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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. JeremyAndShannon

    JeremyAndShannon

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    This is correct.
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  2. skiclimb3287

    skiclimb3287

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    @JeremyAndShannon - thank you so much for posting your account. We cannot begin to imagine how difficult it must have been to write. Much hugs and love to you two.

    Ryan and Carrie

    Sent from my SCH-I545 using Tapatalk
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  3. Ram

    Ram

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    Last edited: Oct 4, 2015
  4. Cameron

    Cameron Long Tall Texan by birth

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    Louis had a more truer love for Utah, the canyons, the peaks and Zion than someone I have ever seen. It was pure and it was beautiful. He was the most positive person. If you brought up anything remotely negative or sad, he would say its all part of the journey or its just making a better adventure.

    The seeds of love for Utah had been planted in my heart years prior. They grew in my every day. Upon a trip back, I did my first canyon with Jeremy and Shannon and Bo...and that was enough to make life unbearable not living in Utah.

    I quit my job, packed my things and my partner and I moved to Saint George, not knowing anyone. Bo introduced us to many people including another dearest Jenny. She put us in contact with Louis and Everett.

    I remember meeting with them at a restaurant in Saint George. They told us stories and ideas of all the adventures that they wanted to take us on. I thought they were crazy! A 300 foot rappel I DO NOT THINK SO. I got into the car and laughed at all the things they wanted us to do.

    Over the months, we did them all together. When I would get scared, Louis would hug me and tell me it was all part of the adventure. I wasn't working and L&E worked part time. We spent a great deal of time together doing several adventures a week. Being out with L&E was a true joy.

    I might be newer to this community but my skills rapidly grew without having a job and going out several times a week. I remember in Death Valley, Louis and Everett did a canyon and came back and said they wanted me to do it because they loved it...and they did it again just to take my partner and I through THE NEXT DAY.

    That was Louis folks....and Everett folks. It was about sharing the adventure and love they built for each other, the canyons and Utah.

    My heart aches deeply for the loss we experience but so full with the love he shared with me.

    I had to return to Texas to take care of my sick mother, Louis and Everett were the first I had to say goodbye too. It was a lovely August day.....we woke up early to do a little peak to beat the heat. The day they spent telling us how proud they are of us and how far we have come. It made my heart swell.

    I had such a tender goodbye with them. I let tears fall down my cheeks and I saw Louis' eyes water. He told me that I inspired him, my love for Utah, the adventures and the canyons inspired HIM. I couldn't believe it.

    I fly back to Utah next week, my plans revolved around L&E, we were going big...West Temple, East Temple...Bridge if there was time...and Cedar Mesa.


    The community has experienced such a profound loss. A beacon of light, love and true goodness.

    Louis, thank you for being a mentor to me as you are to so many. Thank you for living life the the fullest and sharing it with me.

    I won't let myself remember the final moments of your life but I will remember all the moments we shared and treasure them....and hope to pass them to some other girl or boy that their love for Utah and the canyons grew so much they couldn't take it.....and I will take them under and share with them....just as you have done with me.

    RIP Louis.....as you fly through and protect the canyons and peaks of Zion.
  5. EvergreenDean

    EvergreenDean OK with what happens

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    Thank you so much for sharing this Jeremy and Shannon. Somehow the details do help. Please forgive my ignorance, as I am far from the most experienced guy in the canyons, but what are the advantages of setting a double line rap in a situation like this , besides the obvious increase in friction and the speed, simplicity of not blocking? I'm also trying to think of what my options would be if I found myself short in a double strand. This is a skill I need to learn.


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
  6. Kevin

    Kevin

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    Very sad, can't believe it. Julie and I always loved seeing Louis, he was a great positive man, always smiling. Rest in peace my friend. Everett, our thoughts are with you.

    Kevin
  7. Lisa

    Lisa

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    Jeremy and Shannon,
    Thank you for sharing the details, as difficult as it is. I want to know as much as I can about what happened.
    I was invited by Everett and Louis to join your team that day in Not Imlay canyon. I almost said yes but something held me back. I'm glad I didn't go.
    I'm very sorry about what you experienced. Please keep the details coming; it's important to us.
    EvergreenDean likes this.
  8. ratagonia

    ratagonia

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    I am responsible for the name Not-Imlay, but not for the two Not-Mystery's which as far as I know evolved organically.

    Most of the canyons in Zion already have a name, so when doing new canyons without names, there is no established naming convention. I saw this canyon from across the way, quite some time ago, and when walking the Narrows not quite so long ago found a party rapping out of there. They said "long rappels, loose rock", and the canyon ended in the Narrows in a place where Narrows-walkers linger, so while I noted the sparse beta and put the canyon on the list, I did not consider it a prospect for a good canyon. At that point it became labelled Not-Imlay, in that a not-paying-attention person trying to get to Imlay via the Right Sneak COULD presumably end up there.

    Roll forward a few years, and a few people went ahead and did it, including Luke of Bluugnome fame. I got there a little later, and found it to be a fine tour, very scenic, with long rappels, fun downclimbs and no water. The rappel into the Narrows is in a safe place for those below (ie, it lands in a place where people do not walk) AND there is close to zero loose rock on the last rappel.

    Tom
  9. ratagonia

    ratagonia

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    Crazy, as on my previous trip there with Louis and Everett, we rappelled that same line, obviously with the 300 foot rope.

    The highest ledge there, with the tree, I would put as 120 feet down, depending on how long the sling at the top is rigged. Maybe even less. It SEEMS further down, as it is the first feature on the rappel. The tree would make a sound anchor. Elsewhere on the series of ledges, there is very little anchor-making material / possibilities.

    Deep sadness.

    Tom
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  10. Canyonero

    Canyonero

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    You can ascend two ropes just like you can one, although I confess I don't think I've ever actually done it. It's definitely a skill worth learning and practicing, if for nothing else pothole escapes where you might have to ascend 4 or 5 ropes attached to potshots. Mechanical ascenders obviously don't work, but I see no reason a Prussik wouldn't. Bootboy uses a sling when attaching an etrier to multiple ropes. I think he uses a Kleimheist, but I'm sure he'll clarify what type of sling he uses and what knot he uses as he's following this thread.

    You would need to attach your anchor to the rope in the same way while hauling up a stranded rappeller like Louis. Your Progress Capturing Device and your Rope Grab would both need the capability to grip multiple ropes.

    I think I'm going to add some gear to what I normally haul through a canyon.

    One other option to ascend two ropes, although probably a lot more work, if you only have one sling is you can use your tied off rappell device for one of your two rope attachment points and the Kleimheist for the other. The belay device would have to be on the bottom, of course. And tie back-up knots below you (i.e. a figure eight into your harness) for additional safety.
  11. ratagonia

    ratagonia

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    May I suggest that specific technical discussions related to this accident should take place via a separate thread.

    Thanks.

    Tom
  12. Canyonero

    Canyonero

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    Very well.
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  13. Kevin

    Kevin

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    .
    Last edited: Oct 6, 2015
  14. Canyonero

    Canyonero

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  15. EvergreenDean

    EvergreenDean OK with what happens

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    I can only speculate, but when one does as many canyons as these fellows, it is easy to forget details of specific raps. Perhaps the details were fuzzy, and hence the printing and utilization of the only "beta" available. It still does not explain the choice to rap double without contingency for me. Louis was my friend. I do not want to disrespect his memory and/or critique the decision, but if there is any other reason to make such a choice, I would like to be filled in. Perhaps it was just a mistake. I make them too. Hopefully never with a life on the line. If so, we need to recognize it though. Not blame but at least acknowledge. I hope my inquiry carries the right tone and no one needs to reply now, but perhaps in time. Thanks.
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  16. ratagonia

    ratagonia

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  17. ScottM

    ScottM Looking for a canyon, you got one?

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    Thank you Ram for providing the comprehensive details regarding this first rap.

    I had not had the chance to meet what certainly appears to be a wonderful human being. My thoughts and prayers are with those nearest and dearest to Louis. RIP.
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  18. Everett Boutillet

    Everett Boutillet

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    Thanks for your patience while I recover from the loss of my husband and life partner of 21 years. The moments and particularly the sounds of Louis’ fall have been seared into my mind forever. I got no sleep for the first 48 hours as the accident played in my head on continuous loop followed by the endless thoughts of would’ve, could’ve, should’ve. I completely understand the insatiable desire for details and the need to learn from others mistakes when an accident occurs in a canyon. Unfortunately, there are no good answers for why we made the ultimately fatal choice but I can certainly tell you now a handful of things NOT to do.


    The way I see it, there were two glaringly obvious mistakes:

    1.)Why was a 100’ rope set on a 280’ rappel?

    2.)After realizing mistake number one, how did Louis react and why?


    We are experienced. Since becoming hopelessly addicted to canyoneering after descending the Subway in 2010, we have descended more than 120 different canyons in five different states for a total of about 200 trips. We took a multi-day beginning Canyoneering class from Rick Green in 2011 and his advanced class in 2012. We’ve benefitted from the instruction and example of many seasoned canyoneers.


    I think there is a general eagerness to get into a canyon. This may have contributed to a rushed decision. It is pertinent also to mention that along with all of Louis’ stellar qualities, he did have a streak of impulsiveness. Throughout our life together there have been many examples of this but I’ll just mention one here. We both LOVE to downclimb drops. There have been many occasions where I had to restrain Louis from plunging into a downclimb. Was he being impulsive on that rap? I don’t know.


    I need to state right off that Louis and I alone are responsible for what occurred that day. We used BluuGnome beta for the trip. I remember asking Louis if we should use Tom’s beta. He said the canyon wasn’t listed on Tom's site. I’ve since learned it IS there, Louis must’ve missed it. We had done the canyon once before – a rope retrieval “service project”. This was written up in one of Tom’s Raves. It made me sick to see those photos after the fact. Unfortunately, Louis and I are not among those who can remember every canyon trip they’ve done.


    Jeremy and Shannon described the approach – I’ll get right to the fatal first rappel. As we made the final walk down the beautiful slickrock ramp, the “new anchor” stood out like a beacon. We had used it last year. Before setting the rope, I pointed out the location of the “old anchor”. There was no webbing/anchor on the tree. This is when lightning bolts of caution should’ve hit us. They did not. At this point, Louis and I had no memory of doing the first and second raps as one single combined rappel. (Lack of preparation? We could've looked at our own photos of our first Not Imlay trip) This is where our inexcusable, baffling, horrible lapse in judgement occurred. I can honestly say we both thought Louis was going down 100’ to a ledge. Louis dumped the 200’ rope out of its rope bag, found the ends and began to thread the rope, doubled, through the rap ring. I immediately asked him why he was doubling it. I expressed my concern about getting the doubled rope through my new rappel device, the Sqwurel. More serious concerns escaped my attention. Louis said something to the effect that “we’ve done it before, it’ll work”. I quickly acquiesced. (now I wonder – what, a 100’ rope on a 100’ rappel? No room for error) (the rope was in a bag, why not just send it down, listen for it to land per usual?) (why not set a block with a contingency? This is what Rick Green taught us and we had gotten away from). There are situations where doubling the rope is prudent: shorter raps where you can always see the bottom, raps with problematic pulls where a block might get stuck, when you have a large group and speed would be helpful. Certainly if it was raining and you needed to exit a canyon quickly, etc. In the case of the first rap in Not Imlay, a doubled rope is a poor choice indeed.


    Louis said he’d set up the next rappel and took the only other rope with him. (should we have had another rope? Probably) (Did he need to take the second rope? No, there was no need for our group of four to be in a hurry) (Did the added weight contribute to his fall? Possibly)The rap has a long sloping beginning. Louis went over and far too long after we heard him shout up (due to the elapsed time he must’ve been close to the end of the rope). We had trouble hearing him. The Virgin is visible and audible from there. There was also an updraft that may have made communication more difficult. I conferred with Jeremy and Shannon and we agreed Louis had said that the rope was too short. I believe he repeated it and added that the end of the rope was eight feet short. This was almost certainly inaccurate. I was shown Tom’s Rave photos five days after the accident (taken from the bottom looking up). I was horrified. Louis said, “I need you to send down the other rope". Up top, we all realized immediately that we didn't have one. Louis realized this as well as I remember panicked silence after that. I went down and left to the “old anchor” site, a tree at the edge. I could now see the top third or so of the line and could now hear Louis clearly. I could not see him or what exactly he was facing. Both our minds were racing. I shouted down an idea, Louis quickly rejected it. I started to say something else and Louis said "Everett, shut up" in a panicked voice. Very little was said, there wasn't time. Based on the sounds I heard next, I can only use conjecture as to what happened. Louis either slipped off the end of the rope or intentionally let go, thinking he could make a landing. I believe it was the latter, perhaps that's what I need to believe. Louis said "Oh, Shit". I think back to our trip to Waterslides Canyon in AZ. Sitting at the top of the first slide, just as I let go to take that first plunge, I said "Oh Shit". It was an anticipatory exclamation, like "I know have to this so here goes" kind of thing. That's the immediate impression I had of Louis' Oh Shit. He did not scream or yell at that point. Then a series of the worst kind of sounds you hope you'll never hear: He landed quickly but didn't stop. Shannon first described what she heard next as "a commotion". To me it sounded like a rolling or tumbling. Then a terrible short scream, a sickening short pause, and a final awful crash.


    I have brave friends who did Not Imlay about a week later. Based on information from one of them, Louis was likely 20' from a landing, But it slopes downward and there are two ledges after that, neither of which could've stopped him. So the tumbling I thought I heard was likely a fall from ledge to ledge. What could've happened before that "oh shit" moment? Louis should've have looked for the bottom of the rope sooner, he should've tied off immediately, we should've established clear communication sooner, he could've hung on that rappel for 20 minutes, 2 hours, what ever it took. We could've figured something out if given the time to calm down and think carefully. I'm not going to list possible solutions because I frankly don't know if my ideas would've worked. Louis didn't have ascenders (the rest of us did!). We had always assumed we could share one pair. We have had to ascend due to stuck ropes four times (everyone needs to practice this skill more). I carried the ascenders, I was the climber. If given time we could've found a way to get ascenders to Louis. It's important that everyone understand that he was on the rope for just a few minutes before he dropped or fell.


    I do not follow the canyoneering blogs. Louis did that for us. I now know enough to get this posted and I did read some of the thread when looking for what Jeremy and Shannon posted. I may not have the time or emotional fortitude to answer any queries posted. I hope anyone reading this will gain some insight and better prepare for their own adventures.


    On the beautiful, terrible day this happened, as I was rushing back out the long approach, I kept looking at the vista. At the bus stop waiting for a ranger to take Shannon and I to the park offices, I kept looking up through the cottonwoods at the bright and imposing cliff face. After getting the awful, final confirmation that Louis was gone ("foxtrot" they said in code over the park radio), I was taken from the park and kept looking up at the towering formations. I was in an altered state and everything looked mockingly glorious but I was gaining solace from the powers of Mukuntuweap. I've not been back to Zion yet. At first I wasn't sure if I'd ever cannoneer again. Now I'm certain I will. As anyone can surmise from our photos and posts, Zion and Wilderness in general serves as our refuge and our life force battery charger. I intend to be back out there with a cautious vengeance, adventuring for the both of us.
  19. trackrunner

    trackrunner

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    Thanks Everett. And again I'm so sorry for you. Louis was a special person. I can take some solace in the fact you spent 21 years together.

    Sent from my SM-G900V using Tapatalk
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  20. Mountaineer

    Mountaineer Is that an X slot?

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    Thank you Everett. It means a lot to have opened and shared your heart with us all here. Our families thoughts are with you.
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