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Thread: Lodge Canyon and Mountain of the Sun, or Sasha's Last Climb

  1. #1

    Lodge Canyon and Mountain of the Sun, or Sasha's Last Climb

    On Thursday, January 21st, Sasha S., 20, of Springdale, Utah, was killed when she fell 150 feet while climbing the Mountain of the Sun canyoneering route. S. was climbing with a group of friends and was near the end of the route. She was trying to release a jammed rope from their previous rappel when a rock dislodged, causing her to lose her balance and fall. The remaining members of the group did not have a rope long enough to complete the final rappel. At 6 p.m., an employee of Zion Lodge heard shouting from the cliffs above the lodge and contacted park dispatch. John Hannon, the first ranger to arrive on scene, found S's body. The others in the group tied ropes, a sling, belts and packs together and lowered them to rescuers, who attached a 300-foot rope which they pulled up to them. They then rappelled down. S's body was removed that evening. The five-hour operation was conducted in darkness by 15 park employees from all divisions and three climbers from the local community who train with park staff. (Note: this is the last rappel in Lodge Canyon).

    This is the excerpt from the accident reports that appears at the end of Tom's book Zion: Canyoneering. Like many of you I had read this in the book some time ago, back when I was first learning how to canyoneer. It didn't mean much to me back then... an unfortunate accident that had claimed the life of a young woman, a mark on the canyon that earned it the R rating which crossed it off my list of canyons to do for some time. I couldn't have guessed that one day I would actually have a part to play in the story, a little part.

    I met Tiffanie in the summer of last year, a friend of my friend Elaine. She sang in a band, a sort of just-for-fun outfit, and we would gather several evenings out of the week to listen to them practice. Of course sooner or later the conversations would trend towards our great love of climbing, hiking, and especially canyons. We would describe the amazing adventures we have had and she listened intently. One night she told us how her younger sister, Sasha, had been killed in 1999 in a climbing accident in Zion, and I quickly brought out Tom's book. It was indeed her in the accident report, killed in Lodge Canyon, killed after completing the ascent of Mountain in Sun, killed at the final rappel, so near to the end of what had probably been an amazing day.

    This year we began to teach Tiffanie and basics of canyoneering, and she took to it quickly, enjoying every second of it. We took her to Yankee Doodle and Boltergeist to introduce her to rappelling and climbing. We got her out to Birch Hollow in April, her first taste of a Zion canyon, and she was completely hooked. And she told us she had always wanted to complete her sister's canyon.

    Bo had been there that night, had been a part of the recovery efforts to carry Sasha out through the darkness. Tiffanie had gone up to see her sister, and they had first met there, and though fourteen years had separated them she still remembered his part in it. Elaine talked to him, and he quickly agreed to lead our effort. And so on May 19th, Bo, Elaine, Greta, Dallas, Paul, and I set out to take Tiffanie up Mountain of the Sun and down Lodge Canyon.

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    We started early, climbing up the steep slickrock of Upper Pine Creek in the dawn's light.

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    The view of the East and West Temples through Spry Canyon.

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    We dropped down in the Lodge Canyon drainage and followed the heavily forested wash as it meandering for some time, enjoying the beautiful ferns and the occasionally clusters of wildflowers. Then the canyon opens up and we began our long, steep climb up Mountain of the Sun.

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    We reached the saddle between Twin Brothers and Mountain of the Sun and began the second part of the climb up steep, sometimes exposed slabs and loose rock. Elaine in front and Tiffanie behind, taking in the view during a short break.

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    A steep climb on some exposed slabs. Tiffanie had never done anything quite like it before, and was a little scared in places, but she persevered and we continued up.

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    At the very end the steep loose climbing mellowed, and suddenly we were at the summit. We sat down, relaxed, read the register, and soaked in the views, which were considerable.

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    More views of the Streaked Wall and the Sentinel.

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    The view up Zion Canyon.

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    Bo and Tiffanie at the summit. The picture is of Sasha, who Tiffanie had carried with her up the mountain once more.

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    The whole group at the summit.

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    Elaine starting the long descent back into Lodge Canyon.

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    We reached the bottom safely. While we collected all our gear some ominous looking clouds rolled in, and the wind picked up. It began to rain lightly, and we took the opportunity to visit the cave under the mountain. By the time we were done it had stopped and the skies were light. We continued down to the start of the technical canyon, getting one last view of the great mountain.

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    We decided to descend the drainage directly, downclimbing a loose slope to a two stage rappel. Bo went down first and I stayed till last to watch over the group (and get pictures). With about half the group down it began to rain again, in the sunlight, but it didn't last.

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    The next rappel was a big one, 170 feet, and this time I went first while Bo helped everyone with the webbing extended over the edge for the rope pull. The photo shows Tiffanie starting down, looking very tiny, while Elaine belays. Tiffanie had never done a rappel so long. After this one a short two stage rappel lead to the edge of the world, where Lodge drops 400+ feet to the ground, and we rappelled off to the side to a ledge. On the 200 foot rappel off the ledge, the one which had the worst chance of sticking ropes, I went last, having to downclimb the webbing surprisingly far over the edge before being able to rappel. It was a different experience, and a bit scary, till I actually started over and I realized it was not nearly so bad.

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    From that rappel there was just one more, the final rappel, where Sasha had fallen. The whole group went down, and it was just Tiffanie and I on the ledge. She wanted one more photo of her and her sister, where she had spent her last moments. They rappelled down together, into the beautiful grotto.

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    Looking down the freehanging portion of the final rappel, with the waterfall coming out of the rock below my feet. Amazing rappel, amazing place. Amazing day.

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    Looking back up the final rappel once back on solid ground.

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    The four of us, Bo, Tiffanie, Elaine and I, in the grotto underneath the canyon. Bo played some of Tiffanie's music, some tears were shed and we talked about what an amazing experience it had been. It was such a peaceful, vibrant place, full of... life, and love. It had been such an honor to be a little part of Sasha and Tiffanie's story. I had always loved the canyons but now I had seen them heal, had watched Tiffanie carry her little sister through the end of her final climb, and for a moment touched some of the good that is in the world.

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  3. #2
    Holy... what a story! Amazing TR man.
    Your safety is not my responsibility.

  4. #3
    Bogley BigShot oldno7's Avatar
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    GREAT story
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  5. #4
    Good job closing the loop for Tiffanie. I remember reading about the accident prior to descending the canyon and couldn't get Sasha out of my mind - not exactly were you want your head when doing technical canyons. Not to mention that we also stuck our rope at the final rap.

    Great story. Thanks for sharing.

  6. #5
    Nicely said "Jermo"! Healing was widespread on this occasion. I have carried some memories that occassionly have been difficult to drag to the surface. To be able to bring them out and even cry a little bit has rendered my heart and soul some needed healing. To be able to express these feelings with Tiffanie, and share her strength means a lot to me. I'm happy that I could be part of this quest. Thanks so much for inviting me. Yep.....There is good in this world! Tiffanie and you all have shown me this. Hope you guys have a wonderful GC trip starting tomorrow!

  7. #6
    Moderator jman's Avatar
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    Thanks for your touching write-up Jeremy! That is a great finish for Tiffanie.
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  8. #7
    Wonderful story and beautiful writing! Very moving.

    Thank you for sharing!
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  9. Likes ststephen liked this post
  10. #8
    Thanks for the posting and story - may it be a reminder to enjoy everyday and be careful out there

  11. #9
    Zions the "s" is silent trackrunner's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bo_Beck View Post
    To be able to bring them out and even cry a little bit has rendered my heart and soul some needed healing. To be able to express these feelings with Tiffanie, and share her strength means a lot to me.
    Great writeup Jeremy!

    @Bo_Beck I'm glad you had the opportunity to hike this with Tiffanie as she retraced Sasha's footsteps. I know how this rescue and meeting Tiffanie at the rescue affected you. I hope you and Tiffanie got what you needed out of this.

  12. #10
    Well done. Thank you for sharing this story.

  13. #11
    Quote Originally Posted by trackrunner View Post
    Great writeup Jeremy!

    @Bo_Beck I'm glad you had the opportunity to hike this with Tiffanie as she retraced Sasha's footsteps. I know how this rescue and meeting Tiffanie at the rescue affected you. I hope you and Tiffanie got what you needed out of this.
    Thanks Shaun,
    It's amazing that Tiffanie has shown such strength. Going on 17 years at Zion SAR has been rewarding, heart wrenching and sometimes bittersweet. I have been offered council (CISD) in the past after catastrophic events such as this and I rarely accepted. I now know what good it would have done to talk about it. It is like an 800Lb. Gorilla has jumped off my back. Tiffanie and I both needed this closure. We can both move onward.

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  15. #12
    Excellent writeup Jeremy. It was such a privilege to get to share that day with all of you. I hope we can do more routes together soon. I have a couple of nice shots of Bo and Tiffanie that I'll add soon.
    It is good that warriors such as we meet in the struggle of life... or death. It shall be life. - Ten Bears, "The Outlaw Josie Wales"

  16. #13
    Here's a few more shots

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    It is good that warriors such as we meet in the struggle of life... or death. It shall be life. - Ten Bears, "The Outlaw Josie Wales"

  17. #14
    Thanks for the nice pictures Paul! Soon enough we'll have another fun adventure together now that you are a "Virginite"!

  18. Likes ststephen liked this post
  19. #15
    Such a great story. Great job to all involved.
    - Gavin

  20. #16
    Just got back from the Grand Canyon... and yes Bo, we had ourselves a great time!

    Quote Originally Posted by ststephen View Post
    Excellent writeup Jeremy. It was such a privilege to get to share that day with all of you. I hope we can do more routes together soon. I have a couple of nice shots of Bo and Tiffanie that I'll add soon.
    I'm glad we were able to do the canyon together, Paul, it was a good day for all of us! Thanks for posting the pictures, they came out great.

    Quote Originally Posted by Bo_Beck View Post
    Nicely said "Jermo"! Healing was widespread on this occasion. I have carried some memories that occassionly have been difficult to drag to the surface. To be able to bring them out and even cry a little bit has rendered my heart and soul some needed healing. To be able to express these feelings with Tiffanie, and share her strength means a lot to me. I'm happy that I could be part of this quest. Thanks so much for inviting me. Yep.....There is good in this world! Tiffanie and you all have shown me this. Hope you guys have a wonderful GC trip starting tomorrow!
    This was an adventure that could not have happened without you Bo, I know how much it meant to Tiffanie to have you there. You have done so much to help others, and I'm glad you got to see that even though nothing could be done for Sasha your actions helped Tiffanie and her family deal with their loss. It was a privilege for me to have done this adventure with you and I look forward to our next one!

  21. Likes ststephen liked this post
  22. #17
    Great write-up of the trip. By chance, I did a canyon with Sasha's step brother on Memorial Day. It was interesting hearing the story from his perspective. Really cool dude; hope to go out with him some more.

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