Like Utah powder, I often take Utah slot canyons for granted and at times forget how incredibly cool they are. For many years, I sat next to Tom Jones who was a softgoods designer at Black Diamond, and towards the end of his tenure there, he progressively got more and more into slot canyons until he eventually left BD, moved to the outskirts of Zion National Park, started Imlay Canyon Gear and went off the deep end of canyoneering. Good job Tom! :)
Virtually all my canyoneering experience is with sandstone, so it seems pretty normal to me. But, from what I have heard from other international canyoneering types, Zion is unique in that it has “dry” canyons (versus rapping down waterfalls and rivers), tons of variety, exciting technical challenges and stunning scenery. A “typical” Zion canyon will have long sections of sidewalk width canyons that go upwards for 50-150 feet, complete with bulbous rooms, keyholes and the feared potholes. Potholes are like naturally carved goldfish bowls that blend into bowling-ball smooth surfaces as they rise. As evidenced by the drowned animals that often occassion such potholes, it can be easy to get into them, but almost impossible to get out if you aren’t prepared.
As a semi-annual gathering, a group of us went down to Zion for a three day outing last Friday, Saturday and Sunday. We were rained out on Sunday, but got in a couple of good ones before that, so the trip was a great success.
As canyons get done more and more, they become easier. This is both a blessing a curse, as it turns some of the notorious classics into “danger walking” as a friend calls it, but it also means that it is getting harder and harder to find new canyoneering challenges.
Moving quickly in sandstone slot canyons is most often a matter of being quick on the set-up and tear down of rappels as some canyons may have 10-20 rappels ranging from 15′ to 200′. Because of this, there are lots of little tricks of the trade, including canyoneering rope bags, biner block rappels and using two rope bags, so one can always be sent forward so the advance team can start getting it set up while the rear guard is rapping and cleaning.
I was psyched to do Behunin, although it was hot (109 degrees) and almost completely dry. It is a definite collectors edition canyon.
Next on StraightChuter… the ultra classic Imlay Canyon.
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Category: Trip Reports