Backcountry Volunteer Survives 100 Foot Fall While Canyoneering at Zion National Park

Rappelling in Pine Creek Canyon is fun, but risky. Photo by sevenblock via Flickr.

Canyoneering is a risky activity, which is why they call it an extreme sport. One canyoneer is lucky to be alive after a botched rappel sent her tumbling 100 feet. Imagine falling that far and living to tell about it.

Kaitlyn Bohlin, a 23-year old backcountry volunteer in Zion National Park, had the day off July 30, so she went canyoneering with a friend. Zion is a wonderful place for canyoneering, probably the single best place in the Lower 48.

The pair chose Pine Creek Canyon, a highly accessible and very popular little slot canyon that’s so deep and twisty and narrow that there are only a few places where sunlight penetrates all the way to the bottom. There are lots of neat things to see and do in the canyon, which typically takes three or four hours to traverse.

Rated 3B II (intermediate difficulty) using the ACA Canyon Rating System, Pine Canyon is a technical route requiring good gear and appropriate skills. There are five exciting rappels of varying length and difficulty. There are cold water pools for swimming and about a mile of creek for wading. And all along there are fantastic shapes carved into the sandstone and wonderful acoustics to go with them. (One place is called the “The Cathedral” because of its acoustics are positively breathtaking.)

Kaitlyn Bohlin is an experienced canyoneer and had successfully negotiated Pine Creek Canyon before. This time, however, something went terribly wrong. As she was attempting the final 100-foot rappel, she fell the entire distance.

Kaitlyn’s companion called for help, using the radio that the young woman had left at the top of the rappel. Rescuers, including a nearby canyoneering group that had heard (but not seen) the fall, quickly came to her aid. When paramedics arrived (after rappelling into the canyon from a window in the Zion Tunnel) they placed the badly injured, but conscious young woman on a litter and transported her a quarter-mile to a place in the canyon suitable for a helicopter short-haul evacuation.

There Kaitlyn was lifted into a hovering Air Force Blackhawk helicopter and flown directly to the University Medical Center in Las Vegas. Having suffered multiple severe traumatic injuries, she remains in critical condition. Officials report that she is receiving intensive care and has shown signs of improvement.

The accident remains under investigation.

Comments

What's up with park volunteers and employees going out and getting themselves hurt? I thought that was for us - the dumb park visitors!!!

I sure hope Kaitlyn pulls through. When we last visited Zion two years ago, we encountered the gal from the backcountry desk out on the Horse Pasture Plateau with a friend. It was her day off and she was out enjoying the park. I guess that's the draw to work there. I wish I had a job like that!!!

When you say "lower 48", that is an antiquated phrase and inaccurate. It should be "middle 48" unless you neither consider Hawaii a state or south of the Florida Keys.

Anyone wishing to send their support (cmon' and send her some love!) to Kaitlyn can do so at:

www.caringbridge.org/visit/KaitlynBohlin

She is in our thoughts and prayers and last week left Las Vegas to Chicago and is healing well and has the greatest personality, strength and determination and I am sure will come out of this challenging experience with many a story to share and a beautiful smile on her face!

Shalom and GET WELL SOON KAITLYN ~*~

This is a great reminder now how many times you have gone down a canyon you always have to be paying attention.

I'm curious as to what other canyoneering experiences anywhere else in the western hemisphere are comparable (or better) than Utah. Strange you chose to single out the "lower 48" but didn't expand that further. If it's a secret, I'll understand. For a long time I didn't tell many (if any) people about the hidden spots at Escalante.