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19 HIKERS RESCUED AFTER CHILLY NIGHT IN PARK

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Treacherous backcountry conditions in Zion National Park forced 19 hikers to spend a cold and wet night trapped in a slot canyon.

Two of the hikers had to be flown by helicopter to a waiting ambulance Sunday morning. One suffered sprained ankles and the other reportedly broke her leg.Park officials said the hikers may be cited for breaking numerous park rules. The area where they got stuck was posted off-limits due to dangerously high water conditions, and the group broke park environmental prohibitions against groups of more than a dozen taking to the backcountry.

Trapped by high waters, the group members endured intermittent rain and had no way to make a fire.

"It was freezing," said 15-year-old California resident Robert Santos, who suffered two sprained ankles after falling down a waterfall in the slot canyon while helping two children.

The name of the other injured hiker was not immediately available Monday.

The group hiked and swam down three-quarters of a mile of North Creek's left fork Saturday, in steep and difficult terrain in a park where, in places, sheer 2,000-foot red-rock walls are only feet apart.

Unable to retreat and faced with deep, rushing waters at a spot called Keyhole Falls, the group hunkered down for the night.

"They couldn`t go forward and couldn't go back," said backcountry district ranger Jerry Davis.

Two men continued downstream through hazardous waters in search of help, Davis said. They reached a phone at about 7:30 p.m. Saturday.

"They got through, at risk to themselves," Davis said.

It was too close to nightfall to risk a rescue attempt. Searchers embarked with food and blankets at 5 a.m. Sunday.

"It's pretty steep terrain," said backcountry ranger Jennifer Gillette, who participated in the rescue. "I wouldn't recommend it to anyone else."

It took rescuers three hours to reach the hikers. Searchers used ropes to rappel into two portions of the canyon and made it through the deep pools wearing wet suits.

"Even if the water is low it's a challenge," Gillette said. "Usually, they're just ankle deep. Several pools were over our heads. It was just obstacle after obstacle."

Park spokesman Denny Davies said the group failed to obtain a requisite backcountry permit and was hiking in an area that was closed due to hazardous water conditions.

Two years ago, a pair of Boy Scout leaders drowned while hiking in another slot canyon just outside the park boundary and six Scouts - including the son of one of the men who died - were trapped on a sofa-size ledge for five days before they were rescued.