Local musician Daniel Isle Sky shattered a hip during a climbing accident in Zion National Park, Utah.
“I broke my hip bone while rock climbing in Zion National Park in Utah,” reports singer-songwriter Daniel Isle Sky. “I was rescued by a [National Park Service] helicopter the next day. A surgeon in St. George screwed my bones back together.” Sky had been staying in nearby Springdale to work on a motivational book (Because You Can) and develop non-music gigs as a motivational speaker. Doing so near his favorite mountain range seemed only natural.
“Like music, rock climbing has been a passion of mine. It’s more of an escape from reality than conquering mountains. Just like all the songs in the universe haven’t been written, all of the mountains in the world haven’t been climbed. Through my explorations, I’ve been able to do the first ascents of ten mountains officially named on maps of Zion National Park, my favorite place to climb.”
The pandemic closed down the Park, as well as making work difficult to find. “I was lucky enough to regularly perform outside of Deep Creek Coffee. The shop was open for outside service only. I had found a space that allowed me to perform, unplugged, at a safe social distance.”
When Zion finally opened to climbing once again, “I had the idea to do a traverse of what are called beehives, a series of white sandstone peaks that look like beehives. To get to any of them was difficult. To climb them all in a row had never been done. In addition to difficult climbing, there are canyons between each that had to be descended. Full adventure. The owners of the coffee shop hooked me up with a local who was working there as a guide.”
It took the duo three days to complete the climb. “It was on the way down, less than 400 feet from the ground, when the incident occurred. We were rappelling an 800-foot cliff. On the way, we had found a fallen balloon, the type kids get at parties. It had a picture of a unicorn on it. My song ‘Lucky the Unicorn’ came to mind. I told my partner we were lucky. I always pick up trash, and stuffed it into my pack.”
The climbers were hanging from a bush on the side of a mountain. “I took the 600 feet of rope we had, wrapped it around the bush, and threw both ends down. That would allow us to go 300 feet, perhaps get us to the ground. The rock face below us was blank. To the side was a ramp with more bushes. So I started following the bushes. After about 15 feet of going diagonally, I straightened out. I went down about 100 feet and heard a snap. The rope had been going over a bush on the ramp, keeping it straight. When it broke, I started to swing like a pendulum. I swung around the corner and slammed into the side of another corner, a flat outcropping. There was no way I could swing around it. I hit the corner flat and square on my hip and came to a complete and sudden stop.”
Despite suffering a broken hip bone, Sky made it to the ground with the help of his partner. “But we couldn’t move me away from the cliff, the terrain was too rugged. The search-and-rescue and law enforcement cleared the parking lot and road at a nearby hotel, the Zion Lodge, to stage the rescue. The helicopter first made a few recons to see if it was possible. A foot team arrived to help me — an EMT, and someone on the ground to aid the helicopter. They asked me if I had sunglasses. It was to protect my eyes from blowing dust and rocks. I got short-hauled on a cable attached to the bottom of the helicopter to the hotel site. I didn’t have health insurance, so I waived taking an ambulance. My partner drove me to the hospital in St. George.”
Sky, who moved here from Santa Fe, New Mexico in 2014, is back in San Diego and on the mend. “Since I’m not able to work or climb, I’m spending more time on my music.” His new single “Lean on Me” was recorded at Pacific Beat Recording in PB with Rolling Stones producer Alan Sanderson.
“I joke that if I get a good number of streams and follows on Spotify or whatever streaming service people use this coming year, I’ll stick to music. If, on the other hand, I’m not inspired by what comes, perhaps I’ll go back and do another climb. The ones on my list are remote and difficult.”