31-year-old Andrew Arvig of Chesapeake, Virginia was lowered to the ground and later pronounced deceased by a doctor. The Zion Technical Search and Rescue Team assisted the other two canyoneers with rappelling safely to the ground.

      The group started their trip early on the morning of Saturday, Nov. 27 and had been following their permitted itinerary through Heaps Canyon. They had difficulty negotiating the last few rappels in the canyon which delayed their exit.

      Mr. Arvig, the first to exit Heaps Canyon, rappelled past a small rock ledge where he needed to land and re-anchor his rope in order to then rappel the remaining distance to the ground. The other members of the group used their “pull line” to rappel to the perch. Mr. Arvig was unable to ascend the 20 feet back to the perch. Rangers began rescue operations early Sunday morning when the canyoneers on the perch contacted Washington County Dispatch by cell phone after several failed attempts to connect because of poor reception.The Washington County Sheriff’s Department and the National Park Service are still investigating the cause of Mr. Arvig’s death.

      “All of us at Zion National Park extend our sympathy to the Arvig family for their tragic loss,” said Superintendent Jeff Bradybaugh.

      The park’s response involved more than 30 rescuers including a technical rescue team, a helicopter dispatched from Grand Canyon National Park and a Life Flight helicopter and crew from St. George, Utah.

      The Upper and Middle Emerald Pools Trails, which had been closed due to rescue operations, are now open.

    • https://www.nps.gov/zion/learn/news...xit-of-heaps-canyon-in-zion-national-park.htm
  2. Bootboy

    Bootboy Atwood Gear

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    Just saw the story.

    What awful news


    Really makes you wonder what happened.

    Victim raps 20’ past bird perch. Companions rap to perch on pull cord. Victim can’t ascend and companions can’t haul/convert to lower.
    Victim expires on the rope, 20’ below perch.

    It’ll be interesting to get more details including a timeline.

    Reminder to always stack the odds in your favor with proper prep and training.
    Yellow Dart likes this.
  3. Mountaineer

    Mountaineer Is that an X slot?

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    I and our family also send our deepest sympathies to the family and those he was with.

    Big thanks to all the rescuers involved.
    townsend likes this.
  4. Brian in SLC

    Brian in SLC Brian in SLC

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    What an awful tragedy. Condolences to friends and family.

    Glanced over at the Heap's exit on Saturday from the shuttle bus. That last rappel is a big deal.

    Sad.
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  5. ratagonia

    ratagonia

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    Comments: I comment largely to prevent a vigorous and disgusting comment thread from forming. I have a few observations, that are probably clear to people familiar with the canyon, but perhaps bewildering to people who are not:

    A. Heaps is a long and cold canyon. By the time most people get to the final rappel sequence, they are tired and hungry and their brain is not firing on all cylinders. The packs are heavy at this point.
    B. The penultimate rappel is 145 feet and deceptively steep. The rappeller ends up at the outer edge of the Bird Perch. It takes a small effort to get onto the Bird Perch.
    C. The rappel line from the Bird Perch anchor goes through a tight crack in the floor. Below the Bird Perch, the rappel is entirely free to the ground. To start the final rappel, a person rappels outside the crack, then swings underneath about 5 feet below the Perch. Ascending the rope from below the Bird Perch to the Bird Perch anchor is virtually impossible for all but 5.12 climbers.
    D. I do not know where Mr. Arvig's rappel rope ended up, but it was likely in the crack, making ascending to the anchor impossible.

    We may or may not be blessed with more information regarding this tragedy. I think we have all experienced times when we were tired and made mistakes - certainly I have. I think we know enough about this accident that more information is not useful. Any of us could have found ourselves in this situation, and some of us could maybe of figured out how to do a self-rescue... but I think many of us would not have.

    Condolences to the family and to the companions.

    Tom
  6. Canyonero

    Canyonero

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    What a terrible, traumatic, tragic night that must have been.
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  7. rick

    rick

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    Could the two on the perch not rig up something to aid his ascent? Why would both rap to the perch? I would think one staying on top would have been prudent.

    They must have been cold and exhausted and inexperienced.
  8. ratagonia

    ratagonia

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    You are welcome, Rick, to start a 'speculation thread'. But please do not make this thread into a speculation thread.

    Tom

    UPDATE: This thread has become the speculation thread.
    Last edited: Nov 30, 2021
  9. Jolly Green

    Jolly Green

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    What a terrible situation in a very tricky place. My condolences to his loved ones.

    Sure makes me ponder. Any gear I need to add to my pack that I don't currently carry? Any skills or knots to add to my arsenal? Far easier to think about this for the first time on the couch than when stressed by dehydration, hunger, coldness, darkness, or whatever else inevitably throws a wrench in the plans.
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  10. Wayne L

    Wayne L

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    Practice transferring from one rope to another or crossing a knot. Read and practice "Climbing Self Rescue: Improvising Solutions in Serious Situations".
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  11. pagerocks

    pagerocks

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    A few clarifying questions:
    • Did he rappel past the birds perch on a rope that was too short to reach the ground?
    • Was that their only rope long enough to get to the ground?
    • Does anyone have any sense of the timeline (start of canyon, arrival at perch, mistaken rappel, call for 911, arrival of SAR)?
    A horrible time for everyone involved, my condolences
  12. pagerocks

    pagerocks

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    • Improvised ascending and rappelling with minimal gear
    • How to convert an anchor from a fixed rappel to a lowering from the top, with weight on it
    • Loading and unloading a helpful and unconscious patient from one rope system to another
    • Passing a knot on ascend and rappel
    • Explaining all of the above to another person of medium competence so you can help them out of a situation that you can't access.
  13. ratagonia

    ratagonia

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    ---- REVISED TIMELINE ----

    1. "Mr. Arvig, the first to exit Heaps Canyon, rappelled past a small rock ledge where he needed to land and re-anchor his rope in order to then rappel the remaining distance to the ground."

    2. "The other members of the group used their “pull line” to rappel to the perch." It is normal for people to carry exactly one 300' rope through Heaps, with a combination of other ropes and or other ropes and a pull cord for the pull. It was a party of 3 people, therefore, not a party with a lot of carrying power.

    3. Details of the timeline were not stated. What I have pieced together, which may be correct: The rescue completed on Sunday. They started on Saturday, went through the canyon and came to the end late in the day... probably close to or after dark. Ended up spending the night on the bird perch. Rescued the next day. To me, missing the Bird Perch makes more sense if it occurred in the dark - but there is no specific reportage on this point.
    Last edited: Nov 30, 2021
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  14. vanyoneer

    vanyoneer

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    Self-educated guess that harness hang syndrome / suspension trauma was the eventual cause of death.

    If so, it's a contingency that nobody carries equipment to deal with. Potentially helpful skills like ascending can be useful until they are not, such as when theres a ledge in the way requiring climbing a 5.12 overhung finger crack.

    There should be a wake up to the immediate and real danger of harness hang. The most clearheaded well-equipped canyoneer at the top will need time to rig something; at least one study shows symptoms beginning at 20 minutes. In my mind 20 minutes is simply not enough time. The very best-case self-rescue still takes time. Imo a razor thin margin of time. Official rescue is useless when hours away.

    Maybe theres a gear idea that can solve this, a ~5oz silnylon seat/backrest with sewn webbing loops. get stuck on rope, wrap the seat around you and clip the loops to a connect adjust lanyard and tibloc to lift/ tension you into a seated resting position. Maybe would give you a few hours extra for your buddies to help or for rescuers to arrive.
  15. jsb4g

    jsb4g

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    So I have a discussion question since there are two threads and this one says "discussion". I am not sure this is the right place to ask. I am not easily offended so someone posting this here wouldn't bother me. But neither would it bother me if the post was moved. My biggest concern is promoting safety in the future rather than a discussion of what went wrong in the past.

    I've never done Heaps so I have only seen the bird perch on video, but it strikes me as a spot that could lead to a stuck rope if two ropes had to be joined to accomplish the lower. This will be the subject my question below.

    For those reading that haven't carefully considered the practice of lowering, converting to a lower is a pain.Thus, I typically set up longer rappels with a releasable contingency, such as a figure 8 block (just as easy to set up as a biner block to me) or using a device in jester made. Much faster than converting if a rescue is needed. Plus, I have found that when stuff happens, it is easier for me to make a mistake. Therefore, the less I have to do to accomplish a rescue, the better.

    Still, among my bigger fears with lowering is needing to join two ropes to complete the lower because now I need to pass a knot in the lowering system (not too big of a deal) and that knot must be able to clear obstructions without getting stuck (my big fear on the rap in question). What is the preferred knot in this situation to minimize the chances of a stuck rope on the lower? I have heard double fisherman and EDK. EDK is much easier to tie and tends to flip the tails up when going over an edge, but the double fisherman is lower profile and seems less likely to get stuck (maybe?). Does the answer change if one rope is an 8mm technora rope and the rescue rope is 3mm dyneema pull cord? I am aware of the risk of it melting and needing to keep the heat to a minimum (and that a thicker rope suitable for rappelling is preferred for this purpose). I have heard the fisherman preserves rope strength and is a more durable knot,which may be more important if the rescue rope was just a small pull cord. Is rope slip in the knot a concern with either of these knots when using dyneema?

    Oh, and if you have any readily available data on rope strength loss with particular knots, please post the link.
  16. jsb4g

    jsb4g

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    Or you could use a sling to stand on and take weight off the leg loops. Https://www.workzonesafety.org/file...s/ARTBA_Fall_Fact_Sheet_Suspension_Trauma.pdf
  17. pagerocks

    pagerocks

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    If this timeline ends up being correct, he could have been stuck on rappel for 12+ hours before he died, which lends more credence to the suspension trauma theory. Scary stuff.
  18. Sutitan

    Sutitan

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    For those who have never seen the perch, this video shows the exit rap sequence pretty well. The first rappel shown is rappel 2 of the exit sequence. The perch is rappel 3 and you get a good idea of it around the 3-6min part of the video.



    My condolences to his family and friends.
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  19. ratagonia

    ratagonia

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    A further article makes it clear (and is probably correct) that they did the canyon on Saturday and got stuck Saturday night. Rescued on Sunday.

    To me this makes more sense. I attribute much of the problem to the 'fog of fatigue'.

    (I have updated my conjectured timeline above with the new information).

    Tom
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  20. ratagonia

    ratagonia

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    Excellent video, really makes the situation clear. Tom
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