The Big Kahuna. Heaps is a truly wonderful canyon, but it is also BIG. Deep inside the mountain, it is dark, wet, sinuous and moody. When really wet, it is fast and cold, and such a blast! When the water levels go down, keeper potholes start appearing, and as the level continues descending, more and more potholes require effort to get out of. I have seen as many as 14 potholes that required significant effort to get out of.
Heaps can be very physical, which is why a one-day descent with less gear makes a lot of sense to me. The extra 5 or 6 lbs to bivy, carried through the canyon, adds up to a greatly increased effort over the course of the day. There are decent bivy spots in Phantom Valley before suiting up, at the Crossroads and near the end, on flat sandy shelves above the watercourse.
Heaps saves the best for last – a series of raps culminating in a 280-foot free-hanging the whole way rappel, with the wall at least 50 feet away. AWESOME, and something you want to be alert for.
William Heap, John Rolf and Isaac Behunin were the first European settlers in upper Zion Canyon. In 1863, Isaac Behunin built a cabin near the current location of Zion Lodge and established a farm. The cabin was used to tend fields on a seasonal basis. Heap and Rolf moved in a few years later, Heap establishing his cabin and farm west of the river, north of the Emerald Pool stream.
First recorded complete descent: October 1982, Norman Harding and Royce D. Trapier, after substantial preparation by Dennis Turville and Mike Bogart in 1981.