Lower Echo and Anchor Activities, Zion National Park, UT
Yes, it is still winter. After a few days of rain, we were psyched to go sneak another canyon in, and also psyched for a lazyish start, given the festivities the night before, Amanda and Kat's going away party in advance of their coming-up-fast South Africa adventure. The day was grey and not all that warm. The plan was to do Lower Lower Echo.
Lower Echo Canyon is an awesome canyon, kinda like Imlay's final narrows without keeper potholes, but the long rappel out the end is closed by the Park for safety and environmental concerns. So to do it, one has to fix ropes and jug back out. Doing the whole thing is quite the ordeal. Given the short winter days, our plan was to rap into the canyon about 2/3 of the way down, go out to the end, then jug back out. On a previous trip, I had noted a ledge before the final drop into the canyon proper, that with a bolted anchor, would make a good changeover point, could improve the line of ascent, and generally make the ordeal of doing Lower Echo less arduous. The plan was to place a two-bolt anchor at this ledge.
Lower Echo is pretty wet, and with the recent rain I expected it to be full. It was not. We brought dry suits, and put on the legs (at least) before the first rappel. I was uncertain if there was dry ground to fully suit up once at the canyon bottom. The dead tree I had used one time was now thoroughly dead and rotten, and would not be providing anchorage on this occasion. There is a large rock just past the dead tree, and we tied that off for an anchor. (There are live trees further left, but they put the rope in the "wrong spot", as I found out LAST time I did this.) I rapped in, looking for the spacious ledge that would make a good changeover point. As usual, my memory and reality were somewhat different. Yes, it was a ledge, but spacious it was not. Still a good idea, though, so I pulled out the drill and started on putting in anchors, loosely tied into the rope still. Diana came down and I started her working on the other hole. We did construction work; Amanda came down and helped out. The ledge was just big enough for three people.
Work done, time for play. We re-belayed the rope off the anchor and dropped about 80 feet into the slot. Tied off a log and re-belayed again, for a short drop to the edge of a large pothole. Around the pothole to a swoopy down-slide -- we continued deploying the 300' rope past the down-slide, as it looked like it might hard going to climb up it without assistance. Next was a short drop into a thankfully dry pothole. With no anchor in sight, we tied another rope on the end of the 300'er and continued onward.
A couple more raps, and we found ourselves at the edge of a pool. We pulled the drysuits up and... only one person actually swam... that would be me. The women successfully traversed the edge. Then out through the woods to find a bit of sun out there at the "edge of the world" type drop, where we lounged, snacked and chatted. Eventually the sun went behind The Great White Throne, and it was time to turn our thoughts to climbing ropes. Away, away, up we went. The difficult jugs were not too long, and the long jugs were not too difficult. Back up to the top, hauling packs, scraping knuckles, avoiding cacti (and not). Back up to the saddle. A fine, smaller adventure.
1. We used a 300' rope at the start, and this worked well. The first rap to the ledge is about 150'; second rap 80'; third rap 45'. From there, it is nice to set a handline for the chute, the only anchor being the logs at the top of the previous rappel.
2. From there, my notes say: 67', 45', 70', 30' and 30'. The raps are mostly a lot shorter, but the anchors are not always conveniently located.
3. We had relatively dry conditions, and other than getting our feet wet, there was only the big pool at the end, which can be traversed without swimming.
4. The rappel at the end is closed. Don't do it. The Park will not be amused.
5. Please be careful climbing down to the Saddle. The steep slickrock has lichen on it that likes to hold a little water. Try to minimize your environmental impact when doing it.
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