Canyon Tales
by Rick Green

Hello to the group. I rarely post myself, usually my reports are sent in via Ram ... however the latest incident has prompted me to get a little more involved.

I have been living and guiding in Escalante for 10 years and was the first to arrive to the surviving hikers last Wednesday night. The scene was emotional and unpleasant to say the least. The following morning, myself and two Search & Rescue team members performed the final task of victim recovery—extremely unpleasant as well.

When you find a person/people in that state, you cannot help but ask, “How the hell did these people end up here, at the bottom of the canyon waiting to be placed in a bag?”

Freak storm? I don’t think so.

It was completely obvious that this was no day to be in E3. The sky was BLACK over the area. ANYONE claiming that this storm was unpredictable or that the skies ‘didn’t look that bad’ over Escalante is kidding themselves into a false sense of security.

Can you really look from Bryce and tell me what the flood potential is in Escalante? And does the monsoon season end on the last day of August? I will answer both questions for you. NO. Regarding monsoons and floods, have a look at the video from a few years back of a flood during one of my trips ... a March monsoon?

Risks for flooding exist ALL YEAR LONG.

Was it their age that put them there? They were the oldest members of the guided tour; yet in my experience guiding folks, I’ve found that mature guests are by far the easiest and safest to work with. They generally listen, follow instructions, work hard and stay focused. They are also likely to make a more mature decision on whether or not to enter sketchy situations. So, in my honest opinion, age is not a problem. Physical conditioning plays more of a role than age. If your butt don’t fit, it’s hard to pick up the pace. For the record, both victims looked to me to be in pretty good shape for being 60.

In my honest opinion, people portraying this incident (from loosely gathered facts) as a freak accident or as something unpredictable are being incredibly disrespectful to the deceased and to their families. What if some of your family members had hired a guide and ended up in the same position as the deceased? Would they accept people describing it as an unavoidable accident? I don’t think so.

This has been the busiest season, by far, regarding Search & Rescue down here: Boy Scouts without compasses/maps climbing out of the wrong side of Coyote Gulch (totally stupid); ‘experienced hikers’ huddled under a bush (30 plus hrs) in Egypt with no food or water, wearing flip flops and lots of blisters; ‘canyoneers’ in Egypt 2 taking 40 hrs to complete because “they know what they are doing” and “don’t need any help;” lost guide service vans; people heading into technical canyons without ANY equipment; etc., etc., etc.

And now this.

In my honest opinion, this is total bull@#$% and completely unacceptable.

This is not my town and this is not my desert; however myself and a few others are the ones who have volunteered to come out and assist the folks who are getting themselves in trouble here, so I feel my opinion bears a little weight here.

Penalty points are high here in Escalante.

If you have not seen the Egypts flood, you should, before you start leading people in there. Bring a compass and map to accompany your Kelsey’s guide to canyoneering for dummies. Bring a shovel to dig out your stuck vehicle. Seek out and accept advice and information on the conditions down here. Don’t blindly trust your ‘leader,’ use your natural instincts, and don’t be afraid to verbalize them to your group (most times people report ‘not feeling right’ about the decision that put them in the predicament). And don’t believe the ‘facts’ that show up on websites. For instance, ALL of the Egypts flooded during the last event, not just Egypt 3. What if someone starts down in there thinking it’s dry? Tease out beta from as many sources as possible to try and get the clearest picture of the situation.

If this message upsets you, then it is designed for you. If you are an experienced canyoneer, then I am just beating a dead horse but it won’t bother you much. If you're one of the many ‘experts’ I am running into down here in trouble, then I’m sure your ego must defend itself.

I’m not here to assign blame to the latest tragedy, despite KSL’s attempt to make it sound that way. The lawyers can fight that one out. What I am trying to do is send a STRONG signal to the canyoneers with a few years of experience who may be visiting Escalante in the future ... have your sh#$ in a pile when you get here. Ram and I have been talking for months about the dramatic increase in visitors/problems down here.

Please let’s do our best to inform family and friends of the risks of canyoneering here. We love visitors and there’s plenty of room for everybody; just respect the remote nature and potential risks of these canyons.

Pardon the typos as well as the ‘off color’ language, recent events have heightened the emotions here a bit.

Rick Green

P.S. We are glad to provide current information on the canyons to anyone who has the need.

Just call 1 – 800 – UEXPLORE and ask for me.

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© 2008 Rick Green