A woman was wedged in a slot canyon in the southern Utah’s San Rafael Swell for 12 hours this week before rescuers were able to wrestle her out with the help of a gallon of dish soap.
The 24-year-old Salt Lake County woman, identified as Lindsey Hargrave by KUTV, had slipped in a narrow part of Zero Gravity Canyon and gotten wedged Wednesday, according to a Facebook post from the Emery County Sheriff’s Office.
“She slipped and fell down in where it was too tight,” Emery County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Janalee Luke said Friday. Hargrave‘s husband, William Hargrave, tried for two hours to free her before he hiked out to call 911.
“The longer she was sitting there, she started kind of slipping a little bit and getting more stuck,” William Hargrave told KUTV.
Emery County Search and Rescue rope team members reported that Hargrave had a difficult time breathing and was in pain and “extremely distraught” when they found her suspended in the canyon.
One man — a nurse with the medical helicopter who has experience canyoneering — was the only person small enough to fit into the narrow crevasse, according to Luke. The team lowered him down headfirst so he could hook up webbing and rope to create a rigging system to connect to Hargrave’s harness. But she was wedged in too tightly to be pulled out.
“Without him there, [rescuers] wouldn’t have had a way to get down into her, it was just too narrow right there,” Luke said.
The nurse then climbed up the slot canyon from below and held the bottom of her feet so she could push herself up while rescuers pulled her from above. But moving that way made it more difficult for her to breathe and caused her more pain.
Rescuers then shifted Hargrave side to side “in a seesaw motion” while pouring a gallon of dish soap around her, the post stated. Eventually, Hargrave was shimmied free and able to sit on a choke stone in the canyon.
Rescuers then put her in a new harness and pulled her out. She was put into the medical helicopter at 2 a.m. Thursday, nearly 12 hours after initially getting stuck.
“When they finally were able to pull her out, I had a mix of happiness and still a lot of fear and tension,” her husband said.
William Hargrave told KUTV he appreciated the rescue team, which worked in the dark to free his wife.
“I just can‘t thank them enough for what they were able to do,” he said.
This was the second rescue from Zero Gravity this summer, according to the Emery County Sheriff’s Office. The first was within 4 feet of this week’s rescue, under a choke stone near the end of the slot canyon, just before a pool and the wash.
Some people rappel from above the choke stone, but smaller climbers can make it through below the stone. Hargrave, whom KUTV called an experience climber, had gone below but slipped and got stuck, Luke said.
On Friday, Hargrave remained hospitalized in fair condition, while doctors watch for signs of suspension trauma and compartment syndrome, Luke said.
“This unfortunate event is a good time to remind those visiting the San Rafael Desert to do thorough research on the areas you intend to hike. Some canyons come with size restrictions, including Zero Gravity,” the Emery County Sheriff‘s Office wrote.
The rescue team came up with the tactic of using dish soap a few years ago, when a Boy Scout got stuck near the same place of the canyon, Luke said. Someone drove 35 miles to the nearest grocery store, in Green River, to buy the soap, she said.