Jacob Canyon in Zion National Park: Poison Ivy and Fiddlesticking!
A rematch was called for, obviously! Our trip of May first had left part of the canyon undone. And a bunch of rope stuck. Rounded up a new crew. Dirk and Nancy Tyler were in town from Colorado, doing Heaps with Jonathan Zambella and Guy Smith. Now me, when I do Heaps, I tend to take the next day off. But these guys, seemed like doing a 2700 foot climb and a possible first descent in a dry south-facing canyon would be a good day-off thing to do. Huh? I'm not complaining, just confused.
Nice thing, they were on an early schedule, so meeting at 5 am was not a problem. I came up with a new 300 foot 8mm rope, packed 3 liters of water and made the meet point on time. We motored into the Park (the valuable Red Pass) and started our climb. Immediately across the bridge, JZ and I were unsure exactly where the trail up to the next level was. Eventually we found it.
The climb up Lady Mountain was uneventful. We kept in the shade until the chimney, and made the summit by 9:10 am - ON schedule. Then the fun begins - finding our way into the very top of Jacob canyon. We sauntered out across the Temple Cap layer to the edge, on the Heaps side. A short drop separated us from 3rd class terrain and JZ and Dirk found a crack/ledge/tree combo that was downclimbable. We lowered packs. By now it was getting plenty hot. We worked our way down the ridge, expecting to have to rap at some point, but working the ledges back and forth to avoid breaking out the rope.
Soon enough we were overlooking the brushy top of Jacob Canyon. We traversed steep loose dirt and manzanitas to get over into the crease of the canyon. A bit of bushwhackery led to a drop. A tree overlooked, a tree that sprouted massive quantities of biting ants as soon as it was touched. We rappelled. Jonathan learned a few things about FiddleSticking. Guy, as usual, saved the day, climbing back up around to free up the rope. Another tree-with-ants rappel. Poison ivy. Brush. Steep dirt. Ferns. Eventually the canyon flattened out and passed through a jungleish area, then reached the rock narrows.
This Rock Narrows is the cool looking section seen from below on the previous trip. An interesting feature, especially moving out of the green chaos into the serene simplicity of a rock V-slot. Disappointment - at the first real drop, a bolt on the wall. Dreams of first descent glory evaporate! (Sigh.) Hope was that the slot would give a North Wash-style downclimbing slot - but no such luck. It was wider, and dropped more precipitously. Guy went last in one spot, managing the 'desperate downclimb' without breaking a sweat (now that we were in the shade). A couple of single bolts provided anchors for middling-length rappels. JZ redeemed himself on a final log anchor, and we were down in the next jungle section, where Bailey and I came in a month earlier.
JZ and Guy were working the rope recovery. I walked downcanyon twenty feet and sat against the wall to grab some lunch. They pulled the rope - and a rock came down and nailed me in the leg. "HEY" I called, thinking they were careless (because I was a long way from the rope pull) when I realized, the rocks weren't coming from there but from directly above me - as a few more rocks came down and nailed me in the chest and stomach. Small rocks, as big as two AA batteries. Enough to sting. Could do damage if it hit you in the face. Why we wear helmets. I picked up my stuff and ran away. Spontaneous rockfall - could happen anytime, anywhere, and could be big enough to kill ya. The price of adventure!
We sauntered downcanyon, attempting to avoid the poison ivy. It was hot. Pieces of shade were used judiciously. Same rappels as last time. FiddleSticked the big one, and dammit if the rope did not get coreshot, 40 feet from the end. Well, at least the rope was 60 feet longer than needed for the last rap, I hoped.
Getting near the end, we siesta'd in a nice place waiting for the finish to go into the shade. I love canyons where taking an hour's nap is part of the schedule. We woke up, finished our food and sauntered to the end of the canyon and downclimbed to the anchor. Not surprisingly, our ropes were still there, hopelessly twisted together. Last time, we had the choice of down the slot (possible to get the rope stuck) or to the left, over a possible sharp edge. Last time, we chose the slot and got the ropes hopelessly stuck. This time, we chose the possible sharp edge, and I hung a kneepad on a sling to pad that sharp edge.
Down down down. Still a long rappel 240 feet or so. The slightly different line of rappel ran us past a ledge with a VERY healthy growth of poison ivy. A hard push off and big drop got the rappeller past the hazard. When pulled, the bulk of the rope powered right through it, leaves flying left and right... Guy and I were the least-ivy-paranoid, so we very carefully stuffed that rope into a ropebag, turned our gloves inside out. I finished the canyon down the watercourse, as Bailey and I did, cleaning up the slings we left behind. Guy pulled that rope back up, and JZ led the crew off to the left side to a fixed anchor above an odd, two-tier rappel. Then we hiked out and had dinner - hurrah!
Conclusion: No first descent, sigh! As is often true, RT got there first. A fine adventure, and it will make for a fine canyon - in the FALL. Cleaned up the mess from a month before. A good time had by all.