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Thread: Birch Hollow SAR

  1. #1
    four-oh-four tanya's Avatar
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    Birch Hollow SAR

    Date: July 5, 2013
    For Immediate Release
    Contacts:
    Zion Information Officer Aly Baltrus (435-703-3836)
    Kane County Sheriff Sgt. Alan Alldredge (435-644-4995)
    13-14

    Interagency SAR Team Responds to Two Accidents in the Same Canyon over Three Days

    Kanab, Utah- At 4:00 p.m. on Saturday, June 29, 2013, a multi-jurisdictional search and rescue was deployed in Kane County, just outside Zion National Park, after receiving a cell phone call that a 21 year old woman had fallen 40-60 feet in the Birch Hollow Slot Canyon. Kane County’s request for assistance was answered by Zion National Park (through a Mutual Aid Agreement with Kane County), a Ranger from the Bureau of Land Management, and Utah’s State Department of Natural Resources Park Manager.

    Kane County Sheriff Sgt. Alldredge and NPS Chief Ranger Purcell served as incident commanders for the Unified Command Rescue. Kane County mobilized their technical rope rescue team led by KSCO Volunteer King. Zion National Park responded with medics, a technical SAR team, and short haul rescue. The rescue was a success due to the resources and cooperation of all the agencies involved as well as their previous experience training together.

    BLM Ranger Alberts, also a KSCO SAR volunteer, was instrumental in leading the Interagency SAR team to the best location on the canyon rim to quickly access the patient. NPS Ranger Medic Fitzgerald and EMT Holthouse rappelled into the canyon, assessed and stabilized Ms. Moses, from Pocatello, ID. Suspecting a possible hip fracture and potentially significant internal injuries, the team quickly and efficiently secured her in a full body splint and litter and raised her 90 feet out of the deepest part of the slot. The remaining two members of the Moses party were also raised out of the canyon. Still not to the rim of the canyon, a tough 4th class climb through a heavily vegetated slope awaited the SAR evacuation team if a short haul rescue was not possible.

    The Interagency SAR team remained overnight with the stabilized patient. On Sunday, June 30, NPS Helicopter 7HL utilized a 250’ line for the short haul operation NPS Medic Fitzgerald and patient were lifted out of the canyon and delivered to a helispot north of the Zion Ponderosa, where a Life Flight Medical ship was standing by.

    The group, which consisted of five friends from Utah, Idaho and Colorado, had come to the area for a long weekend of canyoneering. They had already successfully completed Spry and Orderville Canyons inside Zion National Park. However, on their route through Birch Hollow, they experienced what all canyoneers need to be prepared for- something going wrong.

    The accident was caused by the incorrect use of a technique referred to as simul-rappellingwith a non-experienced person on one side of the rope and Ms. Moses on the other counterbalancing each other’s weight. Simul-rappelling is considered an advanced skill by many in the canyoneering community. “She was still 40-60 feet from the bottom of the rappel when her tandem partner touched down and apparently let go,” said Chief Ranger Purcell. Kane County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue team reports “we saw this exact accident happen at the same rappel in Birch Hollow two years ago.”

    The canyoneering party admitted to the Rescuers that they were in the process of trying to pass another group in the canyon and that their attention was divided between the task at hand and their next move. They had also purposefully packed to be “light because they didn’t think anything bad would happen” according to Ranger Medic Fitzgerald. They were not well prepared when trouble struck. “Canyoneers need to have the ability to ascend ropes. They should carry extra food, headlamps, and a water purification system in case something goes wrong and they need to spend the night,” said Purcell. “It seemed this group relied on luck to be able to send someone to make a cell phone call and they were indeed lucky that they could get cell service. They were lucky too that the weather was not a factor in flying, and that the short-haul helicopter was available.”

    Late the next day, July 1st, Kane County Sgt. Alldredge received a telephone call reporting a second accident with injuries on the same rappel in Birch Hollow.

    A 21 year old female from Oregon, new to canyoneering and rappelling, had rappelled off the end of her rope and fallen 20-25 feet. Ms. Lindstrom-Demant and her partner apparently misjudged the length of the rappel. The victim was the first to descend, sustaining spinal and lower limb injuries. Luckily, a second canyoneering party was able to hike out and notify Kane County Dispatch. Kane County, Zion NP, and BLM and State Park Rangers reacted quickly and once again formed a Unified Command Rescue. The patient was accessed, stabilized, and raised out of the slot. NPS 7HL performed a second 250’ short haul with NPS Medic Thexton to an awaiting Life Flight Medical Ship in an amazing span of 6
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  3. #2
    Moderator jman's Avatar
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    First, thanks Tanya for sharing this as this media hasn't gotten ahold of this info yet.

    Second, a thank you goes out to the SAR folks who were involved. It's a great service that these men and women VOLUNTEER for. Thanks!!

    Third, why must these accidents happen? I will never forget what Rich says on the new film "Gorging". No one should ever get hurt canyoneering.

    It's not soccer or baseball and you swing/kick and hopefully you make a score - same with canyoneering. You don't hopefully measure the rope just right and go for it. And you don't set up a simul-rap and just go for it. And you don't immediately go a rap station and clip in without checking your webbing, knots, which side of the rope you are rappelling, etc. it isn't a passive sport. It's a very proactive sport!

    Thankfully everyone turned out ok. Anyone notice the age demographics...sounds typical, right? My decade needs to step up their skills and knowledge!! But really, this all falls on the trip leader's heads for not better equipping and preparing their groups.
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  5. #3
    Eff me...

  6. #4
    SAR response sounds phenomenal. Hope both recover OK.

  7. #5
    Trail Master taatmk's Avatar
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    This may be an archaic saying, one my grandmother always told us, but....."An once of prevention is worth a pound of [hospital recovery] cure." Best wishes for a speedy recovery. Glad it was not worse.
    Only Dead Fish Go With The Flow

  8. #6
    Trail Master mzamp's Avatar
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    Simul-rappelling in Birch? I don't remember any raps in BH that would require/warrant this.

  9. #7
    Needing too and wanting to are two different things. its the 100' they performed it on which is long and straight. It seems like it would be a fun place to do it. Necessary no, fun yes, though it has a high cost if you mess up

  10. #8
    Bottom Tier Superhero Iceaxe's Avatar
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    I'm envisioning kind of a "hold my beer and watch this!" type of thing.....

    Simul-rappelling is an advanced (but easy) technique, not something you should be doing with a noob... as it appears someone discovered the hard way.



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  12. #9
    Simul-rappelling = bad mojo, won't ever catch me doing that.
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  13. #10
    four-oh-four tanya's Avatar
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    SAR's in Birch Canyon

    This was on FB: Interagency SAR Team Responds to Two Accidents in the Same Canyon over Three Days
    Springdale, Utah- At 4:00 p.m. on Saturday, June 29, 2013, a multi-jurisdictional search and rescue was deployed in Kane County, just outside Zion National Park, after receiving a cell phone call that a 21 year old woman had fallen 40-60 feet in the Birch Hollow Slot Canyon. Kane County’s request for assistance was answered by Zion National Park (through a Mutual Aid Agreement with Kane County), a Ranger from the Bureau of Land Management, and Utah’s State Department of Natural Resources Park Manager.
    Kane County Sheriff Sgt. Alldredge and NPS Chief Ranger Purcell served as incident commanders for the Unified Command Rescue. Kane County mobilized their technical rope rescue team led by KSCO Volunteer King. Zion National Park responded with medics, a technical SAR team, and short haul rescue. The rescue was a success due to the resources and cooperation of all the agencies involved. Success in this technical rescue effort can also be attributed to the teams’ previous experience training together.
    BLM Ranger Alberts, also a KSCO SAR volunteer, was instrumental in leading the Interagency SAR team to the best location on the canyon rim to quickly access the patient. NPS Ranger Medic Fitzgerald and EMT Holthouse rappelled into the canyon, assessed and stabilized Petri Moses, from Pocatello, ID. Suspecting a possible hip fracture and potentially significant internal injuries, the team quickly and efficiently secured her in a full body splint and litter and raised her 90 feet out of the deepest part of the slot. The remaining two members of the Moses party were also raised out of the canyon. Still not to the rim of the canyon, a tough 4th class climb through a heavily vegetated slope awaited the SAR evacuation team if a short haul rescue was not possible.
    The Interagency SAR team remained overnight with the stabilized patient. On Sunday, June 30, NPS Helicopter 7HL utilized a 250’ line for the short haul operation NPS Medic Fitzgerald and patient were lifted out of the canyon and delivered to a helispot north of the Zion Ponderosa where a Life Flight Medical ship was standing by.
    The group, which consisted of five friends from Utah, Idaho and Colorado, had come to the area for a long weekend of canyoneering. They had already successfully completed Spry and Orderville Canyons inside Zion National Park. However, on their route through Birch Hollow, they experienced what all canyoneers need to be prepared for- something going wrong.
    The accident was caused by the incorrect use of a technique referred to as simul-rappelling with a non-experienced person on one side of the rope and Ms. Moses on the other counterbalancing each other’s weight. Simul-rappelling is considered an advanced skill by many in the canyonneering community. “Ms. Moses was still 40-60 feet from the bottom of the rappel when her tandem partner touched down and apparently let go. This resulted in the free fall of Moses to the canyon floor,” said Cindy Purcell, Chief Park Ranger at Zion National Park. Kane County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue team reports “we saw this exact accident happen at the same rappel in Birch Hollow two years ago.”
    The canyoneering party admitted to the Rescuers that they were in the process of trying to pass another group in the canyon and that their attention was divided between the task at hand and their next move. They had also purposefully packed to be “light because they didn’t think anything bad would happen” according to Ranger Medic Fitzgerald. They were not well prepared when trouble struck. “Canyoneers need to have the ability to ascend ropes. They should carry extra food, headlamps, and a water purification system in case something goes wrong and they need to spend the night,” said Purcell. “It seemed this group relied on luck to be able to send someone to make a cell phone call and they were indeed lucky that they could get cell service. They were lucky too that the weather was not a factor in flying, and that the short-haul helicopter was available.”
    Late the next day, July 1st, Kane County Sgt. Alldredge received a telephone call reporting a second accident with injuries on the same rappel in Birch Hollow.
    A 21 year old female from Oregon, new to canyoneering and rappelling, had rappelled off the end of her rope and fallen 20-25 feet. She sustained spinal and lower limb injuries. Ms. Lindstrom-Demant was with one other individual when the accident. She was the first to descend. The pair may have misjudged the length of the rappel. Luckily, a second canyoneering party was able to hike out and notify Kane County Dispatch about the injured female. Kane County, Zion NP, and BLM and State Park Rangers quickly rendezvoused. The patient was accessed, stabilized, raised out of the slot, and short hauled with Medic to an awaiting Life Flight Medical Ship in an amazing span of 6
    By Bo Beck and Tanya Milligan:
    Favorite Hikes in and around Zion National Park

    http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/images/1892540827/ref=dp_image_z_0?ie=UTF8&n=283155&s=books

    To get it signed, get it from the link above.
    If you like the book, please give us a kind review on Amazon
    and REI and anywhere else this book is sold.

    Zion National Park on the web.

  14. #11
    Mountain Man ilipichicuma's Avatar
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    There's nothing wrong with simul-rapping, you just have to know what you're doing. It's best if you isolate the strands with a stone knot, unless you're the last ones down, and if you're the last ones, down, I submit that you probably shouldn't be simul-rapping. I've done it several times, though, it's a lot of fun. We also did a three-way simul-rap from Morning Glory Arch once. I was on one side and had my wife and a friend on the other. Their weight was almost exactly equal to mine.
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  16. #12
    Bottom Tier Superhero Iceaxe's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ilipichicuma View Post
    It's best if you isolate the strands with a stone knot,
    If you isolate the two strands with a stone knot (or any other method) you are not doing a true simul-rap (at least in my opinion). You are just rappeling two people at the same time on two separate ropes.

    To me a true simul-rap means using your partner as a counterweight. In a true simlu-rap you are depending on the skill of your partner. Anyhoo... that's my definition, your definition might vary.


  17. #13
    scramblin man flatiron's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Iceaxe View Post

    To me a true simul-rap means using your partner as a counterweight. In a true simlu-rap you are depending on the skill of your partner. Anyhoo... that's my definition, your definition might vary.

    Agreed. And also that it can be fun and useful/expedient in some cases. But I also noticed that in both of these 'accidents' new or inexperienced people were put in positions of risk - for them and their party. Sending an inexperienced person down as 1st rapeller is not wise (no knot in end of rope?) - nor simul rapping with same. Bad decisions by the party, especially if there were experienced persons in that group. Again, as in most cases, human error/bad decisions were a main cause of a very preventable injury. I see this all the time climbing, new climbers (often gym rats) being taken out on rock with no instruction, guidance, or safety advice. Very scary. That seems to be more and more common in canyons too. Hope all are ok, could easily be much worse. And yes, what a great job by SAR!

  18. #14
    Bottom Tier Superhero Iceaxe's Avatar
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    FWIW: We often isolate the two lines and rappel two people at the same time. It really speeds things up when you have a large group and also makes for some interesting pictures.

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