On Saturday, December 28, 1974 four climbers, Rob Sears, Jr., of Salt Lake City, Tom Brereton of Las Vegas, Paul Kuhn of St. George, and the writer Robert N. Sears of Short Hills, New Jersey traversed the entire length of Behunin Canyon in Zion.
We left the suspension bridge at the Grotto in Zion at 8:50 a.m. At 11:15 a.m., we had reached the head of Behunin Canyon on the West Rim trail about six miles from the suspension bridge.
The canyon starts with fairly steep dropoff from the wall of the West Rim Mountain on which the final part of the trail is cut out.
We followed the canyon down for about one and one-half miles and ate lunch about 11:50 a.m. for twenty minutes. So far, the canyon was very normal. He went another three-quarters of a mile and suddenly the small canyon we were following opened out into one of the largest and most spectacular canyons I have overseen in the Zion complex, and I have been in a great many of them.
The canyon we were in suddenly dropped off into a series of potholes and precipitous falls which became almost vertical. It appeared to be between 400 and 500 feet to the floor of the canyon.
To the west two rock mountains were at about 65 degrees to 70 degrees angle above us. The nearest of these two mountains dropped off vertically below us to the floor of the canyon. We decided to go up several hunderd feet, near the top and traversed over to the second mountain. This one ran down over to the second mountain into a ridge which dropped off steeply into the canyon, and formed a wall lower down in the canyon for two sides of two canyons. At a point about one mile down these two inner canyons came together.
The second canyon overcame down from the mountain we went around on the West Rim Trail - Cathedral Mountain. The wall to the East of the two canyons was the back side of the mountain we first walked around on the West Rim Trail - Mt. Majestic.
It was necessary to use ropes to traverse across the rocks we climbed up to. We also used ropes to rappel down the mountain to the ridge for two lengths about 320 feet.
We followed the ridge down about 3/8 of a mile to a point where we could work our way down to the main canyon (Behunin) that we had been in all the time.
The canyon floor here was almost level, very sandy with no rocks and almost no perceivable dropoff.
Me walked along the canyon floor for about 3/8 to 1/2 mile until we came to a large fall-off. This was also the point of convergence of the canyon to the east. We found we were able to walk around this sheer dropoff which would have required a rappel. The walk around was to the right.
We went for another half-mile and encountered two sheer dropoffs, between 75 and 100 feet each. Each required rappeling and there was no other way. The second of these rappels was only several hundred feet from the mouth of the canyon.
Behunin Canyon ends with a sheer dropoff of 150 feet. It is really an overhang. By going down into a chimney and using a chockstone for a rappel point, with a sling, we were able to rappel off. Anything less than 165 foot rope could not be used.
It was almost dark when we threw our ropes over to see if they would reach. It was impossible to see the bottom, and our rope lit on a large rock about 25 feet high and about fifteen to twenty feet from the wall. It was really not possible to clearly see the rope fall to the bottom, but it was getting dark, so we tried it. We were greatly relieved to know that we had ten feet of rope to spare. We landed above the upper Emerald Pool.
The last two rappels were made in darkness. Rob Sears, Jr., acted as leader of the group and did an excellent job of establishing the rappel points. We got off our last rappel at 6:30 p.m. and to the car at 7:15 p.m.
This is one of the most spectacular canyons I have seen in Zion and very beautiful. This climb is not advised for anyone except experienced climbers.
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