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Pine Creek 3/17/'18: Zion Rescue

Discussion in 'Accidents and Near Misses' started by Ted, Mar 19, 2018.

  1. Ted

    Ted

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    Location:
    Zion NP 8-16 to 12-16
    I understand that a permitted party of 8 was descending Pine Creek Saturday, March 17, 2018. Whistles and calls for help were heard about 8:00 pm. SAR teams deployed. 2 of the 8 were able to complete the technical descent, the balance of the team were lifted out in progressively worsening weather (snow and dropping temps). It is interesting to note that some good Samaritans entered the the top of the route to render assistance and had completed the first drop sans rope before realizing their own predicament. They also needed to be rescued.

    Can't be emphasized enough: Local Emergency Responders and SAR teams are stellar!!!

    I would be interested in finding out more details, if any are appropriate to put forth.
  2. GravityWins

    GravityWins

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    We did Pine Creek Wed March 21, party of two with two ropes and we could move through at a reasonable pace. Conditions were almost exactly what one would expect for late winter/early spring. No real flow, but there was enough melting snow coming in from above that there was what I would describe as a trickle, perhaps a low garden hose worth of water moving. The canyon was as full as I have ever seen it. Sand has moved since my last trip through perhaps a year ago, and when combined with the full conditions there were a number of full swims. I believe I had water over my head 5 times before we got to the cathedral. The water was cold enough that your chest constricted and it was difficult to breathe while fully immersed. We had 5mm wetsuits, 5mm gloves, 5mm neo socks and it was only enough because we kept moving. We had additional layers for warmth in the pack, but never stopped to put them on, I was glad to know they were there if needed. We did stop between rap 5 and 6 to get out of the breeze and warm hands enough to feel like we had sufficient hand dexterity to safely rig and complete the canyon.

    As noted by Ted above there was a storm going on during the rescue so conditions I experienced may not fully match what that group encountered.

    I don't know the party, but I did get some 2nd hand information while in the park.
    • The rescue took from 8 pm to 8 am the following day.
    • The rescued group stopped at the cathedral.
    • The park service considers the primary cause to be because of lack of preparation for the current conditions.
    • Emergency Responders and SAR teams really are unsung heroes.
    Pure speculation on my part but with 8 people I suspect they couldn't move quickly enough and had people stuck in full immersion, or just standing around shivering. If you had to stop in water for more than a minute in this conditions you need a dry suit or 7+mm over your core and a way to keep your hand circulation active.

    There was a lot of cold water from the cathedral on down, far more than the group would have already gone through, so the decision to stop may have prevented a worse outcome.

    On an unrelated notes
    • Death Gully currently has almost a foot of snow still.
    • The hanger for the final rap in Keyhole is spinning if someone goes through anytime soon please take a small wrench.
    • Keyhole was warm compared to Pine Creek
    • We did some of the canyons we planned and missed several planned canyons because of weather. Having a plan a, b, and c meant the trip was still a great time.
    • Zion is gorgeous right now!
  3. ratagonia

    ratagonia

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    Location:
    Mount Carmel, Utah
    Thanks for the report, Gravity Wins.

    I was planning on taking out that last bolt in Keyhole as being entirely unnecessary. (I put that bolt in some 15 years ago, replacing the splitshank buttonhead that was there... and have regretted it ever since). I am assuming you did not mean the glue-in bolt on the last real rappel.

    What do people think?

    Tom
  4. GravityWins

    GravityWins

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    Your assumption is correct, the spinner is what is described on your site as "The fourth drop can be rappelled from a single, suspect bolt on the right, or downclimbed to a ledge, then down a crack in a slab to the edge of a pool. Put away the ropes and get ready to swim." (bolding mine)

    When an experienced canyoneer gets to that drop then with experience and sticky rubber on their side they don't even pause before downclimbing. When a competently lead group gets to that spot and a beginner struggles then experience will provide for handlines and meat anchors. When a beginner lead by beginner gets to that spot what will happen? I can't say with certainty but I suspect it will be ugly.

    I know that keyhole attracts those who are less than prepared, the evidence is left in the canyon. I can't recall a time I have been through there and not had to remove useless webbing at downclimbs, or remove dangerously undersized or badly worn rapides. If people have to have webbing and a rapide for a 6ft downclimb with walls less than 3 feet apart what will they do at this spot?

    Regrettably, I suspect that if you pull that bolt someone will feel the need to rebolt it.
  5. Brian in SLC

    Brian in SLC Brian in SLC

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    Location:
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    Been there a long long time. Its the one that semi protects the low angle slide down into the pool? Prior to the last wading hallway?

    Yeah, I'd leave it. If anything, it might facilate a hasty retreat for the less experienced...
  6. ratagonia

    ratagonia

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    Location:
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    and unfortunately I feel the need to replace it as it is "suspect". I put the new bolt in the old hole, and it is a poor place for a bolt: OOzing with water, in the dark, impossible to inspect. On the todo list: Place a single good bolt there, remove the suspect one.

    Tom
    darhawk likes this.
  7. Canyonero

    Canyonero

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    March is Winter in Zion folks.

    Sounds like everyone survived unharmed, so at least this was a "near-miss." But you can learn just as much from a near miss as a hit. I hope someone from the rescued party or SAR posts and provides more details. Always good lessons to learn from these.
  8. hank moon

    hank moon lovely ligatures

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    Zion National Park News Release

    March 29, 2018
    For Immediate Release
    John Marciano (435) 772-7848; john_b_marciano@nps.gov

    Major Technical Rescue Serves as Safety Reminder for Visitors
    #ThinkSafety

    SPRINGDALE, UT – Spring has sprung, and so has visitation to Zion National Park. Visitation hit record numbers again in January and February. In recent years, the Park has also seen an increase in searches and rescues. One earlier in the month serves as a good example of a preventable incident. The Zion Search and Rescue Team, along with partners Rockville-Springdale Fire were called out Saturday night, March 17, 2018 for what became a lifesaving event.

    A team of 16 Search and Rescue, Fire and EMS personnel responded to calls for help coming from Pine Creek slot canyon. Eight canyoneers, wet, borderline hypothermic and too tired to continue began yelling for help after they had made it through about half of the technical slot canyon. Two members of the party eventually found the strength to finish the slot and go for help. Once rescuers reached them, it was discovered the group was poorly equipped for canyoneering at this time of year. The eight individuals had inadequate footwear, gloves and should have been wearing insulated dry suits rather than the 3mm “farmer John” wetsuits for traversing the ice-cold pools of water in the slot. To complicate matters, a heavy snow storm rolled into the area, bringing sub-freezing temperatures and causing Pine Creek to flash flood.

    The technical rescue SAR team worked through the night, under the trying conditions, to extract each patient one at a time using ropes and pulleys. Zion’s Chief Park Ranger, Daniel Fagergren remarked, “There is little doubt in my mind that we saved lives that night. Hypothermia is a real threat in slot canyons, even during the summer months because the trapped water never sees the light of day. You can imagine how cold this group was, given the time of year, the drop in temperature, the blizzard like conditions and not being prepared.”

    This incident serves as a good reminder for all visitors to Zion National Park to seek out reliable sources of information prior to their trip. The Visitors Center or Park website are good places to start. Check the weather, speak with Park staff, have the appropriate equipment for whatever activities you have planned, familiarize yourself with the terrain and route, and know your own capabilities and limitations.

    -NPS-


    About the National Park Service. More than 20,000 National Park Service employees care for America's 417 national park sites. Visit us at www.nps.gov/zion, on Facebook www.facebook.com/zionnps, Flicker www.flickr.com/zionnps, Instagram www.instagram.com/zionnps, Twitter www.twitter.com/zionnps, and YouTube www.youtube.com/npszion.
    Rapterman likes this.
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