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Near Miss in Pine Creek Aug 6

Discussion in 'Accidents and Near Misses' started by Ali Miller, Aug 17, 2018.

  1. Ali Miller

    Ali Miller

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    Earlier this August, I had the pleasure of introducing an Aussie canyoneer (Paul Griffiths, who's both very experienced and excellent company) to a few Zion canyons.

    Following a long day doing Full Imlay, I decided to start with a relaxing Keyhole/Pine Creek combo.

    All was well until, half way through Pine Creek, we began to hear a man calling out. As we progressed, it became increasingly (and alarmingly) clear that these were cries for help. We arrived at around 6pm.

    Turned out, a couple was stuck on the final 100 ft free hanging rappel. Still at the top was a man wearing only a single layer of cotton clothing and a harness with an ATC on one biner. No other technical equipment. His fiancee, similarly outfitted, had been hanging on rappel for over an hour. The large rope (12mm? I didn't recognize it) that they'd brought had jammed in her ATC. She was whimpering in pain, freezing cold.

    Paul and I lowered her a biner at the end of my rope. With great effort, she managed to clip it into her belay loop. It only took few moments to lower her.

    I didn't trust boyfriend to descend my 8mm single strand on his ATC, so I lowered him down also.

    Luckily, Paul had emergency medical training (and unparalleled bedside manner). Paul wisely assumed that her injuries were serious, and so I went out to initiate a rescue with my Garmin InReach. Before my SOS went out, an NPS ranger spotted me from a window on the SR9 tunnel (I learned later that a hiker had heard the man's cries for help, and alerted NPS.). After a few minutes of shouting at each other, he confirmed that a rescue crew was on the way.

    Sometime after 11pm, the woman was able to walk out of the shortcut exit to SR9. My knowledge of the rescue ends there.

    I was thankful that Paul and I had both dry-bagged extra food and clothing. The unfortunate pair had stored what little provisions they brought in Zip Lok bags. All was wet and ruined.

    Also, I can't thank Paul enough for his ceaseless cheer and keen judgement.

    This was my first rescue. I'm relieved that it had a happy ending. I'm so thankful to everyone who prepared me to enjoy this sport safely and responsibly.
    Jenny, ratagonia, darhawk and 13 others like this.
  2. yetigonecrazy1

    yetigonecrazy1 yeti in the jungle

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    Wow, good timing on your part, and good on you guys for helping out.

    Glad it didn't end worse, although would be interesting to see if they are still engaged after this....

    Unfortunately I think stories like this are going to become all too common in the coming years.
    Last edited: Aug 19, 2018
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  3. Downward Bound

    Downward Bound

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    Great work. How was she able to unweight the jammed ATC?


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  4. Ali Miller

    Ali Miller

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    She couldn't; we cut her rope after she was on mine.
  5. Kuenn

    Kuenn

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    I'm guessing there was a momentary anxiety rush followed by an immediate sigh of relief on her part during the rope cut-and-taut operation.

    High fives all around for making it a story with a happy ending!
    darhawk likes this.
  6. Ali Miller

    Ali Miller

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    I took her pretty tight before cutting, so fortunately I'm not sure she really understood what was happening other than moving closer to the ground. There was a little more anxiety in convincing boyfriend that I'd lower him too.

    Me: Ok, I'm pulling up the rope. Clip in, it's your turn.

    Him: Wait... You're gonna lower my fat ass? I'm 320 lbs, in the morning!

    Me: I can add lots of friction, I won't even feel you. I need you to trust me.

    This went on for some time. I was worried Paul might have to push him off. :D

    It was stunning to me that anyone would enter a canyon with so little preparation. To the many fine folks here on CC and elsewhere who have educated me: thanks sincerely! I really like still being alive. :D
  7. deathtointernet

    deathtointernet

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    They absolutely will. All the freakin' time. I'm not sure I'd really be exaggerating by saying 1 out of 3 trips through Pine Creek or the Subway will involve helping another group in some (albeit usually much smaller) way.

    And once for me, Spry:
    "Hey guys, is this the exit for Spry?"
    "Yeah."
    "Can we hitch a ride to the top with you?"
    "Sure, why not."
    "Do you by chance have an extra rappelling device? I'll buy it off you!"
    "What?"
    "And hey, how much rope am I supposed to bring?"
    "Wait a minute..."
    "So here's the thing, I've never actually rappelled before. We'd love to tag along with you but if not I think we could figure it out..."

    Good job rescuing those folks. I really like minimizing the amounts of deaths and disasters in our canyons. Just wish so many people weren't working so hard against that goal. :wtf:
  8. ratagonia

    ratagonia

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    GOLD!
  9. Kuenn

    Kuenn

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    That's a big dude! Maybe that explains the 12mm. Very wise of you to not let him rap down on your 8mm.

    Makes you wonder how they managed to get that far...the Cathedral?
  10. deathtointernet

    deathtointernet

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    Cannonball? I believe we've already established from previous reports that people can and do fall off the Cathedral rappel with little to no harm, especially if someone is floating in the pool to break their fall. :banghead:

    You know, I think I'm up to three years now since I last did Pine Creek. I can only imagine how much stress that has saved me...
    Yellow Dart, Kuenn, Rapterman and 2 others like this.
  11. Canyonero

    Canyonero

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    Had a similar experience on that rappel recently. Luckily knew how to raise the rappeller (simple 2:1 lift) to unweight the rope so the whole episode lasted 2 minutes. A handful of skills go a long way in this sport.
  12. Ali Miller

    Ali Miller

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    Nice work.

    Unfortunately, the woman in question here had suffered extensive trauma and could not have completed the rappel on her own. I was relieved that she was able to clip my biner to her belay loop -- by that point she could barely move.
  13. Canyonero

    Canyonero

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    Nice work, would have been a mess if you had had to go down there and clip it on for her, then reascend that same line.

    My experience was with a youth and was actually my fault, not his. He was rappelling fine (just wanted to rappel faster) and I had him on a top rope belay. It was the belay that got knotted up at MY belay device (because I was trying to allow him to rappel faster). But a quick friction knot on the belay rope attached to a 2:1 (I still had two folks in addition to me up there) unweighted the belay rope, I untied the knot, then continued. It was kind of funny because he was only something like 6 feet off the ground at the time so all his pals were making fun I'm sure.
    Ali Miller likes this.
  14. Ali Miller

    Ali Miller

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    I would certainly have needed a few extra beers after that, yes. o_O Can I start telling that version of the story in 10 years or so? :D
  15. CRNPRES

    CRNPRES

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    Ali - you got the fun part of the rescue!
    Yellow Dart and Ali Miller like this.
  16. Ali Miller

    Ali Miller

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    Haha, thanks for walking her out, Kyle! :D
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