Maybe its a story that is worn out, but one I'll never forget! I dont remember the exact year, but I think it was around 2000? Dave Buccello had left Zion as the "acting chief ranger" and head of the SAR Team, and the new blood had arrived. Cheto Olais as the new chief ranger and Cindy Purcell as the new district backcountry ranger. We as the SAR team had training scheduled for the day and they both were interested in exactly what we had to show! Naturally we wanted to show them both "their park".
On The Way!
It was a cloudy day, yet ignoring the possibility of rain, we decided that Behunin Canyon was in order. 9 of us took off and began an almost catastrophic day. For most of the hike things went well, but at the 3rd to last rappel the rains began. A sense of urgency set in and simul-raps became the fare. At the second to last rappel it let loose! Behunin has a pretty large watershed so it was time to get the hell out of there! At the last rappel I'm surprised that we had made such good time, but then when you know the inevitable is coming....no holds barred.
I believe that I was 5th down the last rappel and Cheto and Cindy were the next. I gave conditional belay at the bottom and they both "Zinged in". Everyone that had come down thus far hiked upstream and around the backside of the big boulder. I remained at the bottom to belay Tony and Karl. It was deafening with the water pouring down from Mt. Majestic and my eyes were filled with dirt, but I had a duty. All at once the noise stopped and it turned black. I looked up and all I could see was a dark barrier of water and the ever growing sound of Whooooooosh! Behunin had finally unleashed its accumulated watershed. My GOD It was scary as logs and boulders and water started filling my comfortable void at the base. I could only think....hold onto the ropes to avoid being swept away and to insure I could lower the bodies of Tony and Karl from the tsunami that must have killed them! No sooner that I had thought the worst, here comes the two of them at the same time into the swirling whirlpool that I was entrapped. Man was I happy...I stemmed up to a rock on the left and lent my hand to get them out. We had made it!
In the photo on the left you'll see 2 ropes dangling and also maybe even make out Karl and Tony? The wave that shot out of Behunin that day had enough momentum horizontally to sweep over them as they rappeled down. This episode taught us all a very good lesson.