Tragic accident at a spectacular site in Utah’s desert.
A Scout from Wisconsin attempted a leap from one part of a natural bridge to another, lost his balance and fell to his death. According to the Salt Lake Tribune in Salt Lake City:
A Wisconsin Boy Scout died Saturday after falling 100 feet from Grand County’s Gemini Bridges.
Anthony Alvin, 18, of Green Lake, Wis., was with a Scout group at the Gemini Bridges rock formation, which is on federal land northwest of Moab, deputies wrote in a press statement. At about 9:30 a.m., Alvin tried to jump from one span of the double bridge to the other span, six feet away, when he fell backwards, dropping 100 feet to the bottom of the bridges.
Rescuers rappelled off the bridges and found Alvin had died. His body was lowered down two separate cliffs to the bottom of Bull Canyon, deputies wrote.
Anthony Alvin was a member of Troop 630 from Green Lake, Wisconsin, in the Bay Lakes Council, BSA. The Troop has years of experience in high adventure trips. This was a transition trip for Alvin, moving from Scout to leader.
High adventure Scouting takes teens to outstanding places with some risks. Strict safety rules protect Scouts and leaders from most accidents. Jumping the gap between the two natural bridge sections is a leap that experienced rock climbers and Scouters should advise against — and probably did — precisely because of the dangers of minor mishaps, 100 feet or more in the air. A six-foot gap would look eminently leapable to a capable young man.
This is a picture of Gemini Bridges from below:
NaturalArches.org includes details about many of these natural spans in the desert Southwest, in Utah and Arizona. For Gemini Bridges we get this warning note:
These magnificent twin bridges are a popular 4-wheel drive destination on BLM land northwest of Moab, Utah. A few foolhardy individuals have lost their lives here. One person fell to his death while attempting to jump the 10 feet between the two spans, and in October 1999 a jeep and driver fell 160 feet off the outer span.
From atop the bridges, the gap between the two can appear deceptively small — see one view here.
For safety’s sake, no one should attempt to leap the gap without proper rock-climbing safety equipment in place and in use — and frankly, I’m not sure how it could be secured even then, in the sandstone.
Redrock country brings out the worst in otherwise adventurous-but-mostly-sane people. Even rock climbers will act irresponsibly.
Four-wheelers and off-road vehicles frequently climb these trails — despite the dangers, the area offers a huge playground for people out of the jurisdiction of the National Park Service or National Forest Service, each of which discourage excessive vehicular risk taking. Several sites extoll the glories of conquering these deserts with gasoline-power.
The photo at the bottom shows a memorial plaque to the four-wheeler who lost his life off of Gemini Bridges in 1999. So long as people make monuments to people who pull daredevil stunts, others who have less experience, or even more sense, will be tempted to try the same daredevil stuff.
Go to these wild and beautiful places. Please remember they are treacherous, however, and stay safe.
Also at Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub:
- “Disaster at Arches National Park,” on the collapse of Wall Arch
- “In the Utah desert, a GPS is no substitute for common sense,” from 2008
Our condolences to you and your family, and your brother’s friends, Tara.
My brother was the other person who had lost his life from falling at gemini bridges. The idea is hard to bear.
Too few details now, yeah — but how did we survive?
One of the ways I survived was Scouting. For most of the really dangerous stuff I did, I learned how to do it safely, first, in Scouting.
Of course, that was after getting lost on the back side of Mahogany Mountain on what started out as an hour-long hike. I made it out before sundown, home before dinner, and didn’t tell my parents. Or the slide down East Canyon in February, when the road was closed. We stayed on the road through some miracle (and Volkswagen engineering), and made it down to discover someone had removed the roadblock and warning signs at the upper end. The next week they searched for a couple of days to find a couple who slid off that same road.
My good friend Peter took off on a hike in Wyoming in an area whee the topo showed absolutely no roads. After five days and seeing no people, and no trails except a few made by mule deer and mountain goats, Peter and his hiking buddy realized they’d been paralyzed by altitude sickness, and managed to stumble down a few thousand feet to save their lives, then figure out how to get out of where they were.
Or that ascent where I discovered my belay buddy forgot to anchor the rope. He outweighed me by ten pounds, and that saved my life when I fell.
I think one cannot be safe enough on Gemini Bridges, and so hijinks of all sorts should be avoided. Obviously I’m outvoted by dozens, if not hundreds of people who go there a lot more often than I ever will.
I hope Troop 630 pulls through this okay, and stronger, and if possible, safer.
How do any of us survive youth? I used to make similar jumps between basalt columns in Washington state.
It was dumb, and irresponsible. On the other hand, the steady nerves thus cultivated have served me well in the following years. Have put out a few fires, administered first-aid a few times, and kept cool instead of going into shock when I was injured.
I can’t imagine the agony his parents are going through though.