Zion Canyoneering: Grotto Canyon with Long Rappels!
What is NOT-Hidden? Why, conspicuous of course. My friend Rick Thompson had attempted Hidden Canyon from the Top last fall, and due to navigational difficulties found him and his companions in a nearby canyon, thus the name... well actually, it already had a name, Grotto Canyon, and was listed in my book with the line "I did it, so you don't have to".
After spending the night and being assisted out of the canyon, not really having enough rope to both exit and retrieve, Rick discovered he was in a canyon that was in The Book, but which no one ever did. And that the BETA was WRONG. He somehow found this to be an important point, so a trip together was arranged to clear up how long the final rappel was - 100 feet as I claimed, or a full 300 feet as he claimed?
My previous trip through the canyon was unpleasant. That it was on a hot day in July could not have helped, so we carefully planned for a more-temperate day... well, actually June 21st would not really fall in that category, now would it. We rounded out our crew with a noob - Heather from SLC, a med student - who proved to be a quick study.
While Mr. Thompson had followed the directions for Hidden from the Top from a beta-provider famous for providing lots of GPS points, he did not, in November, have a GPS unit with him. Navigation in Zion is not usually very difficult, but in this case, the trail is across a sparsely-forested mesa top with few landmarks, and the top of Hidden is not conspicuous from the trail. On this trip, we also did not have a working GPS, and I learned that the hiking trail is not as shown on the topographic map, leading to some confusion. But we got it straightened out. In we go.
I remembered a lot of downclimbing... and really, nuisance downclimbs, rather than fun downclimbs. And so it proved, from the get-go. The canyon was dirty -- it does not have much of a collection zone, so the canyon does not flow often, and is full of wood debris, rotten leaves, etc. We moseyed forward, a few clouds helping somewhat with the heat. A few rappels appeared. At some there were bolts with the RT on them, indicating that Royce Trappier had descended this canyon sometime in the 80's or early 90's. My companions helped me note the length of the raps. The raps got longer.
The canyon was better than I remembered. Last time, in addition to the 95 degree plus temps, there were 20-30 mph winds that made it even worse. This time, the temp was in the same range, but without the wind it was WAY more pleasant, and the shade actually worked. Some nice dramatic walls, then you walk through a slot and the ground drops away. A Lost Arrow and a small Stopper equalized with an RT bolt provided the anchor for the long rappel of the day, a 260 foot rap down a steep wall into a slot with a very-manky black pool at the bottom. I successfully avoided the pool with some careful climbing. The pool turned out to be but mid-calf deep.
Some places in the canyon I remembered clearly. And some places I remembered clearly were clearly from a different canyon. We rapped onward - a 30 footer to a shelf then another 200 footer into a slot, and the end was near. While Heather bottom-belayed, I wandered out to the final rap station, a large ledge with a big void underneath. A climbing rope was affixed to the anchor (?) but cut off short (??), and I hauled that up, which we could use for our rope pull. Sure enough, it was clearly more than 100 feet to the deck - close to 300 feet perhaps. We tossed the rope bag down (kaboom, a good sound) and rapped on down to the nice (though slimy) Grotto below. 250 feet. A real nice rappel, reminiscent of the ultimate rap in Heaps, kinda sorta.
All in all, not a bad... well, yeah ... not a GOOD canyon. Mediocre is generous. I did it again, so you really, really don't have to, ever.