Incident: in Ladder Creek 2023/08/27

Jump to: navigation, search
Incident: in Ladder Creek 2023/08/27
Date 2023/08/27
Location Ladder Creek
Severity Fatality
Canyoneering-related Yes
SAR involvement Yes
Navigation problem No
Environmental problem Yes
Communication problem No
Planning problem No
Skills problem No
Body movement problem No
Rigging problem No
Rappel problem No
Insufficient gear No
Gear failure No


Our community lost a dear friend, Lauren Kenyon, when a log jam collapsed and she became entrapped in a high flow sieve below.


At a constriction in the most technical section of the canyon (below R7), a new tree (new from the previous year) created an unstable log jam above the root ball. The flow in this spot is concentrated as it passes through the constriction. With the tree blocking half the constriction, the flow was even more concentrated than during the last descent, in 2022. Lauren punched through the unstable log jam and became caught in the root ball, under heavy flow. Three of the team positioned upstream of Lauren tried to help pull her out, while simultaneously trying to prevent themselves from being dragged into the siphon. The flow was incredibly strong, and the three were unable to pull her up. As she was trapped and submerged, the team worked to remove logs from above, in an attempt to open enough space for her to be flushed down, which worked. By the time she had flushed out of the log jam, she had lost consciousness. This section of the canyon is a series of deep pools, with strong currents and steep walls. It is immensely difficult to manage an unconscious person in this type of terrain. The team fought challenging recirculating pools and strong pour-overs to get her to a place where it was feasible to tend to her. A 911 call was able to be made from within the canyon. Two of the team stayed with Lauren in the canyon, stemming a pour-over and fighting to keep her head out of the water while administering CPR. Another two of the team were able to scramble out, where from the canyon rim they rigged a haul system. One person remained with all of the equipment in a safe location within the canyon. The first officers from the Sheriff's department arrived quickly, being located only a short distance away in Newhalem. They were alongside on the canyon rim in under 15 minutes. Their assistance was critical as the hauling team were exhausted, and lifting Lauren over the rim would not have been possible without their additional strength. The officers took over CPR immediately. Within minutes many more emergency teams arrived, all having been stationed close-by at the fire-fighting base in the town below. The paramedics worked for over an hour at the canyonside to save Lauren. Tragically their best efforts could not sustain her weak vital signs, and they were forced to conclude their resuscitation attempts.

As a mark of respect to all involved in this tragic event, and to avoid drawing further attention after a high profile event within the National Park, we’re asking that teams seriously consider refraining from descending Ladder Creek for the remainder of the season.