Kolob Canyon Rappel Route and History

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Frank from Colorado was paying his first canyoneering visit to Zion, and wanted to get in a "big boy" before escaping, so Amanda suggested Kolob. While it is kinda  long day, it would be less tortuous than our last couple of days out - sounds good. I drove over to Lava Point and camped in the cool of the high altitude, while Frank and Amanda drove up early in the morning. Two amazing thunderstorms came through in the night, giving me hope (not realized) for a little more water in Kolob than has been the norm the last few weeks. Kolob Reservoir never filled this spring, so they have not been releasing significant water, and the little bit they do release mostly disappears into the ground before the first rappel. In addition to a fine day in the canyon, I was looking to get a few pictures of the upper part of the canyon relating to a book about the Kolob Tragedy I am helping edit.

Logging roads overgrown with Manzanita

Logging roads overgrown with Manzanita

Logging roads overgrown with Manzanita

We hiked in along the logging roads, more overgrown that I had expected. Because Kolob has been open all summer, a lot of people have been doing it; but the trail in is in a lush forest and overgrown with manzanita, and could be difficult to follow. Down at the creekbed (past the logging roads), we definitely whacked our way through the underbrush, getting plenty wet from shaking lingering raindrops onto ourselves; eventually popping out at the top of the first rappel.  Flow in the stream was almost exactly zero -- with this little water flow, we did not need to bring any more than basic wetsuits, and were comfortable all day. Less weight to lug up the MIA. We rapped in and proceeded downstream.

Since there was no drama on this descent, there's not a lot to say. We rapped, marveled at the lack of water, had a swim or two, made good time. The canyon was delightfully pretty on this day.

First rap in Kolob

First rap in Kolob

First rap in Kolob

In July 1993, a group of 3 adults and 5 teens entered the canyon while the dam was releasing around 30 cfs. Two adults drowned in hydraulics. The third adult then did the smart thing and bivied with the kids in a place called The Cavern. At 30 cfs, they found a ledge for all of them to sit on, but with their feet in the water. The next morning, the flow went down somewhat, allowing them to bed down at least out of the water, for the next 3 nights!

Looking into The Cavern

Looking into The Cavern

Ledge in The Cavern

Ledge in The Cavern

Ledge in The Cavern

Prior to that trip, in August 1990, Hans Twitchel and Brent Haines descended the rappel route in Kolob Creek with only one 165-foot rope, being assured by a Park Ranger that was all they needed. Creative problem solving was required, and they pulled it off, but they spent the night on a small ledge partway down Rappel 4, the first big rappel (125 feet). In the morning they figured out a way to complete the rappel and retrieve their rope, and continued downcanyon. At the last long rappel, they left the rope, and carried on downcanyon, jumping the two final short rappels and hiking out to the Temple of Sinawava. I was thinking the cleft where they spent the night was within sight from the top of R4 - but re-reading the description, it took quite a pendulum to get to it. In the picture below, I think it might be the small ledge with a bit of gravel.

Frank on Rap 4

Frank on Rap 4

We came out the bottom, stripped off the suits and started the hike out. It was great to see the Kolob waterfall still running strong, and the spring water from this ran almost all the way to the MIA exit. We fantasized about hanging a rope at this waterfall and jugging out - perhaps Kuenn and Hank will explore that option when Kuenn comes out in September.

Smiles at the start of the MIA Exit.

Smiles at the start of the MIA Exit.

We got lucky on the hike up the MIA as some clouds rolled in, threatening precip, amounting to little but keeping the temperature moderate. The Pipe Spring was still running strong, and the water there still very cold and refreshing. The hike up the roads was neither better nor worse than on prior occasions, and the cold beer in the cooler was crisp and refreshing. A delightful trip - thanks to my companions for their companionability. Good to do an adventure less torturous and more like Type 1 Fun.