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Canyoneering Fatality in Not Imlay Canyon in Zion National Park

Discussion in 'Accidents and Near Misses' started by hank moon, Oct 3, 2015.

  1. hank moon

    hank moon kinetically bulbous

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    Rest in peace, my friend. Your big heart and joie de vivre will echo in the canyons forever...

    http://www.nps.gov/zion/learn/news/canyoneeringfatality_notimlay.htm

    Date: October 3, 2015
    Contact:Aly Baltrus, 435-703-3836
    Contact:David Eaker, 435-772-7811

    Springdale, Utah: On Friday, October 2, at approximately 1:00 p.m., Zion National Park was alerted to a canyoneering accident in Not Imlay Canyon. A rescue operation was started immediately. A helicopter was used to drop off a Search and Rescue team at the top of the canyon. At 7:20 p.m., Park Rangers found the individual, Christian Louis Johnson, deceased. Johnson, 50, is from Saint George, Utah.

    Not Imlay Canyon is a side canyon of Imlay Canyon. It has become increasingly popular in recent years as a shorter, drier route compared to Imlay Canyon but it is not any less technical or dangerous.

    Johnson was canyoneering with a party of four, including his husband Everett Boutillet. The two had been canyoneering together since 2010 and had "descended more than 100 canyons 200 times in five states" according to Boutillet. This was the couple's second time in Not Imlay Canyon. The accident occurred on the first rappel in the canyon.

    "Zion was our favorite park. Our favorite place to be. Our first canyon was the 'Subway' and we were instantly addicted," said Boutillet. "Louis and I understood the risks, but the joy that it brought outweighed them." Johnson's mother, Joy Johnson, added "Nature gave him so much peace."

    "We also want to share our gratitude for those that went out to him and brought him back and to the personnel for keeping us informed," said Joy Johnson. "Also our gratitude to his canyoneering family, who have sent Louis and Everett well wishes from all around the world."

    The Washington County Sheriff's Office and Zion National Park are investigating the incident. More information will become available once the investigation is complete.

    "Our condolences go out to Louis' family and friends," said Zion National Park Superintendent Jeff Bradybaugh.
  2. Alane Urban

    Alane Urban

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    Sad, sad day. Louis and Everett are an inspiration to so many of us in this small community. I am so glad Everett and Joy were quoted in this - it is so important to remember what canyoneering brings to all our lives vs. what it might take away in tragic events as this. You will always be missed, Louis. There will be many canyons done in the future where your smile will be top of mind for many of us.
  3. Rapterman

    Rapterman

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    Stunned to hear this news.
    Condolences to Everett and family and friends.
    hank moon likes this.
  4. canyoncaper

    canyoncaper

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  5. spinesnaper

    spinesnaper

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    This is a very difficult loss.
    Rapterman and hank moon like this.
  6. trackrunner

    trackrunner

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    I still can't believe it. I'm so sorry Everett, family, and fellow friends.

    Louis was a great person all around. I'll miss his smile and great attitude the most.

    Thanks for touching my life Louis.


    Sent from my SM-G900V using Tapatalk
  7. Ram

    Ram

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    Some people draw folks like a powerful magnet. When they are kind and gentle to boot, they shine a bright light. I only met the chap a few times, but Louis and Everett were everywhere, drinking deeply from the well of life. Sad beyond measure

    This was Louis' first post I think, back in the Yahoo archive? Number 7 on the page and down to 14 (link takes you to #9 I think,. Go up from there, then down).
    http://canyoncollective.com/threads/introductions.8245/#post-60973

    I heard early this AM. many found out. It was like if it was given no words, somehow it would not be true. I could not speak, so I did this. Add if you like
    http://canyoncollective.com/threads/pictures-thread.19552/page-11#post-94432
    Lisa, Rapterman, hank moon and 2 others like this.
  8. Cameron

    Cameron Long Tall Texan by birth

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    Louis touched me and so did Everett.
    They both wrapped their arms around me and accepted me.

    We got close very quickly. They are both mentors To me.

    Louis always talked a lot about the journey.

    And I know his journey is to watch over Zion for us and we will all canyoneer together again where there are no ropes or falls......just wings.

    I miss you dearest friend.

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  9. Mudcat

    Mudcat

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    Louis was genuine, warm, friendly and positive. The kind of person who makes you optimistic about humanity. What a tragic loss.

    This article discusses the accident.
    http://suindependent.com/louis-johnson/

    Bill
  10. Ram

    Ram

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    Well said Bill. A gem of a fella. Just from reading Facebook it is obvious that Louis touched the lives of so many people. Very sad. Many people, including me, are hurting today

    WARNING: The info provided in the opinion piece is still far from complete and 2nd or 3rd hand depending on how you look at it. Louis had done the canyon before, so I suspect they were not using Luke's beta per say. I know the anchor has been changed back and forth from 2 other locations other than Luke's. There are several ledges to drop past, at the bottom part of the 1st rap, depending on your rope length. There is low angle bench between the first and 2nd rap. The terrain could have changed or other anchors sprouted further confusing the issue, I am wary of making many conclusions at this juncture
  11. Canyonero

    Canyonero

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    I never had the chance to meet him, as it appears many of you did.

    Canyoneering is inherently dangerous, even for the experienced. We must never forget that. The longer I do it, the more risky it seems to be. Who hasn't purposely rappelled off the end of their rope before, planning to just climb the rest of the way down? I know I have. Christian probably had before too. Up until yesterday, we've both gotten away with it.

    In this case, it appears the right thing to do was to lock off and ascend the rope, then rerig the drop. The alternative is for him to lock off and be hauled back up by his party. What percentage of canyoneers have the knowledge, skill, and wisdom to do either in this type of situation? I'm sure it is higher on this site than in the general canyoneering world, where I'm confident it is less than 5%. We all take people canyoneering who don't know how to do this. I bet we send them down first sometimes too, so we can be "LAPAR."

    While we celebrate Louie's life, let's also take a few minutes to be a little more cautious, and to pick up a few skills we don't currently have, to ensure no one has to celebrate our life or the life of someone we took into a canyon.
    Last edited: Oct 4, 2015
    Everett Boutillet and mephotoman like this.
  12. hank moon

    hank moon kinetically bulbous

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    Second this. I look forward reading the firsthand accounts. Of course there is one perspective we will never have, so the picture will always remain incomplete. R.I.P. Louis.
    Rapterman, EvergreenDean and Ram like this.
  13. Bootboy

    Bootboy Atwood Gear

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    Sad news. Sounds like a lot of people here knew Louis personally. My heart aches for the loss to the community.


    I know it's beside the point, but I think this route name is a bit silly and creates confusion. Every canyon in Zion except Imlay proper is "not Imlay" canyon.
  14. Canyonero

    Canyonero

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    What about Not-Mystery and Miss-Me on either side of Mystery? I think Tom's responsible for these names, isn't he? Maybe not, but that was the impression I picked up somewhere. I'm sure he'll chime in and clarify. If nothing else, it is helpful for people to know there is a "Not-Mystery" and a "Not-Imlay" because people will be much more careful IDing the top of their canyon knowing other canyoneers have blown it in the past.
  15. Mountaineer

    Mountaineer Is that an X slot?

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    Tragic.

    My sincere condolences to the family and friends.
    Dave Melton and Rapterman like this.
  16. JeremyAndShannon

    JeremyAndShannon

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    We are the third and fourth members of the team of canyoneers that set out to descend Not Imlay canyon with Everett and Louis. The following is our attempt to document the events that transpired on Friday, October 2, 2015. We have tried to capture the facts as accurately as possible.

    We had plans with Louis and Everett to do a technical descent of Not Imlay canyon on Friday and Crawford Arch on Saturday. We left The Grotto shuttle stop just after 8:00 am. We arrived at the top of Not Imlay shortly after 11:00 am. We continued down to rap 1, where an anchor was already set. The anchor was set on a tree in the water course. We all inspected it and agreed it was solid. We took a lunch break and then geared up. It was shortly before noon. We discussed safety, agreed to double-strand, and agreed to use a fireman’s belay. The first drop was expected to be 100’ to a ledge with the second rap station, so a 200’ rope was set. The second rap was expected to be 180’. We agreed Louis would take the 300’ rope and set rap 2. Louis got on rope using a Pirana. Before he went over the lip, he posed for photos. He is in the water course in the pictures. We watched as Louis descended over the lip. A little while later we heard Louis shout up to us. It was difficult to communicate and he was out of sight; however, we did hear Louis indicate that there wasn’t enough rope to reach the bottom of the rap. Everett moved into a lower position on a perch with a tree where it appeared he could hear Louis slightly better. They continued to communicate with difficulty for a short time regarding options. A moment later, we heard a scream followed by an impact, after which the scream stopped. After another moment, we heard a second impact. Everett asked if we had heard what he had heard. We all shouted down to Louis; there was no response. We briefly considered sending one person down with ascending gear to assess the situation. We quickly agreed that was not a viable option. We pushed the emergency button on the Spot device shortly after noon. We agreed to part ways; Everett and Shannon went back via the approach route for help, Jeremy stayed back for Louis and SAR. Shannon and Everett each individually made cell contact with 911, Shannon at the top of Scouts Landing and Everett at the junction with Angel’s Landing. They continued together to The Grotto shuttle stop. They were transported by a ranger to the Emergency Operations Center. SAR arrived on the scene at approximately 5:00 pm and quickly began to set up operations. Jeremy was transported by helicopter to the EOC, where he met up with Shannon and Everett.

    Later in the evening, a kind and loving member of the community opened their home and took the three of us in. We are so thankful for the efforts of SAR , the park personnel that helped us, the friends and family that have reached out to us, and to the canyoneering community as a whole. Only Louis knows what happened in those final moments. We are so deeply saddened by this tragedy. Please keep your thoughts with Everett during this time.

    Be safe in your adventures,
    Jeremy & Shannon
  17. Cameron

    Cameron Long Tall Texan by birth

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    Thank you for sharing J&S....Mark and I love you. We grieve with you and for you and will be seeing you soon so that we can hug, mourn, remember and celebrate life.
  18. bnwilso

    bnwilso

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    Thanks for the details Jeremy and Shannon. There are two starting points for the first rap. The Blue Gnome description starts from a tree that is on the left side facing down canyon and enters the side drainage NOT down the main watercourse. It's probably about 50 yards to the left of the watercourse. The rope lengths for that two stage sequence are 100 to an intermediate tree and then 180 down to a ledge that puts you back in the watercourse and those are the rope lengths you reference. In the past couple of years many people have been going directly down the watercourse instead of the Blue Gnome route, which is trashy because it's through brush, sand and potentially falling rocks. I can tell by the picture that was posted of Louis on the first rap that he was on an alternate anchor that goes straight down the watercourse. It's not a two stage drop, but a one stage drop of more than 300 feet. Depending on where the anchor reaches relative to the lip, it can be anywhere from 305 feet to 320 feet to solid ground, with no good opportunities for pulling up short and setting up a second anchor.

    My sincere condolences to all involved and I hope this information gets out to those who might be heading to Not Imlay in the future, or for that matter, heading into any canyon where beta could be outdated because of changes in the terrain or where alternate unpublished routes have bee in use.
    Last edited: Oct 4, 2015
  19. Ram

    Ram

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    VERY DEEP SIGHS!

    Just a horrible tragedy.

    Thank you Jeremy and Shannon. I hope you two and Everett find peace and if needed, seek council for what can only be described as an awful trauma. May the arms of the community and friends help in this. Please take care of yourselves

    I think Bruce is close in describing what caused confusion and set the table for the accident. Louis descended with the appropriate rope length for the left gully, looking down canyon. I think Louis descended the central anchor, which tackles the wall with a much bigger initial drop, one that enough rope was not deployed for. The only part of Bruce's description I contest is that there is no ledges before 300 feet or so is passed. I thought I encountered some ledges 2/3 of the way down and then periodically for the last 3rd of the 300 foot drop. I am guessing Louis descended this line and came up short of the first ledge, in the top of the lower 1/3 of the central anchors big (300 foot+/-) drop. Please forgive me if my analysis proves wrong. I have only done the canyon once and last May.

    This is Kody and Kyler approaching the central anchor, the big tree. If this was the anchor used, 200 feet likely falls short of the first ledge, but not by much, I think? 100 feet, with the rope doubled over as it was sounds like it may reach a small ledge over by the gully?
    [​IMG]

    The 3 of us were on a different line, left looking up, in this picture, where the ropes are. The line from the big tree, that I think Louis took, is along the water streaks, right of the ropes. Note the ledge below the upper vertical wall, with the light green tree. I suspect the 200 foot rope would came up just short of that ledge, over by the water streaks. 100 feet down would be even more challenging, as i don't recall much of any ledges. The gully, while working toward the water streak fall line, would be very difficult to get to, I suspect Hope someone has a picture of the area. The gully route is out of sight on the right of the water streaks, along the edge of the big upper wall.
    [​IMG]

    This is taken from the ledge with that light green tree, about 200 feet down. The water streaked line is at least 25 feet to my left, as I look out, down canyon.
    [​IMG]


    I hope I am not disseminating wrong information and more so, am not premature in doing so. The need to know and understand is strong. But not at the cost of disrespecting this wonderful human and all that loved and cared for him, including myself
    Last edited: Oct 4, 2015
    mephotoman, ScottM, Lisa and 6 others like this.
  20. bnwilso

    bnwilso

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    I think you are right Ram. I think there are some ledges in the lower part of the 300 foot rap but I recall in passing them that I was glad I wouldn't have to figure out how to stop and build an anchor as there didn't appear to be much ledge or anchor material to work with. I also think based on the published picture that Louis didn't have 200 feet of rope to work with - it appeared to me that the rope was doubled in anticipation of a 100 foot rap. If so he still might have been close to a small ledge that seemed viable in the upper section, but getting to the lower one third would have taken some creative reconfiguring with some assistance from above.
    Rapterman and Ram like this.
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