Heaps Canyon in the Fall, Zion National Park, UT


I've been revisiting the 'classics' of late, as I have neglected them in the last two years the way life has run, so when a strong canyoning guide from Italy was visiting in late October and Heaps Canyon was suggested, a cautious *yes* was offered up. Would I be fit enough? Warm enough? Would it be fun? For this event, I rounded up the few, the strong, the gullible! (L to R) Bill Westerhoff (the Desert Nomad) from Mt Carmel/Ponderosa; Bill Aho from Salt Lake City; and Nick Wilkes from Springdale, head of guiding at Zion Adventure Company so in a way my boss at ZAC. Pascal from Italy did not make it (family support required back home) so it was wee 4 vs. the mighty Heaps. Would it be full and easy? Or empty and difficult?

Nick's wife Maya ferried us up to Lava Point (aka The West Rim Trailhead) for a 5:15 am start. Thanks Maya! Then we hiked quickly in the chill of the early morning. While the hike from the West Rim Trailhead and from the Grotto take about the same amount of time, the hike from *Lava* is mostly flat and thus uses up a lot less energy.

I brought the big digital SLR to take pictures in the low light, so many more pictures than a usual for a Heaps descent.

Pretty good time, at least to Potato Hollow. Next: climb steeply 500 feet.

Heading down the ridge from the West Rim, out, then down into Phantom Valley.

Nick on the first rap down the ridge.

Bill Aho on the (dull) knife edge section of the ridge.

The rarely seen Tom and Bill A, with the approach ridge in the background.

An absolutely beautiful fall day.

Following the slickrock ridge down into the canyon bottom.

Following the slickrock ridge down into the canyon bottom (2).

Nick, Bill and Bill, tearing it up!

After a quick changeout into the dry suits and bagging up, in the last sunny spot, we soon reached water, a little downclimb into a pool, then the first rappel and potential pothole exit problem. Water levels seem high - first exit no problemo...

Nick dispatches the pothole exit, and starts the second stage of the first rap.

The next pothole - the Arch Pothole exit - is the real teller of water levels - looks not too bad - Nick grunts and groans, and with a little help from the swimmer thrutches up expeditiously.

A few problems get the cobwebs out, then we start moving efficiently down the Phantom Valley Narrows. 
Here's Bill rapping, and Bill has climbed out the next stump-problem.

Double Portrait here: Nick; and the infamous Star-Dryvin Bolt. Which is older?

Out of the first narrows section and into the Small Rocky Corridor with sunlight streaming in.

Let's call this one: "Nick Rocks!"

Bill Aho. 
Not feeling so hot, and not sleeping a wink the night before, Bill still held it together and ran point most of the day. You rock, too, Bill.

And the other Bill, Mr. Westerhoff, who's wry sense of humor and fun attitude lasted all day. Your rock too, Bill two!

Downclimb to a stem, to a pool. Saw an owl here once...

Made it! Purty leaves on the pools...

Bill rapping into a narrow slot.

Nick, smiling as usual.

Exit from the second of the Phantom Valley Narrows. 
We found some sun and took a break, then on to the Great Sandy Corridor.

Great Sandy Corridor, gateway to the Terminal Narrows!

What? ... no, what!???

Entrance to the terminal narrows - a kodak moment!

Looks dark and ominous in there!

Narrows, narrows, narrows. A theme, done to the max, here in Heaps.

Narrows, narrows, narrows. A theme, done to the max, here in Heaps.

Nick, smiling as usual, and rapping off a stump...

.. and into a pool.

Heaps throws a wide variety of interesting problems at you. Lots of clambering up and down.

Squeeze through a slot under a stump!

And then down into a pool!

I was surprised by how good of light we had. Green Moss and blackish rock.

Narrows, narrows, narrows. A theme, done to the max, here in Heaps.

Nick executes the "rap off the pack" move expertly!

Finally, the narrowness relents, and we traipse past the "Bivy Site", where many have spent a less-than-comfortable night. Two 50' raps lead to the end, against the huge, smooth face of Lady Mountain.

Then we got to the end, changed clothes and started down the big raps, as it got dark. Back to the road at 9:30. Not a fast trip, but not a slow trip. A good time had by all!