Ill-Advised Leap Leads to Rescue from the Subway at Zion National Park

A small section of the Subway Route at Zion National Park. NPS photo

In the city, "don't jump from the subway" is good advice, but in Zion National Park, the caution is don't jump in the Subway. A hiker made an ill-advised leap in a remote location known as the Subway Route, and the resulting injury led to an unplanned night in the boonies and a rescue.

On Saturday, September 19, a 20-year-old hiker from Boise, Idaho, was on a backcountry trip to a location dubbed the Subway Route. This canyoneering trip is described by the park as "strenuous," and one that requires "route finding, stream crossings, and scrambling over boulders. The route is often slippery." Despite those challenges—or perhaps because of them—this experience is so popular that permits for trips to the Subway are awarded through a lottery system.

Our Boise hiker's group reached a place where a bolted anchor is in place to allow use of a rappel or hand-line to safely negotiate a drop of eight to ten feet… and there's a good reason why that anchor is provided. It's not known if this hiker lacked the necessary rope or know-how, if she was in a hurry, or if she was simply feeling invincible. Whatever the reason, the woman decided to shun use of a rope and take a more direct approach to navigating the obstacle: she jumped.

The result was what the park's report described as an unstable ankle injury, and the hiker was unable to proceed.

There's no express train to this Subway, and getting help to the scene required a six-mile hike by Ranger/medics Ray O’Neil and Dan Hovanec. They stabilized the victim's injury, and since the situation was not life-threatening, there was no need to conduct a risky night-time rescue. The medics spent the night with the hiker in the canyon while Rangers Kelsey Taylor and Derrick Fassbender hiked in additional equipment and escorted the rest of the group out in the dark that evening.

On Sunday, Grand Canyon’s helicopter and flight crew short-hauled the woman out of the Subway Route to a waiting ambulance.

A park spokesman noted that despite their attempts to discourage the practice, "jumping to negotiate obstacles continues to be a frequent cause of injury while canyoneering in Zion."

Our mothers warned us not to run while carrying sharp objects. Hikers at Zion—and other parks—should add another caution: Don't jump from high places…especially in the Subway.

Comments

Gee, 8 to 10 feet doesn't sound like much, but I guess if you're landing on rocks like those in the pic, that makes for a pretty good likelihood of spraining an ankle. Big Horn sheep we ain't!...