Not Imlay Canyon: Downclimbing, Long Rappels, and the Narrows. Zion National Park, UT
Yes. Again! I've come to really like Not-Imlay. No fight for a permit. A scenic tour. Nice long raps. A short exit. A shortish day. Bailey was looking for a new canyon (for her) and despite the heat, seemed like a good idea.
The bad news is that it starts and ends in the Main Canyon - thus one has to ride the bus to get there and back, which costs time. This time of year, on a Saturday, the buses are full, which makes them even slower. A really-early start is not on Bailey's day-off highlight list (not like I objected real hard) and the forecast called for some cloudiness and possible afternoon thunderstorms - meaning we did not really get started hiking until 8:30. The first part up to Scouts Lookout was in the shade so, not so bad. But it was humid (for Zion), and the promised cloudcover was thin and ineffective - it was HOT! We sweated our way over down, up, over, and up the Imlay Sneak route. Happily, the Sneak is mostly in the trees which kept the temps only hot, not bakeroo!
Down the other side and then following the rugged, brushy upper part of Not-Imlay canyon. On prior trips, in cooler weather, we had cut up onto the steep sides of the canyon to avoid the little bit of water in the canyon. This trip I focused on staying in the wash bottom as much as possible. It was not bad, and the cold water felt great on our feet. Soon we were out on the slickrock and down to the top of the first rappel.
We have collectively been figuring out the best anchor for the First Rappel, and I think we finally have it figured out.
1. The "original route" involves a short rappel off a tree to a dirty, brushy, steeply slanted ledge traverse, to a largish tree and a somewhat awkward rappel with a difficult pull. Not so good.
2. I had put a sling on a tree just right of the streamflow, which worked OK, but... hard pull and a 300' rope did not put you on the "ground" but on the higher ledge, that then required a dicey traverse across a dirty, brushy, steeply slanted ledge - but at least without a death-fall below it.
3. Ram had done a trip that used a tree further along the edge of the drop, from which the rope reached the ground.
My plan was to use the "further" tree (3). Looking at it when actually there, that small tree is not rooted in much of a dirt island. Probably good enough for a couple of rappels, but I think regular use would eventually kill the tree. We used number one (1) the first time down, and it 'was kinda special' - type 4 fun, as in, not fun at all. Which is why we were searching for alternatives.
We re-evaluated number (2). I originally chose the second tree back because... well, probably because the first tree, also solid, had a bunch of gnarly branches that made getting to the trunk unpleasant. I successfully maneuvered Bailey into dealing with this, so "we" put a long, long sling around the lower tree. Our 300' rope just reached the ground; the pull was still quite hard. I think this is the best choice.
A nice thing about this canyon - once at the first rappel, the canyon drops quickly into the Narrows. After the hot hike in, our energy level was not very high, and Not-Imlay is perfect because you rap, pull the rope, gobble the rope, move to the next rappel. There are a couple nice downclimbs, but they are steep enough that they are not much effort, just some nice down-stemming. But we did have a bunch of rope to baggage-handle through the canyon - one downside of a two-person canyon team. So we rapped, pulled, gobbled, and walked 10 feet to the next anchor. etc. To the final rappel. A quick lunch break and then...
From the top of the FIRST rappel, we could hear quite a party underway in The Narrows. A hot Saturday in the middle of summer - yup, the Narrows was swarming with people. From our lunch counter, we could hear and see people climbing up on some rocks and jumping into the water. Man, that sounded so good. Down we went.
With people below, it is extra important to be careful on this last rappel. Thankfully, the world cooperates. There is little to no loose rock either on the ledge or on the rappel, and how the flow of traffic sets up, hikers in The Narrows avoid walking where the rappel ends. Still... I rapped down with the ropebag clipped to my harness. Spent a few minutes straightening out the rope on a ledge, the twisties trying to mess with my rappelling smoothness, lowered the end of the rope to the river from there, and finally rapped down to the river and the gathered crowd to a hearty round of golf-claps. Thank you. Thank you.
Bailey came on down to a second round of golf-claps, we unsuccessfully tried to enroll muscular-looking youths into pulling the rope for us, then team-pulled the ropes, bagged and coiled, answered tourist questions (260 feet? Wow!), loaded up our heavy packs and shuffled 100 feet downcanyon to the jumping spot. A six-foot jump into six feet of water - cold cold water - wow, that really hit the spot.
We walked out. Which went like usual. The bus - crowded, but people weren't in a hurry, so we each got actual seats. Back to the museum, hop in the Taco, Gatorade and Red Bull at the Sol Foods market, drove some dudes down to Jack's, to Bailey's place in Springdale for a shower (what a treat), then off to the Whiptail Grill for their fabulous RIBS! about the best Ribs I've ever had.
Even though it was still daylight, the 40 minute drive home was tough. I stopped twice to nap. Pulled in at 7:20. Was asleep by 7:30! Twelve hours later... ah, Sunday morning!
My moment of Zen: walking the paved trail to the Temple of Sinawava, we chatted briefly with a little old lady. Our largish packs get people asking how far we have hiked. As we complete the conversation and head away, she turns to Bailey and says "isn't it nice you can get out with your Grandpa?"