Pipe Spring Canyon and MIA Canyon, Zion National Park, UT


Most (sane) people try to avoid the MIA Exit as much as possible. But, there is a pretty nice canyon that parallels it, and I wanted to check that out, so I recruited Diana from ZAC for a casual run through. Since she had not exited up the MIA, this would be a good chance for her to get her first go at it without carrying all that much weight. We got an early start, leaving Springdale almost before 10 am. Trailhead at 11. We carefully followed the roads to the Pipe Spring. Thankfully, there was water coming out of the pipe - always makes the day more pleasant. The biting flies, on the other hand, kept our break there short, so we quickly headed off to the Rappelling Area, dropped into the canyon, and followed it downcanyon a few minutes to the first drop.

People had told me the canyon had been bolted up. Given some time to cogitate on it, I sumised that it was probably bolted by folks from the MIA camp, whose land the canyon is on. I brought along the bolt kit in case the bolts were poorly placed, and needed help (they did not). On our  previous descent in October 2009, I knew some of the anchors were rather dubious, so I was not surprised it had been bolted. Hopefully well. And since it is on private land, it would be inappropriate for me to remove the bolts (as the Mad Bolt Chopper), especially if they were placed by an agent of the landowner.

Diana ON the second rap - nice flute!

Diana ON the second rap - nice flute!

The tree for the first rap looked like it still had my original sling on it, plus a pretty blue one. We rapped in off that. The second rap featured a well-placed two-bolt anchor, rather than the pile of rotten logs we rapped off a couple years prior. Down a nice flute we went. The light was much better on this trip - the canyon showed well. Some more raps, a few downclimbs... led to the BIG RAP. Last time we only had a 200 foot length, and were able to traverse to a tree about half way down. A hidden tree. Which would have worked great if the rope had not gotten stuck in pulling (twists). Maybe that is why I had remembered the canyon as not being so hot - a scary jug up on a skinny rope. This time, we brought a 300 foot rope so we could do the whole rap in one shot (about 260 feet, I think). THIS rap I really expected to be bolted, as the chockstone we used was somewhat unstable. I was surprised the chockstone was still there, and not surprised to find a two-bolt anchor, or at least, one bolt plus one drilled angle piton.  I changed out the webbing to get the ring about 6" lower, and we rapped down. At a tiny ledge halfway down, there was a piece of 1" black tubular wrapped around some (small) wood debris - hmmmm.  Someone had a bad day, and perhaps did not see the tree with slings at about the same level to the left...  Probably not the bolters either because that tree debris looked like a piss poor anchor to me!

I cleaned the dangling webbing, and completed the rap. We pulled the rope through no problemo... until the end caught in a crack 80 feet above.  A bunch of wiggling the rope later, some manly tugging and I had...  I had whatever up there thoroughly good and jammed. C'est la Vie. Knife out, reach high, cut the end off. One advantage of owning a rope company is that this kind of thing hurts a whole lot less.

Left behind.

Left behind.

A few more raps (single bolts now) and we were scurrying down the slot section many know as the MIA Slot, a diversion on the way up the MIA exit.

Second part of the adventure was to follow the MIA watercourse down to Kolob Creek. We followed the wash downstream past old tires and car parts. A few downclimbs and a nuisance rappel or two, and a very nice slot section, and we found ourselves at the head of the impressive handcrack/chimney that the MIA exit route avoids. We fiddled off a convenient tree or two and rapped this sweet slot, about 100 feet. Scrambled down the familiar MIA route toward Kolob. Where the exit route came in from the left, we tied the rope off to a big tree and rapped the final drop (90 feet) to creek level.

A rap lower down

A rap lower down

I thought the creek would be flowing, but it was dry.  Ah, 4 in the afternoon, and only a short walk back to the car.

Up we went, picking up the rope, and then our packs higher up, and enjoying hiking the infamous route with not-heavy packs and after only a short day of canyon work. Up we went, over the pass and to the MIA slot to grab our other rope.


Well, new to me, at least. After the MIA slot we walked up the low angle wash for 100 yards, to the start of the upper segment. Up the steep, dirt hillside, grabbing roots. About 50 feet up is a place I usually traverse right back into the drainage... but the traverse kinda eroded out, and there was a solid trail with good foot-steps heading steeply up the hillside. We went that way. It was good, but I expressed dismay - I had been up here many years ago, and it did not turn out well... But the trail though steep was well-established and had no sketchy sections, unlike the 'usual route'. Clearly people other than me had been using this for years. We went up about 500 feet to the base of the cliffband, then the trail traversed to the right, crossing the landslide slump and up into the woods for the final section, finally joining the 'usual route' near the top. As in, above all the sketchy, dangerous sections I had learned to so love and enjoy. Still had to surmount the final steep slopes, but the handlines were in place and in good repair, so we were soon at the road. That was EASY - well, easier at least.

I poured water on my head, swatted flies, filled my water bottle and stomach at the pipe spring, and we hiked up the old logging roads. Up, up up up up... if you've done it you know the drill. Reached the car around 7 pm, split a beer and split for town...  a fine day out in a fine canyon. The whole thing very worthwhile... perhaps it should see more descents!

And some good wildflower viewing was done, too.