By Monica Holyoak
Can you name the most dangerous place in Grand County right now?
Is it near the rim of a 500-foot Wingate Cliff? The middle of a rapid in the Colorado River? Hell’s Gate on the Hell’s Revenge Trail? Underneath Balanced Rock?
It’s actually the swimming hole up Left Hand Canyon. In a nine-day period, Grand County Search & Rescue and Grand County EMS have responded to that location seven times for a total of nine injuries, most sustained by jumping from the rocks into the pool at the base of the waterfall. Several of those injuries have been serious.
There are several factors that currently make the swimming hole the most dangerous place in the county. It has become excessively crowded, with many people attempting to jump from the rocks into the pool. There is a very narrow margin for successfully jumping into the water. A significant number of people have unsuccessful jumps. Some are lucky enough to hobble out of the canyon without requiring rescue services. And wet slickrock is aptly named. It is slick and slipping on wet rocks has caused a few of the recent injuries. We encourage people to make smart and safe choices. The water and scenery can be enjoyed without risking serious injury or death.
If someone does require evacuation from Left Hand, a team of six to eight Search & Rescue members accompany medical personnel on the 1.5-mile round-trip hike into the canyon. They carry medical and rescue gear, including a wheeled litter. A typical rescue takes about two hours.
Those rescued are most often transported to Moab Regional Hospital via a GCEMS ambulance. More serious injuries may require helicopter transport to a trauma center in northern Utah or Grand Junction, Colorado. At this time, rescues are more difficult due to mitigation procedures dictated by the COVID-19 pandemic, including masks, eye protection, and other protective measures on the part of rescue and medical personnel as well as the patient.
The temperatures outside are starting to soar. Regardless of your activity, it’s important to stay hydrated. Every summer, Grand County’s medical and rescue personnel respond to many heat-related incidents. Sadly, some of those incidents involve fatalities. A general recommendation for staying hydrated is to drink half a liter of water per hour for moderate exercise in moderate weather.
Higher intensity activities and higher temperatures might require one liter per hour. Please note that this is per hour, not per day. Depart from the trailhead with more water than you think you will need. Rather than chugging water periodically, it is better to continually sip it.
Electrolyte replacement drinks, tablets, or powder are great ways to replace electrolytes lost during physical activity. Hydrate before you go out and wear sunscreen or protective clothing, which can contribute to staying hydrated.
Monitor yourself and your friends for symptoms of dehydration. Early signs are thirst, dry mouth, and decreased energy. More serious symptoms are cramps, headaches, nausea, dark urine, and a decrease in performance such as stumbling and mumbling. Ingesting water and electrolytes can alleviate symptoms.
Plan your route before you go. Know how long it is going to take you to get through the trail and bring enough water to get you through the activity. Summer is a time for fun. Everyone be safe out there and enjoy the beauty that Grand County has to offer.
Holyoak is a member of Grand County Search & Rescue.