A SCENIC TOUR.
Not-Imlay is a surprise: a pretty good canyon rather unlike other Zion canyons. The scenery is splendid as it drops steeply towards The Narrows, across from the Mountain of Mystery. Big raps are not unusual for Zion, but there is also a long-downclimbing slot that is fun and challenging, with the spiciest bits easily rappelled. It makes for a lovely day out in the spring or fall.
The name is kinda silly, and like many silly names, I personally take some credit for it. If one were to be so foolish as to undertake the right-hand Imlay Sneak Route without a map or description, one could end up here. It would be unfortunate, as one would have far too little rope to complete this canyon!
The canyon has been off-the-radar, so it shows little sign of passage - a plus to many of us, perhaps to you too. The wilder character is sweet, but some of the anchors will need to be upgraded to stouter objects as increased traffic will end up killing the small trees used at some locations. In other words, bring webbing and a refined sense of judgment. Be smart. Back things up. Bring good anchor skills.
Be careful on the last rappel, as it drops into The Narrows in a place where hikers are likely to be hiking by. There is little to no loose rock at the end, but conscientious rope-work is required to not endanger those below. The first person should rappel with the rope bag rather than tossing it—at least until the landing spot can be seen. Feeding the rope from the top does not work due to a rope-catching ledge.
A great canyon, but not a place for beginners. Long rappels, judgment-requiring anchors, the possible people below on the last rap... No beginners please. Several parties have core-shot their rope on the last rappel. About half-way down, the rappel goes free to the ground, with the rope crossing an edge. When people have their rappel friction set too high, a beginner mistake, bouncing will abrade a rope across that edge.
4A III ★★★☆☆
Yes. Maximum group size: 6
Spring or fall
300 feet (92m)
Starts at Grotto Trailhead, ends at Temple of Sinawava. Use of Park Shuttle required in-season.
Helmets, rappelling gear, webbing and rapid links.
COLD WATER PROTECTION
None required. The canyon has little water-holding capacity.
Bring plenty. Pumpable water not available.
FLASH FLOOD RISK
Low/Moderate: small collection basin, but still...
This is a wilderness canyon. You will likely need to build your own anchors. Long rappels require long-rappel-experience.
Summer: can be hot in summer.
Winter: snow would make access difficult to impossible. Melting snow would make the canyon run with water - very difficult.
The approach is as for the right-hand Imlay Sneak Route, cutting out right after the first pass
From the Grotto Picnic Area, ascend the West Rim Trail to Scout Lookout. Follow the trail left along the ridge, then down to a small wooden bridge crossing a branch of Telephone canyon. Continue along the trail 300 feet (2 minutes) until a zero-impact (don’t step on the crust) slickrock route can be found that takes you down and right toward the canyon bottom. Social trails have formed in several locations – follow these down to the edge of the slot, then down into the slot. Cross the canyon and proceed up slickrock to a flat area. Follow trails north until the trail crosses a small swampy watercourse. Turn right and follow the watercourse, which becomes a canyon. Climb up the canyon to a pass, then down the other side. Turn right and follow the watercourse down through lush woods, then to a nice slickrock area. Try to stay in the watercourse in this section, but some obstacles will require climbing up the sides of the canyon on steep dirt.
Rappel just to the south of the watercourse. Seek out a stout tree 20 feet to the right of the watercourse and attach a long sling to get the rappel ring down the slab quite a ways. Longer! No, longer!!! (Best if the sling is about 40 feet).
R1: 300 feet total (92m). 280 feet to a large ledge. First one down can bottom-belay here. Continue the rappel to the bottom, if the rope reaches. (If not, climb around to the right).
R2: 120 feet (40m) down a vertical wall off a couple shrubs, or a large rock.
Downclimb 10 feet.
R3: 25 feet (8m) down a slot. An abundance of natural anchor opportunities are available. Or downclimb at a moderate level of difficulty.
Downclimb the slot to a steep part.
R4: 15 feet (5m) off an old bolt. Downclimbable.
Below the steep section, the downclimb continues down a fun, easy V-slot chimney. Scramble through some boulders to a large ledge with a drop beyond.
R5: 90 feet (30m) from a tree or two, rap down a vertical wall.
Sashay down to a VERY large boulder, with a dropoff into The Narrows beyond.
R6: 260 feet (80m) from webbing around the pinch under the VERY large boulder, rappel to The Narrows below. The webbing is often 'just too short'. Make it longer.
Be very careful on the last rappel, as it goes into The Narrows in a place where hikers are likely present. Thankfully, there is little to no loose rock, but it will require conscientious ropework to not endanger those below. The first person will need to rappel with the rope bag rather than tossing it. Feeding the rope down does not work due to a rope-catching ledge. People in The Narrows will not be able to hear a call of "ROPE" due to the water noise and would be unlikely to understand what that means. Dropping the ropebag into the Narrows is also not recommended; the bag might get carried away by the current, resulting in an annoyingly unresponsive bottom belay. (Ask me how I know).
Hike down The Narrows about 20 mins to the Veranda, then about 20 minutes to the Temple of Sinawava and the shuttle bus.
Though I have known about this canyon for quite a while, I did not venture into it until April, 2014.
(This adventure is not in the first edition of Zion: Canyoneering, but will be in the second edition.)