Canyoneering Anchor and Rigging Techniques in Englestead Canyon, Zion National Park


It does not take long to know that I am an "anchor-Nazi". I take great pride in the anchors I rig and use, and am rather insistent that they be "right". But, what is right??? Recently I have heard about people having trouble pulling their rappel on the first rap in Englestead Canyon. I found this curious, that this problem would suddenly arrive for several parties this summer. What gives???

Thus, I was looking for an opportunity to get down to the head of the canyon to take pictures, and see what the story is. So let me present "it" as a classroom problem like we do at Zion Adventure Company:

How would you rig this drop?

But first, a rappeller starting down the first rap!

Here's what 'the book' says:

#25 Englestead Hollow

Englestead is a deep canyon with a dramatic start. After an initial 700 feet of rappelling, the canyon continues through marvelous narrows with some downclimbing and a few short rappels to intersect with Orderville Canyon just inside the Park boundary. One can turn left and enjoy the best parts of Orderville, exiting out the Narrows, or turn right and climb up Orderville Canyon.

Other than a few bolts at the beginning, Englestead is bolt-free. Please keep it that way. The drops lower in the canyon can be easily rigged using natural anchors.

Rating: 4B III or IV

Time Required: 6 to 10 hours

Preferred Season: Summer or fall.

Cold Water Protection: If going down Orderville, wetsuits are recommended in cold weather.

Longest Rappel: 300 feet (91 m)

Special Difficulties: The long initial rappel gets special respect, and has been the scene of several incidents.

Canyon: Walk about 50 feet (15 m) along the left edge to a tree overlooking a steep wall. Rappel from this tree to a 1st pothole ledge, then further to a 2nd, larger pothole. Total length is 300 feet (91 m).

(Var-1: Rappel 90 feet (28 m) from tree to a small stance w/ 2 bolts under a block to the rappeller's right. Rappel from bolts 200 feet (60 m) to the upper pothole ledge. Rappel from a single, suspect bolt (or cairn) 50 feet (15 m) to the larger pothole ledge).

Here’s two possible trees, about 50 feet along the left edge.

And here they are from across the way. The small stance 90 feet down is just out of sight below. (Not the best picture).

At the head of the canyon, there are these two trees –
I tossed some ropes on them so you can see how the raps run.

Here’s those two trees from across the way.

And another tree near the head of the canyon.

This is the kind of thing that really twists my panties. I call this “circus” rigging – many different colorful colors – UGLY!!!.
“Hmmm. I don’t trust it, we should probably add a sling. How about a YELLOW one?”

For more info on canyoneering, check out these forums:

Yahoo Canyons Group Discussion Page

Bogley Canyoneering Discussion Page