Virginia man dies while canyoneering in Zion National Park; two others rescued

Navigating Heaps Canyon is strenuous and dangerous.

(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) The body of a canyoneer was recovered in Zion National Park over the weekend. Two other people were rescued.

A man from Virginia died in Zion National Park over the weekend while rappelling with two other canyoneers through Heaps Canyon, park officials said in a news release.

Andrew Arvig, 31, from Chesapeake, Va., was found by rescuers suspended from a rope about 260 feet above Upper Emerald Pools. He was lowered to the ground and later pronounced dead, the release said.

The three canyoneers started their trip Saturday morning through Heaps Canyon. At the exit, they had trouble navigating the last few rappels in the canyon, according to the release. Arvig apparently overshot and rappelled past the small rock ledge he had needed to land on so he could re-anchor his rope and rappel to the ground. While his companions used their “pull line” to rappel to the perch, Arvig was unable to go back up 20 feet to the same spot.

The other two canyoneers called Washington County dispatch from the perch, and rangers started rescue operations Sunday morning, the release states. The Zion Technical Search and Rescue Team helped the two people safely rappel to the ground.

The Washington County Sheriff’s Office and the National Park Service are 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 rescue effort also involved a helicopter dispatched from Grand Canyon National Park and a Life Flight helicopter and crew from St. George.

The operation closed down the Upper and Middle Emerald Pools trails over the weekend, but they now are open.

According to ZionCanyon.com, Heaps Canyon is a strenuous and dangerous hike that challenges even experienced canyoneers. In 2015, a Las Vegas man died after he fell 100 feet into the slot canyon.

This year has been the busiest in recorded history for search and rescue crews in Zion.