Injured climber rescued by helicopter in Zion after spending overnight standing on 6-inch cliffside ledge

ST. GEORGE — An injured climber who had to spend the night in a cliffside crevice in Kolob Canyon was rescued by a Utah Highway Patrol helicopter using a hoist on Sunday.

View via an infrared camera camera on a Utah Highway Patrol helicopter of an injured climber that can be seen in a crevice of the cliffside, Zion National Park, Utah, May 1, 2022 | Photo courtesy of Utah Department of Public Safety Aero Bureau, St. George News

The Utah Department of Public Safety’s Aero Bureau, having to fly in from the Salt Lake City area,  performed the rescue around 7 a.m., after the 35-year-old hiker spent nearly 12 hours standing overnight on a 6-inch-wide crevice on a cliffside of the canyon on the outer border of Zion National Park according to park and public safety officials.

“He fell 30 feet and caught himself on a little ledge and a little bush or tree,” said Sgt. Wyatt Weber with the Aero Bureau, who took part in the rescue. “If he missed that ledge, he would have gone down another 100-plus feet.”

Weber said the male climber, who wasn’t identified by name, had gone up the vertical cliff-face near where Kolob Canyon Road curves at Lee Pass while his father stayed down in a nearby parking lot. While working his way down, going down a different way than he had gone up, he slipped and fell around 8 p.m. on Saturday with only the 6-inch ledge and bush saving him from a much longer fall. 

After yelling down to his father, Zion National Park rangers were alerted and attempted to reach the climber but couldn’t, and the Aero team was called in, Weber said.  

The hiker was wearing just a T-shirt, shorts and tennis shoes. He was without a flashlight, food or water and had to stay awake in the cold. According to the National Weather Service, the temperature dipped down to 47 degrees overnight. 

A primary reason the climber had to wait so long is due to the time it would take the helicopter hoist team to fly down from Salt Lake City, which was two hours, and they wouldn’t be able to operate until daybreak. 

“They called us at 2 a.m. so we left at 5 a.m. at first light to go down there,” Weber said.

Such delays will shortly be a thing of the past, as the Utah Highway Patrol is adding a second Southern Utah-based helicopter hoist team that will be based at St. George Airport starting in July. 

Location where a climber fell on a cliff face at Kolob Canyon in Zion National Park | Photo via Google Maps, St. George News

The rescue itself took less than 10 minutes.

“It was an hour and a half flight for 10 minutes work,” Weber said. “The whole time we were thinking it will be great to have that helicopter in St. George.”

The rescue operation itself involved Weber guiding down another patrolman on a hoist to the climber. The climber was then hooked up to the patrolman and brought back up to the helicopter. They then landed in the parking lot where the climber’s father was. 

“This one was what we call a quick pick,” Weber said. “It was one guy on the hook because there was such a fall potential.”

The climber had what Weber said looked like a broken ankle and bruises all over his body. Weber said he refused medical transport, having his father transport him to the hospital instead. “He looked like it was in a motorcycle accident.”

Weber said it was a job well done. 

“It’s fun,” Weber said. “I have the best job in the highway patrol. Can’t deny that.”

Video of the rescue courtesy of the Utah Department of Public Safety Aero Bureau can be seen at the top of the story.

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2022, all rights reserved.

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