ST. GEORGE — Hikers in two separate groups visiting the popular rock formation known as The Subway in Zion National Park needed rescuing Monday after officials say they were unprepared.
One hiker who received a knee injury on the hike spent the night with rescuers before being airlifted by a helicopter. Another group spent the night in the canyon after getting lost. They were found and rescued Monday morning.
The Subway is a tubular formation within the Left Fork of North Creek in the park, and because of the popularity of the canyon, there is a lottery system for permits. For hikers starting at the top of the canyon, there is a necessary 30-foot rappel that requires ropes and technical canyoneering gear.
The Subway without ropes
One of the groups that required a rescue had disregarded and mocked a ranger’s advice when they picked up their permit to visit The Subway, according to a press release from Zion National Park.
“The ranger recommended they bring a rope and multiple harnesses for at least one of the rappels, but the leader of the group, who had been there before, said that they could cross the log and find an easier way down,” reads the press release.
The ranger told them that the log had washed out last year and once again recommended the gear, but the group dismissed the information and started the 9.5-mile hike without ropes or harnesses.
When the group reached the 30-foot rappel, they attempted to make the 6- or 7-foot jump to the other side of the drop, but one person landed badly and received a knee injury.
A medic and two other rescuers responded to the scene and spent the Monday night with the patient. A helicopter from the Grand Canyon arrived to pick up the injured hiker Tuesday morning.
Zion National Park Superintendent Jeff Bradybaugh said it was fortunate that the helicopter was able to respond so quickly “given the number of fires throughout the West and the assignment of aviation assets to them.”
The Subway with “inappropriate footwear”
Another group that officials say was wearing “inappropriate footwear,” got lost several times while hiking toward The Subway. They finally reached the famous formation late Sunday night, so they spent an unexpected night in the canyon.
Monday morning, they got lost again and missed the trail that leads out of the canyon to the trailhead, according to the press release. Instead, they continued farther downstream.
“At some point, they decided to try to climb a cliff face to reach the road,” reads the press release.
Heat exhaustion started to set in, so members of the group activated their emergency locator and reported a heat-related illness. Search and rescue responders were able to locate the group, give them water and help them find their way back to the trailhead.
Park officials said both rescues are good examples for visitors to plan their trip thoroughly and take their safety seriously by being prepared with all the necessary gear.
“Park rangers are here to advise and assist visitors planning challenging trips in the backcountry, but ultimately preparations and proper equipment is the visitor’s responsibility,” Bradybaugh said. “Please prepare carefully and plan ahead for unexpected events that might occur in this wonderful, but at times, unforgiving landscape.”
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