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Canyoneering in Zion National Park

Thu, 2017-10-05
Daniel Creveling
Leader Email: 
Are dogs allowed?: 
Not allowed

Canyoneering in Zion National Park

(A 2017 trip of the Los Alamos Mountaineers)

Pre-Trip Training: TBD (Two days)

Trip to Zion National Park: October 5th - October 10th

Trip Leader: Daniel Creveling

Have you been to Zion? I mean, have you REALLY been to Zion?? This is your chance to discover all of Zion's hidden gems that most people who visit the park never get to see. We will be hiking, rappelling, climbing, scrambling, and swimming to some of the best that the park has to offer. Prerequisites are good rappelling skills (or willing to learn) and a spirit of adventure.

2017 LAM Climbing School students welcome and encouraged to participate!!

Follow this link for a teaser presentation which includes pictures from previous LAM Zion trips.


*** SIGNING UP ***

Send an email to me to sign up:

If I don't already know you, a short introduction and description of your current technical rope experience would be helpful.

Due to permit issues, it would be good to have a rough idea of how many people are going by the end of June. Permits are often still available even weeks before a trip (depending on the canyon of course), but please sign up as soon as you can to help ensure we have enough permit space for everyone.


*** TRIP FEE ***


This trip fee will be used to reimburse the people who paid for permits. The remaining money will be used to re-stock club resources of webbing and rapides (these items are consumed during a trip and therefore separate from our LAM gear resources).

This trip fee is only for covering the cost of permits and gear replacement. There are obviously other costs associated with this trip such as lodging, meals, transportation, etc.



This is NOT a guided canyoneering trip! Although the intent is to be playing on the ropes, this is by no means a guided trip. We will have pre-trip training to allow everyone to become familiar with canyoneering specific techniques and gear. Ultimately though, you are responsible for knowing your own skill level and sticking to it! Having said that, there will be some very knowledgeable people on this trip who will do their best to ensure everyone has a wonderful time and NO ONE gets hurt. The canyons in Zion fill the spectrum from beginner to advanced, so there will be a fabulous canyon for everyone.


*** Pre-Trip Training ***

!! Pre-trip training is required!! (with some exceptions*)

Pre-requisite skills:

We will not be teaching rappelling in the pre-trip training. We will be teaching the particular rappelling techniques that canyoneers have adopted that are different from what climbers normally do. It is assumed that you have rappelled 'climbing style' before and are already comfortable with going over the edge of a cliff. LAM Climbing School students who enjoyed the rappelling section of the school are encouraged to attend.

Keep in mind that there is usually no turning back once entering a canyon. Ropes are pulled as we move down the canyon, so returning back up the canyon is not possible. Once the group finishes the first rappel, the group is generally committed to finishing all of the rappels.

Dates are TBD, but here is what you can expect on each day:

Day #1 (9am-noon) : Rappelling practice at “The Y” climbing area.

Canyoneering specific rope rigging, rappelling single strand on 8mm-9mm ropes, adding friction and locking off, guided rappels, self-rescue. Also discussions on the ACA canyon rating system and canyoneering gear/clothing that will be required for the trip.

Day #2 (9am-3pm) : Anchor discussions and descent of Pajarito Gorge

At the top of Pajarito Gorge: discussion and demonstration of common anchors seen in canyoning including bolts, trees, boulders, rock and knot chocks, dead-man anchors, meat anchors. Also discussion of rope management and sequencing. Pajarito Gorge is a short, fun canyon in White Rock. Trailhead parking is located at the end of Kimberly Lane. We will do the canyon in four rappels. The longest rappel is about 120 feet. We will also demonstrate an application of a guided rappel over a deep pothole full of water.

(*) An exception to the training requirement may be granted (ultimately up to the trip leader) if one of the following apply:

You fully participated in a LAM Canyoneering course and descended Pajarito Gorge
You participated in previous LAM Zion trips and descended Birch Hollow
You have other canyoneering experience that can be validated by the community



October 5th and October 10th are driving days.
October 6th - October 9th are canyoneering days.

This is a "choose your own adventure" style trip. In addition to signing up for the trip as a whole, you must also create your own daily schedule by signing up for the individual canyon day-trips. For each day of the trip there will be a selection of canyon day-trips available to choose from depending on the permits we are able to obtain. Details will emerge once we acquire permits in July/August.

Permits issued by the park limit group size to as low as 6 people in some canyons, other canyons have a limit of 12. Depending on the canyon, we may choose to set our limit even lower (for safety and time considerations). Because of these group size limitations, we will not be able to stay together as an entire group – we will be splitting up each day. This is a common routine for canyoneering in Zion, and we will have plenty of experienced volunteers to help lead groups through the canyons each day. I will be making sure that each group on each day has a leader who knows how to get in and out of their canyon safely. People who have permits in their name are committed to that canyon, but others are able to join in anywhere there is permit space. It is not a very rigorous system, and flexibility is built in on purpose. It will make more sense when we are there :o)


*** LODGING ***

Plenty of lodging options in the Springdale area and several out past the east entrance of the park too. I will not be organizing any large scale lodging for everyone. I will likely be in a Cowboy Cabin at the Ponderosa Ranch Resort (east side of the park, see below). Many canyons start on the east side and end on the Springdale side, requiring a car shuttle. Other canyons are entered and exited by trailheads serviced by the Zion Canyon shuttle bus on the Springdale side. Still others are entered and exited on the far east side without shuttle service. The point is, no matter where you stay, you will likely be part of a car shuttle. It's a very common thing in Zion.

For lodging information near Springdale, Utah (main entrance to the park) a good place to start is:

Camping & Cabins (to list a few... there are more):
The Zion Ponderosa Ranch Resort has campsites, Cowboy Cabins that fit up to six, and larger structures as well. This facility offers nice bathrooms/showers, a large pool, and two hot tubs. Keep in mind that this is a remote location (as opposed to the tourist friendly location of Springdale).

The Watchman campground is a good place to camp in Springdale and is close to restaurants and shopping.

Zion has a park campground located at the Springdale entrance/visitor center. It is first come first served, so it's good to have a backup option planned out.


*** PERMITS ***

Permits are required for most of the canyons we will be exploring. I will give specific details to trip participants on how to obtain permits at a later date.


*** CANYONS ***

Here are short descriptions (with links to more info) of some of the technical canyons on the menu. This is just a subset of the many, many technical canyons in Zion that we can explore. These descriptions are meant to give you an idea of what to expect.

Birch Hollow
4-7 Hours depending on group size and if a shuttle is arranged in Orderville Gulch
10-12 rappels depending on what is down climbed. Longest rappel is 120'.
Dry. Possibly some mud puddles depending on recent weather.

If you only do one canyon on this trip, and want to stay dry, this is it! Birch Hollow is a fantastic introduction to technical canyoneering, with beautiful fluted rappels that are very beginner friendly. This trip starts with a 45 minute hike down Birch Hollow until the first obstacle is encountered. This drop, about 120', can be avoided on the right with a 40' rappel, or on the left with a steep down climb (but where is the fun in that!?). Several down climbs and one 45' rappel later brings you to the 100' fluted rappel which marks the beginning of a long sequence of fun rappels, ultimately ending in Orderville Canyon. A 15 minute hike up Orderville Canyon brings you to a steep trail exiting the canyon on the right. After about 30 minutes along this trail you arrive at a small parking area for 4WD vehicles. If you arrange for a pick-up from Zion Adventure Company or the Ponderosa Ranch Resort, this is where they will be. Otherwise, plan for another 90 minutes or so following a steep uphill 4WD road to another parking area where cars will be staged.

For more information see the links below.

Web Links:

10-12 Hours. We will plan to start as early as possible.
2 rappels. Longest about 20 feet.
First half of the canyon will be dry, second half will be walking through water with a couple short mandatory swims.
Wetsuit recommended. At least a 3/2 farmer john.

This is a nice introduction to easy canyoneering with water obstacles. This trip starts hiking down the 4WD road mentioned above in the exit of Birch Hollow. The first half of the canyon is hot and dry hiking. The second half involves hiking through potholes and running water, some short swims, and down climbing in the watercourse along small waterfalls. Several log jams to climb over are evidence of the power of recent flash floods. This canyon is very deep and narrow in sections. In some places the walls are close to 1000' high and the canyon is only about 10' wide. Lots of beautiful photo opportunities here, so waterproof your camera and bring it along!! As a bonus, Orderville pours into the one-and-only Virgin River Narrows! The last few miles of hiking is in the Virgin River, which tends to have large rocks hidden underwater. Hiking poles might be useful for this portion of the hike. The hike ends at the Temple of Sinawava shuttle stop in Zion NP.

For more information see the links below.

Web Links:

2 Hours
2-3 Rappels, longest is about 50' (actually two raps done in a combo)
Wetsuit recommended!! At least a 3/2 farmer john.

This is a great canyon for a fun, half-day adventure to escape the heat! Lots of water, many swims with one potentially 100' long swim in a "slanted corridor." This is a car-to-car hike, so no shuttle arrangements required. The trip begins with a short but steep hike on slick rock to a saddle, then a quick sandy descent into Keyhole. The first section of Keyhole involves hiking and down climbing in a slot. The canyon then opens up for a moment to a sandy area and a nice place for a break. Then, the canyon narrows up again offering its first rappel. From this point on it is rappelling or down climbing into pools of water. The last section is a slanted corridor about 100' long and may require swimming the entire distance. It is narrow, so the walls are available to help keep you afloat and propel you forward. After this section, there is a short, sandy hike to the cars. The slanted corridor is accessible from the bottom and may be checked out beforehand if there is any concern about swimming or water temperature.

For more information see the links below.

Web Links:

5-7 hours
5-6 rappels, some with awkward starts. Longest is a free hanging 100' rappel with some exposure clipping in to the anchor.
Wetsuit recommended!! At least a 3/2 farmer john.

This is a very scenic and wet canyon with lots of down climbs, fun rappels (including a 100' free hanger!), and several pools of water to swim. The hike starts at a parking area immediately after exiting the long Zion Tunnel heading east. Right away you find the first rappel/down-climb which marks the beginning of a short series of pools to wade/swim through. There is the possibility of a "wet disconnect" here, so the first person down should help set the rope length for the rest of the group. The next series of rappels drops into two pools, the last of which is the famous "cathedral rappel." This may also require setting the rope length to avoid a swimming disconnect. More hiking and down climbing through beautiful narrows and then the canyon opens up to some great views of Zion. The last rappel is 100' and free hanging. While on rappel, don't forget to look into the beautiful cave that you just rappelled off. The hike out is boulder hopping and scrambling down the watercourse, and then a final short hike up to a parking area along the road.

For more information see the links below.

Web Links:

8-10 Hours
11 rappels, longest is about 135'
Small pools of water, but no swimming expected. Last rappel drops into the Virgin River Narrows for about 1/4 mile long hike in the river with tourists.

This is a very beautiful canyon that requires winning a lottery drawing to obtain a permit reservation. The hike starts on the property of the Zion Ponderosa Ranch Resort. The trail quickly enters Zion NP, and after about 40 minutes you arrive at "The Death Gully." This is a steep and loose hiking descent into Mystery Canyon. Take your time and be careful. Once in the canyon you encounter many rappels and down climbs, and even a section of nice narrows. The canyon opens up again to what is sometimes a small lake formed by a landslide several years ago. It will likely be dry for our trip. Hike up and over the landslide dam back into a beautiful green section of the canyon. You will eventually come to the rappel into Mystery Springs. The rappel starts after traversing a large slab overlooking the remaining section of the canyon. This is a very beautiful spot, so don't forget to stop and take in the view! The rappel will land you into Mystery Springs, which will probably be at least waist deep and the first water encountered during the hike (unless the lake is not dry). Continue down canyon following a small stream down climbing several obstacles. The last rappel is along a waterfall into the Virgin River. Tourists will likely be pointing and taking your picture. This rappel is very slippery, so be careful... you will likely be on camera after all! A short hike down the Virgin River brings you to a sidewalk trail, which ends at the Temple of Sinawava shuttle stop.

For more information see the links below.

Web Links:

About 9-10 hours
10 Rappels mostly in the 100' range. Longest rappel is 165' and mostly free hanging
Generally dry, but could hold some water depending on recent weather conditions. Plan for some knee deep sections, and possibly a dip into one pothole near the end.

This canyon is more advanced than the others on this list. The hike begins along the Angel's Landing trail located at 'The Grotto' shuttle stop, and returns along the Emerald Pools trail ending at the 'Zion Lodge' shuttle stop. It has a very long and steep entry hike, followed by a complex series of long entry rappels to get to the canyon floor. Several sections of hiking are exposed to tall cliffs. Not recommended for anyone fearful of heights or not 100% confident in their rappelling skills. Prior canyoneering or climbing experience is required.

For more information see the links below.

Web Links:

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