HOT Summer Backcountry Canyoneering in Zion
It is hot in Zion this summer. Yeah, we had a little taste of monsoon that helped things out. But still...
Part of the heat is to chose one's adventures carefully. In this case, we kinda did, kinda didn't. The idea was to check out an "easier" approach to a canyon Kip explored about 10 years ago, as the original approach we took was long and tedious. Would the new approach be short and easy enough? Would the canyon be good enough to make it worth the walk?
Let me cut to the chase and say: No and No. There are also access issues for this canyon, and instead of trying to clear these things up, I'm just gonna admit it's not that good of a canyon - NOT book-worthy.
Signed onto this adventure is the always-adventurous Amanda from ZAC. Just us.
Bushwhackery? Do you like Bushwhackery? We got some of that. An easy hour's walk on a trail ended up at a ridge covered with Manzanita mixed with Oak scrub. Thankfully, both had been burned over perhaps 10 years ago, so not fully-dense. We worked the edge of the crags to get shade as much as possible, but still. Climbed up to a pass, our entrance to the canyon. The top of the pass was a nice clearing under big Ponderosas, with interesting craggy rock on both sides. Amanda climbed up to a little cave which, surprise, had some scratched initials. Crazy! The initials indicated different dates - it seems somewhat crazy that this was someone's favorite hike, bushwhacking to this point et al...
We shimmied down the hill into the canyon, as it was starting to get plenty hot. 45 mins of hiking brought us to the first real drop - a bit high for a downclimb, a bit slick, and... I freak out. This is an evil place: we are in the full sun; seemingly thousands of flies are bothering us; there is a dead squirrel with ants going in and out... We escape back up a bit and take to the rim, walk along and fiddlestick a tree, rap into a deeply shaded narrows. Much better!
Ahead, a pool of scuzzy water of unknown depth. Perhaps we should have lunch first. We do, then find the water is hoppable over. The canyon opens again. Amanda introduces me to munching on the abundant Serviceberry berries, which she had in her front yard growing up. We shuffle in the heat. Occasional narrows knock it back to reasonable. Eventually the bottom drops out and we have the first real rappel.
This is the only drop I remember from years before. A fresh-looking sling indicates someone else has done this canyon, perhaps even in the last couple weeks. We Fiddle a big log and drop 15 feet to a ledge, cut away some crap and re-rig webbing around a stump. The rap has odd geometry that I remember. We rap into a slot, then continue a further 50 feet along and down the slot to the bottom. Strangely, in the bottom of the slot is a chockstone tied off with a long sling, useful as a handline down an easy downclimb to the edge of a drop, and a bolt. Rapping second, I nudge the chockstone out of position and clean the scrappy webbing, moving the rocks off to the side so that the rope when pulled won't get stuck there. At the bottom, we pull the rope and it falls into the slot and gets stuck, of course. Amanda climbs back up and frees the rope from its tangle among the rocks, then raps down off the bolt.
Now, this canyon is in an odd place, so it seems odd that someone other than Kip and I are doing this canyon. Fresh webbing and possible footprints indicate someone has been in here recently, and this bolt indicates... what exactly? Hard to say. But, two pieces of webbing in the canyon are especially troublesome as they are not "climbing webbing", but some kinda strap. Look and feel, and the hotknife cut and sniff test indicates that it might be the very weak polypropylene webbing used in boating. Very suspect! Be careful out there.
Further downcanyon, more raps, mostly in the nuisance category, but a couple nice long ones. We are happy the canyon is pretty much dry. And mostly in the shade. It is still hot, but not unbearable. Downcanyon we meander until it is pretty clear the tech part is over. We downclimb under a huger rock into a nice cool space. 4 pm, still scorching hot out there. We nap a half hour, as long as we could tolerate the flies.
Did I mention the flies? They pestered us all day. Lots of buzzing and swarming, some landing. No biting. But very annoying.
We were a bit refreshed, then headed out into the sun... and quickly got unrefreshed. It is a PLOD to get back to the car... but only 2 hours, and the ice cold beer and Red Bull there calls to us!
Wanna know where it is? I'm happy to share with whoever asks, but let me say, we did it so you don't have to.