Injured canyoneer rescued from Imlay Canyon

ZION NATIONAL PARK – Wednesday, Zion Search and Rescue worked to reach an injured hiker in Imlay Canyon and bring him to safety for medical attention.

The injured man and four companions began their two-day descent of Imlay Canyon on Monday. Tuesday morning, one member of the party injured his knee and was unable to continue the descent. The group had completed 22 of the 42 rappels that are required when descending Imlay.

After assisting the injured man to an area safe from potential flash flooding, three members of the canyoneering party continued their descent on Tuesday to report the injury. The injured man and a companion prepared to spend the night in Imlay until rangers could safely reach them.

Imlay Canyon is a strenuous, challenging technical canyon with an approximate 2,200-foot descent. Imlay lies within a large watershed and features long sections of narrow canyon walls. The hike out of Imlay includes a two-hour hike down the North Fork of the Virgin River, a popular hiking route in Zion also known as the Narrows. A flash flood warning was issued Tuesday afternoon and was still in effect when the report of the injured hiker was made.

Zion rangers planned rescue efforts for Wednesday morning based on the initial report and a helicopter flight over Imlay Canyon. The injured man’s party provided excellent information about the injury, the location of the injured man and his companion, and details about their preparation with food and equipment to spend the night in Imlay, according to a press release. This allowed rangers to accurately determine the urgency of the response and assemble contingency resources.

Early Wednesday morning, the Zion Search and Rescue Team began rescue efforts by short-hauling two ranger/medics into Imlay Canyon. Upon reaching the injured man, they stabilized his injury and assisted him to a site where he and the rescuers could be short-hauled out of the canyon. The injured man was short-hauled out of the canyon just after 2 p.m. A rescue team of 18 rangers, technical rescuers and helicopter crew members contributed to the success of the operation.

Zion National Park is well-known for its many canyoneering routes.  Water carved the canyons and features that hikers are drawn to, but it also heightens the risk factor of canyoneering, especially during monsoon season, according to information from the National Park Service. Long and overnight canyoneering routes carry greater risks of flash floods during monsoon season because weather can worsen quickly.  Tuesday night, as the injured man and his companion waited for rescue, a flash flood occurred in Imlay Canyon. From their safe vantage point they observed the water rise approximately 15 feet in a short time.

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