21-Year-Old Canyoneering Guide Dies in Climbing Accident Near Arches National Park

by Caitlin Berard
(Photo by Jens Verhoeven / EyeEm / Getty Images)

On Saturday afternoon, Grand County Sheriff’s Office in Moab, Utah, received a call from Morning Glory Arch just outside of Arches National Park. The sixth-longest natural rock span in the United States, Morning Glory is a popular spot for canyoneers, who use the arch for rappeling, dropping from the top of the arch to the valley floor below.

Sadly, this call was to report a horrific incident. Twenty-one-year-old canyoneering guide Emmalynn Thair Herbstritt was exploring the area when she suffered an undisclosed climbing accident, leaving her unresponsive. With a search and rescue crew providing aid, along with National Park Service Rangers, Grand County EMS, and rangers from the Bureau of Land Management, Grand County deputies rushed to the scene.

The extensive rescue team did everything they could for the fallen climber. Unfortunately, however, officials pronounced the climber dead at the scene. The family of the Salt Lake City climber was notified of the tragedy by law enforcement officials.

“My heart is breaking for her family and friends! Praying for peace for them all!” one Facebook user wrote in response to the release from Grand County Sheriff’s office. “May the witnesses find comfort in this awful tragedy,” another said.

Details surrounding the incident remain sparse. The circumstances that led to Herbstritt’s death are currently undisclosed. That said, climbing accidents aren’t uncommon in Arches National Park.

In 2012, a boy scout was severely injured when he fell while attempting to rappel from Morning Glory Arch. The teen fell 40 feet before landing on the floor of Grandstaff Canyon, injuring his back. Thankfully, however, rescue crews then transported the young climber to a local hospital via medical helicopter, surviving the incident.

Woman’s Body Recovered From Arches National Park

In early October, staffers at Arches National Park discovered a woman’s body in the Devil’s Garden area. National Park staff immediately contacted Grand Country Sheriff’s Office, whose deputies recovered the body at 6:45 p.m.

According to a statement released by the National Park Service, the woman was identified as 33-year-old Arlington, Virginia, resident Ekaterina Yaroslavna Ksenjek. Her cause of death was undetermined at the time, launching an investigation from GCSO.

Authorities transported the remains to the Utah Office of the Medical Examiner to determine the cause and time of the park visitor’s death. As of now, however, any details discovered in the investigation remain undisclosed. It’s unknown if police suspect foul play or if Ksenjek was visiting the park with anyone else.

Devil’s Garden is 18 miles north of the Arches Visitor Center, located at the end of the park road. It’s home to Landscape Arch, the longest arch in North America. As such, it’s a popular destination for hiking, climbing, camping, and backpacking.