Woman Dies in Fall From Angels Landing At Zion National Park

A woman apparently hiking alone to the summit of Angels Landing has fallen to her death. Photo of Angels Landing by QT Luong, used with permission. www.terragalleria.com/parks

A woman hiking up Angels Landing in Zion National Park apparently tripped and fell about 1,000 feet to her death, according to park officials.

The woman, who was not immediately identified, was thought to be hiking alone when she fell around 2 p.m. Friday, District Ranger Ray O'Neil said this morning.

"She was a third of the way from Scout Lookout to the top," the ranger said. "We're still looking into it at this point. It just sounds like a terrible accident."

Weather apparently wasn't a factor, as it was sunny with temperatures in the 50s and low 60s, he said. There were others in the area who saw her fall, and they were interviewed by rangers.

While there are chains along some sections of the trail that hikers can hold onto as they go up and down, the woman was thought to be in an area where there were no chains, said the ranger.

“It’s roughly in the saddle area. When you go from Scout Lookout you go up just a little bit and then you go down just a little bit before you go on the big ascent to the top," he said. More details were expected later today.

The last hiker to die along the route was a California woman who fell in August.

Comments

So what is the total body count from hikers falling to their deaths since Zion became a National Park? I'd really like to know, somebody please answer.

I think the count from Angel's Landing is 6.

Ranger Holly

3 in the last 4 years. Another 6 years ago on my son's wedding day (he was married on the lawn as the helicopter recovering the boy's body flew overhead.)

I worked at the Lodge this summer as concierge. When I was asked about Angel's Landing, I got very serious with the people, explaining about how tough the hike could be. I also told them it was worth it (I've been there), but that they needed good balance and to not be afraid of heights. I'd tell the kids, especially teenage boys, that one of their own age group died there a few years ago because he was apparently goofing off. If you go, and you should, be careful.

You better count again Ranger Lady, there have been at least 4 deaths this year alone; people are still responding to the last article about safety on Angels Landing, then there was another death a few weeks after that one; now this; that's three since the first article was posted. I believe there was another earlier in the year.

I just hope they don't close the trail. It is probably the most dangerous trail in all the parks however each person should decide whether to climb it.

According to the local newspaper (The Daily Spectrum) it was the 2nd fatal fall from Angel's Landing this year: http://snipurl.com/th0z0

It would seem that nobody is keeping an accurate account of the true number of deaths at Angel's Landing. The Park service hasn't updated their "FAQ" since 2006. Here is a list someone gleamed from the web for a Wikipedia article. I'd swear I've read about 3 deaths since the beginning of the summer (2009), so this list may also be incomplete, but the total shown here is 9, not 5, as alleged on the Park Service web site:

* November 2009: Tammy Grunig, 50, of Pocatello, Idaho [4]
* August 2009: Nancy Maltez, 55, of Glendora, California[5]
* June 2007: Barry Goldstein, 53, of St. Louis, Missouri[6]
* August 2006: Bernadette Vandermeer, 29, of Las Vegas, Nevada[7]
* June 2004: Kristoffer Jones, 14, of Long Beach, California[8]
* May 1997: Patricia Bottarini, 36, of Medford, New Jersey (husband later acquitted of murder)[9]
* Jan 1997: John Christensen, 36, of Provo, Utah[10]
* April 1989: Jeffery Robert Dwyer, 28, of Sandpoint, Idaho[11][12]
* May 1987: Denver woman[13]

I was curious about deaths at Angels. My web search only turned up the August, 2009 fall and a reference to the 2007 fall.

I was amazed that the AL trail is open, and my thought was that if they were developing this park today, no way that trail would be open without permits or guides or some risk-reducing restriction. Thankfully, the Angels Landing trail was there before the U.S. became hyper about eliminating risk. There are lots of other places in the park where a stumble could be fatal. I was there in October and here are a couple pictures taken at spots where you could take a looonng mistep:

http://home.comcast.net/%7Echipcanoe/Zion/IMG_1336.jpg

or

http://home.comcast.net/%7Echipcanoe/Zion/IMG_1428.jpg

Angels landing is no more hazardous than many places in the park. The chance of an accident is very small. But spread that minuscule chance across the thousands of people that make the hike, and I'd say it's mathematical certainty that people will die there. What is the park supposed to do? Put up fences everwhere? Keep everybody on the canyon floor? The risks are pretty well advertised, so if you set out on that trail, you've opted in. Sad that accidents happen, but risk is part of life, and at least she was warned.

My heart goes out to her loved ones.

Volpe: The nine deaths from Angels Landing over a 20 year period does not make it the most dangerous trail in the service. In fact, it may not even put it in the top ten. Many more people have died while hiking the Bright Angel and South Kaibab Trails at the Grand Canyon.

I agree they should not close the trail or require permits. Perhaps more or different signing or creative trail barriers should be considered.

Parks can plaster hiking trails with warning signs for all the dangers, but you still run into the same problem; most people do not read signs or follow their advice. At every park I've been to, I've seen people breeze by big warning signs wearing flip-flops and carrying no water or supplies.
This accident is unfortunate and my prayers go out to her family.

Just went up Angel's Landing on Wednesday - it appears two days before this latest incident.

The long and short - adults can choose whether to go or not go up -- but what really upset me was that there were kids, not more than 10 years old, going up with their parents. They may have the advantage of "no fear" - but they also have the disadvantage of not knowing when fear is a good thing.

PARENTS - people have died on this mountain just in the past year - what in the world are you doing taking your kids up??? Most will disagree I'm sure - but I think this is as irresponsible as driving with a child in the car after having a few drinks - and you know the outrage the community makes when parents get a DUI with their kids in the car....

Just my two cents from a someone that was beside himself seeing kids scampering around on this pretty scary and obviously dangerous place.

I happened to come upon Angles Landing near the end of a hike from Lava Point Friday within an hour of when the woman had fallen.People waiting in line to go to AL were talking about it.There were at least 100 people on the rock trying to get to the top of AL.It was sheer insanity.People were trying to come down while people were trying to go up.They were all hanging onto the chains.As an east Coast climber it made my blood run cold.Complete idiocy.It is amazing no one else died.My hat goes off to the obviously pregnant woman that was a third of the way up the chained trail.IN sandals.There was a ranger watching helplessly.Everyone has an inalienable right to kill himself if he wants to but killing yourself would be merciful compared to surviving a fall like that and living as a paraplegic.

I was on my way up to one of the west rim campsites on Friday night and decided to do a side trip to the top of AL. I too was amazed at how many people were up there who seemed like they may not be well equipped to do so (slick bottom shoes etc.).
About two thirds of the way up I heard a strange noise and looked back to see the woman sliding. I didn't see her go over the edge, but the edge was just past my viewpoint. It was clear that she went over. I'll have that view in my head for the rest of my life. I think I actually talked to her too when I passed her earlier on the trail. I'm not 100% sure if it was the woman that I talked to or not, but I barely got a wink of sleep that night. My heart goes out to her, her family and friends, and all others who have been so unfortunate.
It is terrible that things like this happen, but I do feel that the parks are doing a fantastic job at warning us and preparing us before we set out on these adventures. I was warned by two different bus drivers, and two rangers about the Angels Landing hike. Anyone who does that hike or any others in our parks must know that there is a certain amount of risk involved, but there is a certain amount of risk involved in driving your car there too. If 6 people died from Angels Landing this year, I wonder how many died in car accidents on their way to Zion. More than 6 I would assume. There is a certain amount of risk in everything that we do and I for one believe that we should appreciate every moment that we have with each other.

SR, I'll not argue that driving a car to a national park can be dangerous, but to compare it to the Angels Landing hike might be a bit of a stretch. Last year's U.S. highway death rate (the lowest on record) was 1.28 deaths per 100 million miles driven.

I also hiked to Angels Landing this summer after the first fall and since I was a ranger there, I knew how to prepare myself. I wore hiking shoes with really good tread and yet I still slipped coming down. I think coming down is the most dangerous part because the rocks are covered with a fine silt and when you put your weight on that, it's easy to slip. If I slipped wearing good boots I can't imagine how those people wearing sandals do it. I've been a ranger for 7 years and it's amazing the things I see: people jumping fences to get a closer view of the canyon in Mesa Verde, no water or food on long hikes, carrying an infant in their arms while trying to climb the ladders in Mesa Verde, etc...

It was a tragedy that this woman died and I feel for her family. I have found Angel's landing to be safe if you are careful and it is not icy. It would be a shame if this trail was ever closed for any reason other than ice or the stability of the rock.

Responding to the comment about 10 year old children on the trail. I have carried toddlers up this trail and I have taken fairly young children up all the way, 5-6 years old. If there is a drop-off, my children's hands are in mine and they are on the side away from the dropoff, if possible. When there are chains, both their hands are on the chains and I grip my child. Teenagers are actually more risky because they don't listen as well. The trail is safe if you are careful and responsible. If you are not careful and responsible, no place is safe, including the roads below. If parents let their younger children take the trail without close supervision, that is stupid, but it should not stop those of us who supervise our kids. Maybe the park service should create rules and give parents tickets for unsupervised children, like we do when kids don't have seat belts on.

How many people have died in automobile/bicycle accidents during the last 10 years in Zion National Park? That would be an interesting comparison. I feel much safer hiking Angel's Landing than I would riding a bike up the canyon road with no bike lane.

Paul, in response to a couple of your quotes above:

"I have carried toddlers up this trail and I have taken fairly young children up all the way, 5-6 years old. If there is a drop-off, my children's hands are in mine and they are on the side away from the dropoff, if possible. When there are chains, both their hands are on the chains and I grip my child."

What if YOU trip? Does your child go over the cliff with you? AL is dangerous enough for an able-bodied adult. If you are trying to hold onto a child and watch your footing, you are playing Russian Roulette with your life and your children.

"How many people have died in automobile/bicycle accidents during the last 10 years in Zion National Park? That would be an interesting comparison."

I suspect that if you compare the percentage of deaths on AL relative to number of folks attempting the hike in a given year, it would be far higher than the number of car deaths in ZNP relative to the number of cars that travel through the park every year.

Don't want to be nasty here. Just very concerned for the children after what I saw last week. I really hope parents that read this will think twice about this before taking kids up there.

Hasn't it already been established that the Emerald Pools trail(s) has more deaths than AL overall? Just wondering here because I thought I read that from another discussion. If so why aren't people fighting to shut it down? And a man fell and died on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon the day after this tragic death. Shall we close it as well?

As Zion National Park's website states "Your safety is your responsibility."
Backpacking - Be Prepared (http://www.nps.gov/zion/planyourvisit/backpacking.htm)

I wouldn't dream of climbing Angel's Landing as I would be too scared, but I would also not dream of even thinking about closing the trail to the top. The people who want to go up there should not be denied the opportunity because I am a big fraidy cat. And the comparison of car-deaths to falling-from-height-deaths is kind of like comparing apples and oranges. Six people killed over several years is not a big percentage of the number of people who actually climbed the Landing.

I seem to have read this woman was an experienced hiker but accidents happen. My condolences to her family.

I posted this elsewhere but will repost here which seems a better forum. Many of my observations have been mentioned by others.

I have mixed thoughts on this issue.

I was on the route that day and was descending just below the victim when she fell. I did not see the fall but in retrospect I know I heard the fall and associated rock fall. The person I was with who chose not to do the final push witnessed the fall but did not see the initial slip or precipitating event.

I have a 30 year mountaineering background.

This is not a wilderness route. There is too much traffic and man made modification to call it wilderness. The exposure is extreme. It can be hiked safely. The route has been groomed and protection in place which both improves safety but also encourages use and may give a perception of safety beyond the intended purpose.

|do not know why this person fell. Prior to the fall I was and subsequently remain amazed at how many people were on the route. There was volume delay crowds waiting to pass on narrow one lane areas. There was an impressive level of cooperation and support. There was however the occasional impatient trekker.

There were folks with sandal like shoes, one with bare feet, a baby on chest pack, a toddler on back pack, young children on tethers, young children springing ahead of their adult companions. Many people who from there chatter clearly had never experienced anything similar. Some approached the edge to a level that made me uncomfortable in order to take pictures. They seemed oblivious to worries re loose sand, false edges , crumbling sand stone, inadvertent jostling or other unlikely but possible events.

I am leaning towards the need to reduce traffic on the route and to improve the clarity of the warnings.

It was indeed a black Friday. No easy answer here.

I have no comment regarding the debate over whether or not to close "dangerous" trails, but I cannot let slide the misuse of statistics I often see in these kinds of discussions.

A couple people have already pointed this out, but you cannot use the total number of deaths that occur from a given activity as evidence for how dangerous such activity is. You have to look at the percentage of deaths that occur out of the total number who participate.

So it is true that more people might die from car accidents in Zion than hiking Angels Landing, but that does not mean it's more dangerous, it just means many more people do it. To use an extreme example: 412 people died in car accidents in Iowa in 2008 - this is more people than have ever died climbing Mount Everest. So is driving a car in Iowa more dangerous than climbing Mount Everest?

Let us be honest with ourselves and stop trying to claim an obviously dangerous activity (hiking Angels Landing) is somehow not.

As Matt points out statistics are often misused. I would go further and say that even those that he mentions as more accurate (deaths per 10,000 users - or whatever) aren't very applicable. Just as with vehicle accidents, falls from AL are far from random. Footwear, weather conditions, human congestion on the trail, hiking experience, and general level of responsible behavior are all variables that affect your odds of dying one way or the other - greatly, I would suppose. Sure, Conrad Anker could fall off the AL trail on a sunny day with no other people around, but it's extremely unlikely. Joe Schmo from Orlando in his sandals after a rainstorm - well, he may want to have his affairs in order.

Speaking for myself, I suffer from acrophobia, and will not be seen on Angel's Landing anytime soon. I live vicariously through the pictures the rest of you bring back.

I was there this weekend when the latest hiker fell. It was extremely crowded, almost to the point of a Disneyland ride. I've hiked Angels Landing at least 5 times, but this time, I chose not to finish. My intuition told me that it just wasn't safe. Some in the crowd were wearing flip-flops. I also saw a man with a newborn baby strapped to his back. It wasn't 10 minutes after I decided to head down that the woman fell. I heard she was trying to get out of the way of a passing hiker. The park should really limit the number of people allowed up there, especially on holiday weekends like this one.

Surely they can find a little room for a bike lane! The buses are packed a it is.

We hiked the trail the day before this event. I went to the top; my companion chose to stop at Scout's landing. It is a spectacular trail. It is indeed high, and requires appropriate care. It is also considerably less difficult and dangerous than many - in and out of national Parks, both in the US and in other countries. Whilst I do not have data to support my hypothesis I suspect that the death toll of this trail is significantly less than many trails that are considered relativey easy walks - Vernal Fall in Yosemite comes mind. That someone lost their life is a tragedy. It would be even more so if access to every "dangerous place" in this world were restricted, or every trail became a Disney style carnival ride with big signposts and guard rails the entire distance. Ultimately people must be responsible for their own actions.

Thanks for all of your comments. Tammy was a GREAT person and a good friend. She was an extremely helpful, caring and a compassionate person. Her death is a big loss for all. I wish I could have been there to stop her fall!

Anonymous:
Whilst I do not have data to support my hypothesis I suspect that the death toll of this trail is significantly less than many trails that are considered relativey easy walks - Vernal Fall in Yosemite comes mind.

I suppose you mean from the Mist Trail all the way up to Vernal Fall and Emerald Pool/Silver Apron.

I don't think they've had many fatalities from normal "responsible" hiking. The only example I recall was someone who was hiking up in heavy rain, and slipped/fell off the trail into the Merced River. Most of the fatalities I've heard of are from people doing stuff they're not supposed to such as jump on the rocks, swimming in the Emerald Pool or sliding down the Silver Apron.

I heard about one NPS employee who collapsed and died on the Mist Trail while investigating another fatality.

The gist I get from most Angels Landings fatalities is that people weren't being reckless by doing something stupid like jump across wet rocks.

I'm in awe of anyone that has the courage to climb AL. I'm very fascinated and also scared to death of heights, the pictures are truly breathtaking. While I have no desire to climb AL, I fully appreciate others that are able to do these daring acts. The freedom to experience our country's National Parks is what they were protected and proclaimed for. Enjoyment of any kind always comes with risks, enjoy and be as careful as you can.

Patricia Bottarini fell (or was allegedly pushed) to her death from the Observation Point trail, not Angels Landing.

Ah, but here's the trouble with Wikipedia--anyone can edit an article to say whatever they please. Bottarini fell to her death from the Observation Point trail, not Angels Landing.

I have hiked Angels Landing two times. I have a life time goal to see every National Park. I love Zion and Angels Landing. However, there is an assumed risk in many aspects of life. If you do this trail take your time and hug the chains. But, people need to enjoy life, just be careful!

Well, I'd like to close with the following observation:

Angel's Landing is an appropriately named for a trail because everyone who landed became an angel. Amen.