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Canyoneering expedition leads to fatality at Heaps Canyon in Zion National Park

by Zion National Park

A view of Heaps Canyon in Zion National Park (ZNP), where 31-year-old Andrew Arvig was recovered after a fatal canyoneering accident in the park. Photo provided by ZNP.

This past weekend, the Zion National Park Technical Search and Rescue Team responded to an emergency call at the exit of Heaps Canyon. Rescuers found two canyoneers stranded on a rock perch about 280 feet above Upper Emerald Pools.

They also found one canyoneer suspended from a rope about 260 feet above the pool (20 feet below the perch). The canyoneer who was suspended, 31-year-old Andrew Arvig of Chesapeake, Virginia, was lowered to the ground and later pronounced deceased by a doctor.

The Zion Technical Search and Rescue Team assisted the other two canyoneers with rappelling safely to the ground.

The group started their trip early on the morning of Saturday, November 27, and had been following their permitted itinerary through Heaps Canyon. They had difficulty negotiating the last few rappels in the canyon, which delayed their exit.

Arvig, the first to exit Heaps Canyon, rappelled past a small rock ledge where he needed to land and re-anchor his rope in order to then rappel the remaining distance to the ground. The other members of the group used their “pull line” to rappel to the perch. Arvig was unable to ascend the 20 feet back to the perch. Rangers began rescue operations early Sunday morning when the canyoneers on the perch contacted Washington County Dispatch by cell phone after several failed attempts to connect because of poor reception.

The Washington County Sheriff’s Department and the National Park Service are still investigating the cause of Arvig’s death.

“All of us at Zion National Park extend our sympathy to the Arvig family for their tragic loss,” said Superintendent Jeff Bradybaugh.

The park’s response involved more than 30 rescuers including a technical rescue team, a helicopter dispatched from Grand Canyon National Park and a Life Flight helicopter and crew from St. George, Utah.

The Upper and Middle Emerald Pools Trails, which had been closed due to rescue operations, are now open.

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