An Arizona man who ended up spending the better part of two days in extreme weather conditions after being stuck in quicksand while visiting Zion National Park last weekend shared his story with news outlets on Monday, describing a traumatic experience and heroic rescue and raising another example of the potential dangers of hiking Utah’s backcountry.
Thirty-four-year-old Ryan Osmun was hiking with his companion in the left fork trail of the North Creek, also known as The Subway route, Saturday afternoon.
His leg was buried up to his knee, according to a news release. Though he and his companion tried several times to free his leg, they were unsuccessful.
“At that point, I started to panic a little bit and got scared,” Osmun said in an interview with Good Morning Arizona.
More: Arizona man rescued from quicksand at Zion National Park spent two days in frigid conditions
Osmun’s story and interview have become national news, and he described in-depth how it felt to be trapped.
“The best way to describe it would be standing in a huge puddle of concrete that basically just dries instantly,” Osmun said. “Just a quick as you could move it, the sand would refill. There’s no chance of it moving at all.”
His companion Jessika McNeill, also from Arizona, hiked down the trail to call for help. According to the release, she left him with warm gear and clothing before traveling 3 hours when she finally had cell service to call 911.
During the interview, Osmun describes what it was like waiting to be rescued.
“About 30 minutes after she left, it started snowing really hard, so I was stuck in the water while it was pouring snow,” Osmun said. “My hips were just so tired from standing like that.”
A two-day ordeal
Zion Dispatch received the report in the afternoon, assembled a search and rescue team, and began hiking to find the male.
The search crew located McNeill, who was suffering from hypothermia, near the trailhead. Rangers tended to her injuries while others continued looking for Osmun.
It took several hours for the rescue crew to locate Osmun. According to the release, he was in stable condition but suffering from exposure, hypothermia and extremity injuries.
Osmun described how the rescue crew initially tried to free him using a pulley system.
“It didn’t feel like I was going anywhere,” Osmun said in the interview.
Rangers worked to free Osmun’s leg from the quicksand in the creek for two hours, according to the release. They were successful after nighttime had fallen.
While rangers worked to treat his injuries and warm him, they spent the night with him in frigid conditions while it snowed an additional 4 inches overnight, the release states.
The Utah Department of Public Safety helicopter responded from Salt Lake City on Sunday morning as it battled winter storms. According to the release, the helicopter was able to rescue Osmun during a short break in the weather in the afternoon.
Search and Rescue always busy in Zion
According to Aly Baltrus, a spokesperson for the park, Zion rescue crews went on 78 major search and rescue missions in 2018. In 2017, the figure was 114, and park officials have reported increasing numbers of incidents in recent years as the park has become more popular.
“Search and rescues have gone up in tow with our visitation increases,” Baltrus said.
From 2014 to 2017, Zion saw a 42 percent increase in the number of search and rescue operations, a timespan that saw overall visitation at the park increased from 3.1 million people to 4.5 million.
Park authorities say they encourage visitors to use extreme caution during poor weather events, as winter conditions in the park can turn easy hikes into treacherous ones, according to the release.
Follow reporter Emily Havens on Twitter, @EmilyJHavens, and find her on Facebook at facebook.com/emilyjhavens. Call her at 435-674-6214 or email her at email@example.com.