Growing up in St. George, Utah I was only a short drive from Zion National Park. I spent many summer weekends during summer break hiking all over the main trails. As I have grown up I have left the crowded trails for some of the more dramatic less seen parts of Zion National Park. Regardless if you spend your time hiking in Zion or canyoneering I have found that as I follow these simple tips I have been safe on my adventures.
Have plenty of water- This year in Utah we have had a lot of deaths due to dehydration. People don’t realize how strong the hot dry Southern Utah heat is. The temperatures can soar to over 105 degrees on any given day without any relief. Make sure you carry plenty of water for your adventures. There is no set rule for how much you need. I try to drink at least 1 water bottle before I start the hike then I try drink at least 3 liters every 6 hours or so. I also carry an emergency 32 oz of water in a water bottle and a water filter for my canyoneering trips. You may think I am crazy but I have seen what happens to people when they don’t have water. It’s a bad thing. I have been in situations where I have been asked to give someone in another group water because they didn’t have any left. Luckily I have been able to give them water without a problem, or filter them some but what if I hadn’t been there. They would have been in serious trouble.
Bring a map (and know how to use it) – If you are not hiking the traditional trails of Zion you will want a map. The back country can be difficult to know where you are or where certain trails are. Many people have had to be rescued because they went down the wrong canyon while canyoneering. Don’t be one of them. Basic understanding of how to read a topographical map will go a long way. If you don’t know how to read a map or need a refresher look go to the Boy Scouts of America store and get their Orienteering merit badge book. We were hiking to Das Boot (a slot canyon entrance to the Subway) and the trail was not marked besides the normal Subway tail, luckily we had a map and we were quickly able to find out where we needed to descend to come in at the correct spot and avoided a keeper pothole.
Let others know where you are going to be and a time to expect a call- Remember the story of Aron Ralston in the movie 127 Hours? No one knew where he was planning on going and he could have died. I always have at least one person know what canyon I am doing with my friends. I also make sure to give a time to expect a call that night saying I am okay. This step takes literally a couple of minutes and could save your life.
Check your equipment- If you do a lot of canyoneering I am sure you already check your equipment. Make sure all of your stuff is in working order. Zion backcountry is great for already having webbing and anchors already in place but NEVER rely 100% that it will be there. Always bring some webbing and quick links with you just in case an anchor is unusable or has washed away in a flash flood. We were in the Subway recently after a flash flood and a log that had been in place to help people cross from one side of the Subway to another was washed away forcing people down a rappel or a very long hard hand-line. Many people were unprepared and didn’t know what to do; some turned back, others tried to find other ways down. They relied on others and were in trouble because of it.
These tips seem like no brainers and I wish they were but based on the number of accidents that happen in Zion each year it is clear that we all need a refresher. Also just for fun I have included a video from my last trip to Zion. We did Telephone and Behunin Canyon combined. Enjoy!