On the afternoon of February 16, 2019, Zion National Park Dispatch received a report of a 34-year-old male visitor from Arizona whose leg was stuck in quicksand. He was located approximately three hours up the Left Fork of the North Creek, also known as The Subway route, from bottom-up. His leg was buried up to his knee and he was unable to free himself. He had hiked the Left Fork Trail with a companion, also from Arizona, when he became stuck. He and his companion tried to free his leg and were unsuccessful. His companion left him with warm gear and clothing, and hiked to call for help. It was approximately three hours until she got cell phone service and was able to call 911. 

Zion Search and Rescue team immediately assembled and began hiking to locate the male. Rangers located the companion close to the trailhead and tended to her as she was exhibiting signs of hypothermia, from hiking the three hours to call for help.

After several hours, rangers located the male who was stable but suffering from exposure, hypothermia and extremity injuries. Rangers tried for two hours to free the man’s leg from the quicksand in the middle of the creek. 

Late into the night, Rangers were able to free the male from the quicksand and began efforts to rewarm him and treat his leg. Rangers spent the night with the patient in frigid conditions with four additional inches of snow overnight.

The next morning, the Utah DPS helicopter responded from Salt Lake City. The ongoing winter storms in the area decreased visibility for aircraft all morning. Only after a small break in the weather occurred in the afternoon, the DPS helicopter was able to safely extricate the patient with a hoist rescue operation. The patient was transported to an awaiting ambulance and transported to the hospital.

Winter conditions at Zion National Park can be extreme, especially in the higher elevations. Colder temperatures, shorter days, snow, ice, and cold run-off can make easy hikes difficult and strenuous ones treacherous. Visitors are advised to use extreme caution during poor weather events at Zion. “Presidents Day Weekend is often dry, warm and sunny,” says Aly Baltrus, Zion’s Public Information Officer. “This year was as predicted – cold and wet.”