KANE COUNTY – Four people were rescued after rappelling into the wrong canyon and running out of rope for a final 400-foot drop out of a canyon known locally as “Not Fat Man’s Misery” in a remote area of Zion National Park.
Dispatch received a call at 11:15 a.m. Sunday about a group of four people who were overdue from an excursion into the Parunuweap Canyon area, Kane County Search and Rescue Commander Rod Willis said.
Two women and two men, all Utah County residents in their mid-twenties, had parked at Checkerboard Mesa in Zion National Park and started out to go canyoneering in Fat Man’s Misery Canyon.
The group’s original plan to hike the Subway had fallen through because they couldn’t get a permit, Willis said.
The group had set out early Saturday morning for a canyoneering excursion into Fat Man’s Misery, Kane County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Alan Alldredge said.
However, the group missed the entrance to the canyon they were looking for and mistakenly rappelled into what is known as Not Fat Man’s Misery, Willis said.
“They were going to hike to Fat Man’s Misery. They ended up getting in the wrong canyon and were not able to go down any farther and were not able to climb back out,” Alldredge said.
Members of the group had only minimal canyoneering experience, were “completely unfamiliar” with the area and were underequipped for the canyon they ended up in, Willis said. The group only had two harnesses between four people.
After making several rappels, the group dropped down into a cave area, Willis said, where they found the final 400-foot drop into Parunuweap Canyon and the Virgin River. The group did not have the equipment or the length of rope needed.
“It catches you off-guard,” Willis said, “because then there’s another 400 feet to get down.”
The group spent Saturday night in the canyon. Sunday morning, the mother of one of the hikers called authorities because the group was overdue. However, the only information she had was that the group was in Parunuweap Canyon, which encompasses an “extremely large” area, Willis said.
A Classic Air Medical helicopter was called in to help with the search and the group was located.
Back in Kanab, a technical rescue team was assembled, Alldredge said. Classic Air made several trips to ferry search and rescue team members and their equipment into the remote location.
Search and rescue members set up a ropes system and then rapelled down to the climbers and hoisted them out of the canyon, Alldredge said. By about 11 p.m., the last person was out of the canyon and by 1:45 a.m. Monday the hikers were delivered back to their vehicles.
“We actually had an incident in this exact same spot several months ago,” Alldredge said, “so we had actually left our anchors there (in the rock). So it was pretty easy for them to go in and use the same anchors.”
Medics and a nurse were on scene and checked out the hikers, who were unharmed.
When hiking or canyoneering in remote areas, it is important to let someone know exactly where you are going and how long you expect it to take, Willis said.
Taking a guide or going with someone familiar with the area is also a good idea, he said.
“We had exactly the same rescue a year ago. A couple did exactly the same thing,” Willis said, pointing out they were planning to go to Fat Man’s Misery but ended up in the other canyon.
Willis urged people who want to go canyoneering to hire one of the many experienced guides available in Southern Utah.
Canyoneers and hikers should always carry enough food, water and clothing to spend at least one night. It is not uncommon for such treks to take longer than expected.
The group rescued Sunday had enough food but had run out of water by the time they were found, Willis said.
It’s also important to carry some kind of signaling device, Alldredge said, such as a flashlight, mirror or strobe light. An even better choice is a GPS locator device, also called a personal locator beacon, he said.
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