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Thread: Russel Gulch - Subway - Accident

  1. #1

    Russel Gulch - Subway - Accident

    About 2 weeks ago, discussion came up of doing a Spring descent of the Full Left Fork. Subway & Das Boot permits were obtained and plans were set in motion. As the week progressed, the weather continued to turn bad with much rain and snow in the mountains. Saturday morning, it was decided that there was too much water and too much weather to make it safe enough for the long day. Plans were changed to go down a flowing Russel Gulch, do a short portion of the Subway, climb out of the Subway towards South Guardian, skip the narrow high flow section of the Subway and drop back in a short slot down lower in the drainage and then continue out of the canyon. Rain was forescast for around 6pm, which gave us plenty of time for our trip.

    We all met at the Left Fork trailhead, left a vehicle there, and drove up to the Wildcat trailhead for our trip. It was around 7:10 when we left the vehicles, and the hike down to Russel Gulch went quick and uneventful. While hiking in, we passed many small flows which meant we were definitely going to have a fun and wet day. The Russel Gulch drainage was found, wetsuits were put on and we headed down. I had never had a very good impression of Russell Gulch, saying in the past that I would probably never do it again. However, after seeing the canyon with some good flow, we all knew it was going to be an awesome day.

    The canyon with its 3 raps of approximately 100' each came and went, with lots of hooping and hollering in the fun waterfalls. Soon we were at the Subway confluence and jumped into the main drainage. Some good flow there, but nothing that would cause any issues. We looked up into the Das Boot section and it confirmed our choice that it would have been a terrible idea to attempt that section in these conditions. The Subway looked familiar because we had been there so many times before, but was also different because it had lots of water. Knowing we were only going to the be in the Subway for 15 or 20 minutes we headed down, having lots of fun taking pics and playing in the water. We go down to the first normal swim and slide down into the deep water and swim the 40' section. The next little waterfal comes that drops down to the underwater swimming cave. A couple people go down, then I go down.

    This is where the day changed drastically. I'm not really sure why or what really happend, but as I slide down, put my left onto the wall to push off the right to follow the water course, I heard the nastiest sound that anyone wants hear. There was absolutely no pain, but I know what the sound of bone snapping sounds like. Just go camping, grab a nice branch and break it over your knee if you want to know what it sounds like. Right at that moment I knew it was going to be a long day and night or nights. I instructed my daughter Lacey to go find 2 nice straight sticks about 2' long while Felicia pulled a liner out of a backpack so we could make a good mountain leg splint.

    We spend about an hour talking about different options and how to proceed from here. It was decided that first priority was to get up out of the canyon and find a good safe place to spend the night as we knew it was going to rain in a few hours. Devin & Eric explored up high and found a good alcove, the only problem was that is was almost 60' or 70' above me. The group then proceeded to tie some ropes to trees, lower them to me and help haul me up the cliff face. I had 2 good arms and 1 good leg, so I helped as much as possible, but they did a lot of the work dragging me up the face. Once we were up higher, we decided to keep Lacey and Felicia with me at camp, while Kip, Devin & Eric went back up the normal Subway approach to get help.

    All extra food, water and clothing was left for us and at around 2:30, they headed out. We had plenty of food and water, and were mentally prepared to stay the night and possible one more night because the weather was a little bit iffy for Monday and because it wasn't life threatening, there did not need to be any risk of more people coming down. The night wasn't too bad, as we had a fair amount of clothing and 4 emergency blankets for the 3 of us. Food was plentiful and we joked around and tried to enjoy the nice camping spot as much as we could. I left my wetsuit, neo sock and shoe on my broken leg for the entire night. Doing this was a big plus as it kept a nice and tight cool compression on my leg. Although the Dr. did cut my suit off at the hospital.

    At about 11:30 on Monday morning, we heard voices below. We had left a fixed rope down to the canyon floor, and Lacey & Felicia helped the Zion SAR climp up to our location. They spent a little while assessing my condition and the situation. I wasn't doing to bad, and am still intrigued as to why it didn't hurt worse than it did. The decision was made that the only feasible option was to airlift me out, so the Grand Canyon helicopter was called. 3 locations were found that seemed to viable to pick me off the cliff and the rangers marked them with yellow shirts. An hour or so later, the chopper flew down into our location hovered for a little bit, picked the spot they liked and headed back to Hurricane to fuel up.

    About an hour or so later, we started hearing noises as the chopper was approaching again. Grand Canyon SAR rescuer (Craig) was hanging about 250' feet below the heli and the precision pilots set him down on the sloped area right next to me, he unclipped from the rope and proceeded to help me into a sitting harness. Within a matter of 30 seconds, I was strapped in, clipped to Craig, and pack full of gear was reattached to the rope hanging from the heli. They lifted us up off the ground, then out about 20' over the canyon, then straight up until we were well above the canyon walls.

    The flight from there back to the Kolob Terrace road was awesome, some views that you will never get to see. Although I don't think its worth the admission price.

    I was a little hesitant about writing any type of a report as I am quite embarassed and my pride has a big chunk taken out of it. After quite a few discussions with our group members and couple of days to reflect on it, I decided that I needed to tho. As a group, you would be hard pressed to find a more mentally and physically prepared team. Safety was always a concern, down to changing the plans the day before. What it instilled in me and hopefully everyone else, is that something can happen to anyone and at anytime. Proper preparation and good group decisions really made the adventure into a non issue, other than my mental confidence.

    Everyone be safe this year, be smart about everything, and be at least a little bit prepared because you never know when something may happen to you, someone in your group or someone you may find stranded.

    PS. The rangers opted to leave or stick splint on rather than replace it with an air splint, we must have made a decent on. I am home now working again for the few month recovery. A plate with 12 screws is my hardware. Guess I will get lots of camping trips in for the next little while.About 2 weeks ago, discussion came up of doing a Spring descent of the Full Left Fork. Subway & Das Boot permits were obtained and plans were set in motion. As the week progressed, the weather continued to turn bad with much rain and snow in the mountains. Saturday morning, it was decided that there was too much water and too much weather to make it safe enough for the long day. Plans were changed to go down a flowing Russel Gulch, do a short portion of the Subway, climb out of the Subway towards South Guardian, skip the narrow high flow section of the Subway and drop back in a short slot down lower in the drainage and then continue out of the canyon. Rain was forescast for around 6pm, which gave us plenty of time for our trip.

    We all met at the Left Fork trailhead, left a vehicle there, and drove up to the Wildcat trailhead for our trip. It was around 7:10 when we left the vehicles, and the hike down to Russel Gulch went quick and uneventful. While hiking in, we passed many small flows which meant we were definitely going to have a fun and wet day. The Russel Gulch drainage was found, wetsuits were put on and we headed down. I had never had a very good impression of Russell Gulch, saying in the past that I would probably never do it again. However, after seeing the canyon with some good flow, we all knew it was going to be an awesome day.

    The canyon with its 3 raps of approximately 100' each came and went, with lots of hooping and hollering in the fun waterfalls. Soon we were at the Subway confluence and jumped into the main drainage. Some good flow there, but nothing that would cause any issues. We looked up into the Das Boot section and it confirmed our choice that it would have been a terrible idea to attempt that section in these conditions. The Subway looked familiar because we had been there so many times before, but was also different because it had lots of water. Knowing we were only going to the be in the Subway for 15 or 20 minutes we headed down, having lots of fun taking pics and playing in the water. We go down to the first normal swim and slide down into the deep water and swim the 40' section. The next little waterfal comes that drops down to the underwater swimming cave. A couple people go down, then I go down.

    This is where the day changed drastically. I'm not really sure why or what really happend, but as I slide down, put my left onto the wall to push off the right to follow the water course, I heard the nastiest sound that anyone wants hear. There was absolutely no pain, but I know what the sound of bone snapping sounds like. Just go camping, grab a nice branch and break it over your knee if you want to know what it sounds like. Right at that moment I knew it was going to be a long day and night or nights. I instructed my daughter Lacey to go find 2 nice straight sticks about 2' long while Felicia pulled a liner out of a backpack so we could make a good mountain leg splint.

    We spend about an hour talking about different options and how to proceed from here. It was decided that first priority was to get up out of the canyon and find a good safe place to spend the night as we knew it was going to rain in a few hours. Devin & Eric explored up high and found a good alcove, the only problem was that is was almost 60' or 70' above me. The group then proceeded to tie some ropes to trees, lower them to me and help haul me up the cliff face. I had 2 good arms and 1 good leg, so I helped as much as possible, but they did a lot of the work dragging me up the face. Once we were up higher, we decided to keep Lacey and Felicia with me at camp, while Kip, Devin & Eric went back up the normal Subway approach to get help.

    All extra food, water and clothing was left for us and at around 2:30, they headed out. We had plenty of food and water, and were mentally prepared to stay the night and possible one more night because the weather was a little bit iffy for Monday and because it wasn't life threatening, there did not need to be any risk of more people coming down. The night wasn't too bad, as we had a fair amount of clothing and 4 emergency blankets for the 3 of us. Food was plentiful and we joked around and tried to enjoy the nice camping spot as much as we could. I left my wetsuit, neo sock and shoe on my broken leg for the entire night. Doing this was a big plus as it kept a nice and tight cool compression on my leg. Although the Dr. did cut my suit off at the hospital.

    At about 11:30 on Monday morning, we heard voices below. We had left a fixed rope down to the canyon floor, and Lacey & Felicia helped the Zion SAR climp up to our location. They spent a little while assessing my condition and the situation. I wasn't doing to bad, and am still intrigued as to why it didn't hurt worse than it did. The decision was made that the only feasible option was to airlift me out, so the Grand Canyon helicopter was called. 3 locations were found that seemed to viable to pick me off the cliff and the rangers marked them with yellow shirts. An hour or so later, the chopper flew down into our location hovered for a little bit, picked the spot they liked and headed back to Hurricane to fuel up.

    About an hour or so later, we started hearing noises as the chopper was approaching again. Grand Canyon SAR rescuer (Craig) was hanging about 250' feet below the heli and the precision pilots set him down on the sloped area right next to me, he unclipped from the rope and proceeded to help me into a sitting harness. Within a matter of 30 seconds, I was strapped in, clipped to Craig, and pack full of gear was reattached to the rope hanging from the heli. They lifted us up off the ground, then out about 20' over the canyon, then straight up until we were well above the canyon walls.

    The flight from there back to the Kolob Terrace road was awesome, some views that you will never get to see. Although I don't think its worth the admission price.

    I was a little hesitant about writing any type of a report as I am quite embarassed and my pride has a big chunk taken out of it. After quite a few discussions with our group members and couple of days to reflect on it, I decided that I needed to tho. As a group, you would be hard pressed to find a more mentally and physically prepared team. Safety was always a concern, down to changing the plans the day before. What it instilled in me and hopefully everyone else, is that something can happen to anyone and at anytime. Proper preparation and good group decisions really made the adventure into a non issue, other than my mental confidence.

    Everyone be safe this year, be smart about everything, and be at least a little bit prepared because you never know when something may happen to you, someone in your group or someone you may find stranded.

    PS. The rangers opted to leave or stick splint on rather than replace it with an air splint, we must have made a decent on. I am home now working again for the few month recovery. A plate with 12 screws is my hardware. Guess I will get lots of camping trips in for the next little while.

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  3. #2

    Russel Gulch / Subway / Accident

    I cannot express the gratitude enough for my teams members, Zion SAR and the Grand Canyon SAR for everything they did for me and anyone else who ever needs them


  4. #3
    Thanks for sharing. Get well soon.


  5. Likes moab mark, darhawk, 2065toyota liked this post
  6. #4
    So sorry about your accident. Great job handling the situation aftermath. Get well soon!

  7. Likes 2065toyota liked this post
  8. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by whansen View Post
    So sorry about your accident. Great job handling the situation aftermath. Get well soon!
    It happens fast and for no reason sometimes.

    Sent from my SM-G900V using Tapatalk

  9. #6
    Wow. Well done for sharing your experience, and I hope you recover well. Lovely photos too. Myself and ScottP of this parish had a similar experience a year or two ago (neither of us injured). I was impressed with the excellent helicopter rescue service in the occasion we were involved with.

    If I may be so bold to ask: how does the rescue service get paid for? Insurance, or good will, or State or National funds? Or do you get a big invoice?

    Rob

  10. Likes 2065toyota liked this post
  11. #7
    Moderator jman's Avatar
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    Sorry about the break Kody!

    You definitely hit the core of canyoneering - being prepared.

    You weren't planning on breaking a bone of course, but you came prepared with extra supplies and everyone remained cool-headed and had a plan.

    Wish you a speedy recovery!

    PS - maybe I'll share my near-miss in Zero G last weekend when I have some time later today (or tomorrow) as well. All in the name of learning from others.


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
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    ●Subscribe to my friend Jeff's Youtube Channel - you can watch our adventures there.
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    "There are two ways to die in the desert - dehydration and drowning." -overhearing a Park Ranger at Capitol Reef N.P.
    "He who walks on the edge, will eventually fall."

  12. Likes 2065toyota liked this post
  13. #8
    Over the past 4 years I have had multiple surgeries on my legs including a High Tibial Osteotomy on both legs that the doctor cut my leg bone and changed the angle of my leg. I think your lack of pain was caused by a clean break and your adrenaline. The bad news is it will be a long road of recovery ahead. Probably 8 weeks of non weight bearing and then partial weight for another 4. After that several weeks of rehab. The good news is that if you work hard at recovery your leg will feel great again and you can look forward to next year.

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  15. #9
    After downloading all the pics, my daughter Lacey had this on her camera. This is location of the incident, I was standing behind her and went down right after she did. After replaying the situation and scenarios for over for a week now, I am still not really sure how or why it broke.

    One thought that has crossed my mind, is that I had taken a couple of days off work the week before and snowmobiled really hard Thursday, Friday and Saturday and possbily could have had a small but unknown injury that weakened the bone.

    Thanks to all the support from calls, texts & emails that I have received. I think the mental part of being bed ridden for 4 weeks is way worse than broken bones. At least I hope so anyways.

  16. #10
    This is me standing in the exact same spot in low conditions. You can see the ledge that I stopped myself with the left leg and then pushed to the right to enter the pool and follow the water



  17. #11
    Quote Originally Posted by Rob L View Post
    Wow. Well done for sharing your experience, and I hope you recover well. Lovely photos too. Myself and ScottP of this parish had a similar experience a year or two ago (neither of us injured). I was impressed with the excellent helicopter rescue service in the occasion we were involved with.

    If I may be so bold to ask: how does the rescue service get paid for? Insurance, or good will, or State or National funds? Or do you get a big invoice?

    Rob
    National Park Service covers it with their budget. I personally feel obligated to help and will be making a monetary donation to Zion National Park Emergency Services Fund so that others in an unfortunate situation can also be helped by their service.

  18. Likes Glenn liked this post
  19. #12
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    This was sent to me upon request by Andrew of Zion National Park for me or anyone wanting to contribute to their cause.

    Sent from my SM-G900V using Tapatalk

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  21. #13
    Further to 2065toyota's post above, do the NP's not have bank details to send money to? Or have they not met internet banking yet?

  22. #14

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  24. #15
    Got my cast off and stitches removed today. In a boot now with crutches. Little weight bearing for 4 more weeks, xrays, then hopefully some walking a little again. Got to see the 7 or 8" incision for the first time. Was going to post a pic, but then wasn't sure anyone would want to see that

    Hopefully my mental strength holds out long enough, as it's pretty hard to sit around this much. Luckily work is super busy so it's keeping me pretty preoccupied and there really isn't much else to do.

  25. #16
    Good to hear of your update. If you're that laid up , you won't need your truck for a day or two in two week's time....can I rent it from you for a day or two??

    PM on the way.

    Rob

  26. #17
    Whoa! What bad luck! Great telling of the tale. Hope your leg heals quickly and completely Kody!
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  28. #18
    Good day today. Went in for my 6 week xrays. Doc released me from non weight bearing to 40 lbs weight bearing. Then to increase it if possible 40 more pounds every 3 to 4 day with an attempt to be completely off crutches in 2 to 4 weeks.

    I've done everything I could to beat the odds and have as fast recovery as possible.

    Vitamins every morning and night. 2 glasses of milk per day. Veggie omelets almost every morning. Lots of fruits and vegetables. No caffeine for 6 weeks now. Very little soda pop. Lots of ice cream :-) lots of deer and elk steaks.

    I'm fortunate enough that the majority of my work is on my laptop and phone so I was able to work from a recliner to keep it elevated 90% of the time to keep all ciculation and swelling optimum.

    As of today I have 90 to 95% range of motion back in my knee and ankle

    Still have a pretty good road ahead building the strength back onto the leg and conditioning for the whole body. Even with no exercise I only gained 1 pound. Maybe eating healthy is good for you.

    I feel like I've crossed over finally and am on the recovery side

    Sent from my SM-G900V using Tapatalk

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  30. #19
    Couple weeks later and I'm completely off crutches. I am using a cane occasionally and have went camping the last 2 weekends. I can tell walking on the uneven ground is really good for my knee and balance. 3 more weeks and the boot comes off completely

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  32. #20
    12 week checkup was yesterday. Xray's were positive. Boot is completely off and just walking with a little limp now. Physical therapy started today and released back to normal life again. Dr. doesn't know, but I actually did a small hike in Capital Reef last weekend. I'm about 3 months ahead of projected schedule and feeling pretty good. Just need to get some strength back now. I have hunt in Nevada at the end of August that I was originally going to cancel, but I'm glad I didn't because I think I will be good to go by then. Thanks for all the positive reinforcement from everyone.

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