Playing the Checkerboard, Zion Canyon
Canyoneering in winter - be careful! I was looking for one more "full day" canyon before the season closes down... Guess I got it! Doesn't help that I don't like getting up early. Or maybe I didn't do the math, but. We chose Checkerboard as a worthy canyon for a mighty day, and thankfully not all that wet. We met at 7:30 am; Cassy, Jillian and Bailey coming up from Springdale after spotting a car at the T of S. Which meant starting hiking on Dakota Ridge at 8:30 - perhaps 2 hours later than Ram would insist upon.
It was cold out, as it is this time of year, most years. But hiking the ridge kept us warm. A little snow on the north side of the ridge was not a big deal. We followed the ridge all the way out past the canyon, then down to the canyon edge. We followed THAT rim on the north side 3/4 of the way, then dropped down into the canyon, working our way toward the first rappel. EZ Peazy!
A lot of action in that canyon! Pool at the bottom of the first rap was frozen layers of ice, with water beneath. We carefully avoided getting our feet wet. Downclimbed around the next two drops, then rapped three stages, using an intermediate anchor of logs in a pothole ledge, to avoid getting the rope stuck. Not much sun in that canyon, but we found a brief spot at the first cross-joint for a quick half-lunch. But the sun disappeared quickly and the chill descended. We scurried forth.
The next section has a number of chockstone raps in a narrow slot... some of which did not have anchors. Not much material available, but we figured it out, only losing half an hour... but a crucial half hour. Encountering our first water, we all pulled on drysuits. Membership has its privileges. Just a knee deep pool, that one, but there would be plenty more water later.
Couple-a-slides - fun! A few downclimbs made more challenging by cold rock, shoes, ice, mud, too much clothing. We danced downcanyon.
The sun set. It got dark. Out came the headlamps, plus some snacks and water. Plus water to rap into, including 4 or 5 swims. Some of those being, breaking-the-ice kinda swims. I was getting tired. The End is Near! right? Well, eventually we got there. Carefully rigged the 2nd to last rap and got that rope to come down. Yeah!
Last rap - every bit of 200 feet, down a beautific flute. Kinda spooky in the dark actually. (No pictures, did I mention it was dark?). Stuff and coil the ropes, off comes the overall, chow down snacks and water. Pull out the trekking poles and assemble. Change clothing (still drysuit) - ready for our march down the Narrows. Not as charming as I remembered. Water was up a bit over recent memory, and the rocks seemed especially slippery this night. But energy and humor seemed to be holding up. A march it was! I don't get this high in the Narrows much, so not many landmarks to go by. Seemed like it took forever to get to Big Springs. Then forever again to get to where Imlay comes out, Floating Rock. Then longer than it should to get to Orderville. Then... you get the idea. Finally, Mystery Falls, the Veranda. A quick stop to swill the last of the water, chow the last 2 fig newtons... hustle to the T of S.
Heated bathrooms are a nice place to change out of the drysuit. Wonder if the Park would accept donated benches for them...
And the time? Yikes! 11:30. Guess we're not getting burgers at Oscar's (which is closed anyway) or even Meatloaf at Wildcat Willies. And we still had a car to fetch, way up there. Which we did. My head hit the pillow at 2:15 am. A long day indeed. (8:30 am to 11:30 pm. 3-1/2 hour approach. 7 hours in-canyon. 4 hours hiking out the Narrows. Bailey Schofield, Jillian Strobel, Cassy Brown, Tom Jones.)