Canyoneering pro shares safety tips after death in Zion National Park

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SPRINGDALE, Utah (ABC4) – One man is dead and two others rescued while canyoneering at Zion National Park over Thanksgiving weekend. First responders say they found the group stranded nearly 300 feet above Heaps Canyon, the victim who died was still suspended from a rope.

ABC4’s Southern Utah Correspondent, Jordan Verdadeiro completed Lamb’s Knoll with a canyoneering expert, Guru Stu, with Zion Rock and Mountain Guides in Springdale. He says while Lamb’s Knoll is considered a beginner trail, Heaps Canyon is for experts and requires a great deal of technical and physical abilities.

“You want to know physically speaking, what kind of stamina does the group have, you want to know mentally speaking how well people can pay attention to each other, you want to know socially how do people get along and how do they help each other?” he says.

Zion National Park officials say the group navigating Heaps Canyon had difficulty getting through the last few rappels in the canyon.

“A lot of backcountry route finding, multi-pitch rappels and it involves physical stamina, you need a solid seven hours of being able to move your body and still be able to function, logically,” says Guru Stu.

Guru Stu says Heaps Canyon is one of the most challenging in the park. He believes stress, anxiety, and exhaustion are reasons expeditions go wrong.

“What makes canyoneering such a strong sport, is the amount of care you have to give to everybody in the group and unfortunately when those systems of caring aren’t in check, that’s when it gets very dangerous,” he says.

He says patience and communication with a group are essential.

“Rather than leap in and expect that you’re going to max out on your mileage, max out on the number of repels you’re going to do, max out on the route finding on your expedition, you want to just take a couple of little bites,” he says.

And recreators should contact a professional before venturing out and do extensive research before their expedition.

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