Anchor Work in The Subway, Zion National Park
Zion's Subway is a wonderful, beautiful canyon, enjoyed by many people in several different ways. I made a run through on a recent weekend to re-locate the first anchor, bolted this spring but not in the best place (from my point of view). I also wanted a look at the last drop with a thought to what happens if the logs crossing the watercourse wash out next winter or spring. I ended up placing four new bolts and removing one, and coming to an appreciation of the Subway-handlining community. My other objective was to write a new description of the approach, while I was actually doing it.
The Park did a lot of work on the trails last winter and spring, and I think they did a really good job. On the approach, they relocated sections of the trail to stay on the slickrock rather than cross sections of woods/brush. They re-cairned the route and removed non-helpful cairns off to the side. In the lower part of the canyon, the walkout, they brushed out quite a few of the braided trails, trying to focus use on exactly one trail. I think they also did a good job down there, and that the walk out is considerably easier without so many choices to be made (most of which were bad choices). Let's give our thanks to the Wilderness crew for taking care of this.
There appeared this spring a two-bolt anchor at the "first obstacle". The placement of the anchor encourages people to rap down into the nasty V-slot, which I considered to be a bad idea. That rappel is awkward and the rope can get stuck in the slot when being pulled. So I was determined to re-locate the anchor to the top of the big rock, which would make it easier for people to rappel down the face of the boulder, and would stop increasing the rope grooves on that boulder. Also this spring, the floor of the canyon in this area moved down 2 feet, so that all options for getting past the first obstacle were 2 feet higher.
One of the benefits of drilling bolts in a popular canyon is that I therefore got to spend an hour at this place, and got to see four or five groups pass through this obstacle. While I personally loathe handlining, some of these groups were definitely into the handlining thing, and doing it well. Which let me appreciate that while I don't handline the Subway, a lot of people do; and my new anchor, better for the rappellers, was not suitable for handlining. Therefore, I left one of the two bolts of the other anchor, while rigging my new anchor on top of the boulder for rappellers. Bolts are 2 x Powers Powerbolts 1/2" x 3-3/4", galvanized steel. The front face of the boulder can be handlined, but the drop at the bottom is now about 5 feet and undercut.
I also checked out the double-rabbit-hole route that Shane had been talking about - pretty sweet!
Further downcanyon, at the last drop, I looked at the logs crossing the watercourse where a man from California died the week before. Sad. The webbing anchor there had been removed. There are not many logs left there, and I suspect they will be washed out by this spring's flood - and thus access to the left side of the canyon where the rappel/handline anchors and downclimbing options will become very difficult. I looked around on the right side of the canyon and chose a place that offered the easiest to start rappel option. Unfortunately, even this place is probably too steep to handline down. I did not see a slope low-enough angle to allow for a reasonable handline.
Here I placed two bolts (Powerbolts 1/2" x 3-3/4", galvanized steel) and rigged a sling in the usual way.
Then I walked out.