Observation Point Canyon: Ice, Long Rappels, and Sunshine!

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Just a month prior, we had a particularly great trip through this canyon.So it seemed a good choice for a sunny February Sunday, for these peoples who had done a few canyons in Zion. After a bit of shenanigans, we had ourselves a shuttle driver, used to driving farm equipment so my Pathfinder should not be a problem, allowing the entire day to be dedicated to going downhill, excepting a few minutes here and there. We, this day, was Lynn Bufka, Jack Hasslebusch and Mike McKenzie, all from Arizona, and me, from 'round here.

Happy crew, starting point

Happy crew, starting point

After a pleasant, flat hike out to Observation Point, we checked out the view of the main canyon (impressive!), then wandered back to the down-slot. THIS time, we worked the south edge of the slot to get a good view of the north rim, to carefully select the best place to rap in. Back around to the north rim, Lynn cleaned up the sling from the less-good place we rapped last time - which surprisingly had a couple more slings added in the last month - booty! We rigged up a stout tree with a long sling, getting the ring over the edge and making for a somewhat challenging rappel start. Down we go - 240 feet right to the grove of box elder trees as intended!

We tromped down the rest of the slot and into the sunshine. This is a fine canyon, but, given the extensive south-facing slab downclimbing of this next section, which was hot and sweaty in February(!), I doubt the canyon will become a 'new classic' as it will be unreasonable for 6 months out of the year. Down we went, past the breaking-ice place, through the pleasant valley and over to the steep. By traversing right, then down, then back left, then more left, we are able to keep it to a 4th class level of climbing without too scary of exposure. Back down briefly into a low-angle section, then it steepens up again. Step right over a ridge, then down to the edge to find the next anchor. We sat in the shade for a bit and had lunch, recovering from Zion's intense February sun!

Downclimbing slabs

Downclimbing slabs

Down again, 260 feet or so, off some scraggly bush. Rap rap, pull pull, bag bag; and on our way again. Scramble around rocks and trees for 10 minutes, and the canyon suddenly slots up. Water ahead! We tossed on the suits and set up the rope for a little rappel into the first water - getting one foot wet all the way to the knee!

Next rap is off bolts and down a slot - then a short walk, then more rapping from the same anchor into the keeper pothole! Last time I went in and performed an impressive, if I say so myself, pothole escape using a foot loop on my floater pack; Bailey then quickly traversed past the pothole and stayed dry; and Amanda stemmed a bit and avoided the deluge with the assistance of a helping hand; thus my companions refrained from being impressed by my feat of skill. This time, I took Bailey's advice and stayed high, escaping around the side in what proved to be a fairly easy work-around. As did we all. Total rappel length exactly 75 feet; could work out poorly if deploying only the exact length on this one.

After the Keeper that wasn't

After the Keeper that wasn't

Next pool about waist deep. Then a longer rappel down into a slot (100 feet?) and we are coming to the end, where there is quite abruptly quite a bit of air ahead. A 75 foot rap puts us on a small ledge 300 feet above the ground. I toss the ropebag, deftly hitting the only possible tree and wrapping the rope into its branches, 40 feet off the ground. Urgh! I rap down, make a lunge for the tree, heel hook, stabilize and work the rope out of the branches. All good.

Last Rap

Last Rap

The Arizonans come on down. For some reason, pulling the rope created a most amazing spaghetti-tangle of rope, eventually sorted out by Jack and Mike. Then we packed up (in the delightfully warm sunshine) and climbed over to the Weeping Rock platform to make our exit. (The Park prefers canyoneers to avoid the pool and riparian area; and this is a much easier exit anyway). Then we went and had ribs at Oscars (yum) and, did I mention, did NOT have to go fetch the car?