Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Zion Canyoneering--Imlay & Heaps

During the winter, I had planned to visit my brother in New Zealand for a little adventure. Well, that didn't materialize so as a consolation I planned a little trip to Zion NP. Utahns often call it Zions obviously confusing its riches with the local banking branch.

Planning is rarely easy these days, what with work schedules, etc.  but we put it in the calendar far enough ahead of time that our family, Annie's family were able to make it for the long weekend. Keith (Annie's husband) and Dave (other bro-in-law) were game and able for the canyon stuff. I've had a few fine adventures with these boys over the years and we were hoping to add another one or two by descending Imlay and Heaps canyons. I'd done a few canyons, and Dave and Keith hadn't done any, but all of us have done a fair amount of climbing at some point in our lives. We figured we were in a little over our heads but we watched the youtubes to figure out how to do a biner block, pack toss, etc. The youtubes were very helpful. Hooking we already knew.

As a warmup on Friday, we took the kids to my favorite Zion swimming hole and worked on our tans.

We woke at 4a on Saturday, drove to lava point and walked the 5 mile approach to Potato Hollow in the dark and early morning light. After a little routefinding, we found the first rap, and dropped in. Contrary to some of the reports that we had read on the internets, mostly from the bluu gnome guy, the upper part of Imlay is actually really rad, with a couple of fun raps and some beautiful canyon to see, and with very little bushwacking. We made the last rap out of Imlay about 10 hrs after we left Lava Point, stripped of the rubber clothes,  and followed the hoards with the funny shoes and rented sticks down to the bus. I highly recommend doing Imlay from the top--it was well worth it and I think maybe the sneak route, although still cool, misses some beautiful terrain. It was also fun to follow the full water course from the tippy top to the end. We had to hook out of a few holes, do a guided rappel, and a pack toss or two.

Some say that canyons are for failed rock climbers, and Keith said a couple of times that the "climb better be amazing because this approach is heinous!" ha ha. Wait, the canyon is all approach and no climbing? Canyons are a little different but very fun in their own way.

We hung out with the fams on Sunday, Dave flew home, and Keith and I and got ready for Monday. We sorta hated the car shuttle to lava point so we started Heaps from the Grotto at around 4a. In our family Keith has done enough interesting things that he has a reputation. At scout lookout, still in the dark, a woman from another canyoneering group approached and asked "Are you Keith Card?" Even in the dark in the middle of nowhere, his legend preceded him. One of the most random things ever. Turns out it was Keith's cousin who lives in Springdale and works at the backcountry desk for the NPS and she saw that he had a permit. Small world. The water sections in Heaps were totally full, and we swam over the top of a few of the keeper holes. Full also means cold! My 4/3mm suit was pretty cold at times.

Heaps was so beautiful from the pristine and rarely visited Phantom Valley at the top, to the beautiful sandy corridors, the cold swims, to the bowel-content-emptying 300' free-hanging last rappel on a 9mm cord. Both Keith and I thought Heaps to be amazing, and the water MUCH MUCH colder than anything we had on Imlay. Car to car was 14 hrs. with a couple of snack breaks, and trying to dry out a little before the last 3 stage rap, and taking our time on the last raps. They're big.  I ruined my phone in the water and my go pro card was full, so I have no pictures of Heaps. D-word. I'll add some later if I get some from Keith.
Middle of the big raps on upper Imlay.

Dave is visible on the skyline on his way down.

Upper Imlay.

We had a great time swimming through nasty cold water.

Lots of little obstacles all day long.

The Gobi Desert.

Dave about to get wet.

Imlay narrows

Lots of little drops.

Rubber onesies made it nice.

We had to hook out of a few holes, the hooking was on chipped holds and pretty easy.


Corridor. (Keith Card collection)

Beauty. (Keith Card collection)

Close to the end. (Keith Card collection)
Mandatory jumper. (Keith Card collection)
Chamber of fear. (Keith Card collection)

1 comment:

Luke Smith said...

Nice blog mate,
It was so good to hear your experience about canyoneering in Zion.Its like a lifetime experience. A while ago I also joined Rock Odysseys for Canyoneering Zion National Park. With its expert guides, you can feel safe every time. They provide best offers as well as take care of your safety.