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UT: Zion A Christmas Heaps (2017)

Discussion in 'Trip Reports' started by ratagonia, May 24, 2018.

  1. ratagonia

    ratagonia

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    Christmas Day 2017. Steve Ramras, Jonathan Zambella, Tracy Kwan, Tim Hoover, Sonny Lawrence, Tom Jones

    The canyon was kind. It let us escape. Thank you Mr. Heaps.

    Perfect (warm) weather. We came down Gunsight, which was just fine. Perfect temps for wearing enough clothing to keep from getting torn up on the downclimbs. It faces south, so it was snow-free to about 100 yards from Heaps.

    A bit of snow at the crossroads. But... those two potholes just past the bivy spot (which we often rap around off a small tree) were almost empty. As in, maybe a foot of water in there. The lowest I have ever seen. I had no idea they were so deep.

    Down the big sandy corridor. Into the maw of the terminal narrows. Did the "boulder-problem" section. First rappel was into a pool, our first swim. Then a stump type climbout on the other side, then a rap into the first keeper.

    Experience in pothole problems counts, a lot. We basically had 3 pothole-experienced persons, Jonathan, Sonny, Tom. So of course, the three non-pothole peeps were out in front, looking at the keeper pothole saying "what do we do?". Well, you go down there and find out how bad it really is. They were reluctant. So I rapped in, swam over, maneuvered through a space big enough for 3 to get to the top. Looks bad. Getting onto rap is very challenging. Tim gives me a belay and lowers me - easier than trying to downclimb onto the anchor which is low and hard to get to. Tim lowers me into the water, then feeds me rope.

    I have been challenged in this pothole before, when water is low, but the exit is low angle and usually with careful effort, one can get out. Beyond this pothole, the exit is flat and just rock, so throwing stuff cannot work. For the last couple years, this pothole has been filled with sand and essentially unnoticeable. Now, today, the water was three feet lower, and no longer low angle, and slimy. At the exit, the pothole was swimmer. This was going to be very very difficult. And only the first of what would likely be 15 keeper potholes. And my drysuit was leaking. Which all adds up to "not today". I swam back to the rope and had Tim pull me up a bit, bumping like a sports-climber to get half out of the water. Got the ascending kit out, climbed the rope. We went back.

    The biggest problem was the short rap in the Crossroads, off the little tree. We tried tossing something up around the tree, which was possible, but it did not fall back down the other side. With some aggressive spotting, Jonathan climbed the crack on the left. Good effort.

    From there, we climbed up the South Fork of Heaps over to Isaac. That is an amazing hike up. There was a big landslide in there, and after a few boulder moves we ascended 200 feet of steep loose scree. Then bushwhacked across a flat field of roses (thankful for wearing full suits), then more climbing etc... to the top of the pass, down the other side. After an hour in the dark, it was time to bivy. We found an OK place with firewood, settled in. JZ found some water. A nice fire was made, my clothing dried out over the next hour, the clothing that was wet, probably, because I did not get my zipper all the way shut! After a bit, we pulled out what we had for sleeping and settled in. Much snoring occured, though not everyone really slept. The night was in the forties, so not so bad.

    We got up about 5 am to head downcanyon, hoping to get to the end where cell service was likely, as early in the morning as possible. To head off any rescue operation, and let our loved ones know where we were. We got to the final section about at dawn, 7:30, and texted out. Did the rappels, packed up. Getting down to a trail from there is challenging, and we made sure to get full value from that - (we did not find the best route). An hour of struggle and we finally found the trail, where Catrin, Mossimo , and Sue are waiting for us. A short walk brings us out to the Court parking area. Cars, water, food, and a very pleasant debrief with the rangers who were happy to not have to go get us.

    Then we had Christmas dinner at Sue and Tim's. Everyone but me took a nap. I drove the 40 minutes home... with an 80 minute nap at the North Fork Road. Then I ate. A lot.

    Thus, I have BEEN IN Heaps in winter. And I no longer need to DO Heaps in winter.

    Tom
  2. Kuenn

    Kuenn

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    Nice report, Tom!

    Knowing WHEN NOT to do something may actually be more important than knowing HOW to do something. Especially considering all of that talent. Swagger and bravado kept in-check.
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  3. Kevin

    Kevin

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    "because I did not get my zipper all the way shut!"

    Ha! Sounds familiar :) glad you guys got out okay.
  4. Brian in SLC

    Brian in SLC Brian in SLC

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    Yet still, you haven't DONE Heaps in winter.

    Nice try though!

    Funny that you don't consider Ram an experienced pothole escaper...ha ha...
  5. Scott Patterson

    Scott Patterson

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    Heaps has been attempted in winter and Imlay have been done in winter, but I assume no one has tried Kolob? Not that I would do it, but I'm just curious.
    Last edited: Jun 4, 2018
  6. Ram

    Ram

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    I have my limitations skill wise and physically. I am "fat" enough to do a mean "belly out, " on occasion. But I digress. Tom, being in the "middle/back" of the group may have missed a few things, happening up front. Most important was my call back to Sonny and JDZ, emphatically "requesting" that they NOT do the rap they were on top of, from which retreat would have been impossible. Now I have only done Heaps a mere 5 times, unlike the 20+ that Tom has done it, but upon viewing down into that pothole, I knew that it was historically low. I also discerned that the angle got steeper, as one went down from the lip, so that 3-4 feet down, it's angle was 60+ degrees. My eyes were also good enough to see that gray and maroon colored slime on said walls, below the lip. I told Tim and Tre-C....."Time to get the Hell outta Dodge." My thinking being that IF this pot was this bad......I shudder!


    While I transitioned mentally to "full retreat" mode, having Tom come forward and lend his expert analysis, seemed the right thing to do. After his trip down into the pot, he concurred, that retreat was a good idea. There is a story I plan to write about the trip, but it is a complicated one, equally involving the participation of those that were home "waiting." for us. In fact their story is perhaps more interesting than the story of those in the canyon.

    The retreat to the South Fork of Heaps completed, I recall GREAT joy, in being there, even though it was 2 PM and I knew I was going to bivouac Christmas night in Isaac. Downright giddy was I. Our retreat was at the last practical moment. I thank all my partners for all the support throughout this wonderful experience.
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  7. Ram

    Ram

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    I have some pictures...they tell some of the story....Enjoy!

    3:15 AM
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    Cabin Spring junction
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    Top of Gunsight...had to wait 20 minutes to see for the off trail stuff
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    Gunsight rocks!
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    Heaps proper, creates it's own refrigerator environ
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    The ice held....barely
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    Very dangerous...You go first
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    The landslide in SF Heaps
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    A rose by any other name....is just as prickly
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    Top of the pass
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    Night time is a time for quiet contemplation
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    Sunrise December 26th
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    Big wall finish in Isaac
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    JDZ found water at our bivy....Looked and tasted good, if a bit tanic. The next day's light revealed its "colorful" nature
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    "Those who wait" meet us
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  8. ratagonia

    ratagonia

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    Please, tell.
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  9. Rapterman

    Rapterman

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    Outstanding post!
    The boldness to take on a BIG challenge,
    The experience to know when the danger is TOO great
    And the WISDOM in calling for a 'reversal'
    In the great game of canyoneering (and life) STRATEGIC RETREAT is a critical
    and usually under-rated skill set.
    Thanks for giving us some insight into the process.
    :twothumbs:
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  10. ratagonia

    ratagonia

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    you forgot:

    The LUCK to have escape still available, when the first monster pothole is encountered.

    All Praise the Goddess Fortuna!
    Last edited: May 26, 2018
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  11. Ram

    Ram

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    ^^^^^^^^^^^
    Oh my goodness YES!! It is GOOD to be LUCKY!!!!!
    Last edited: May 26, 2018
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  12. Ram

    Ram

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    Imlay......I recall vaguely hearing a story of Stevie B and BDC or others doing the canyon in February, was it? I may be wrong on this.

    Imlay has been done on Christmas Day
    http://canyoncollective.com/threads/christmas-in-imlay-12-25-11.21511/

    Heaps? Have not heard of that one being done, in winter, aside from Scott saying it has
  13. Brian in SLC

    Brian in SLC Brian in SLC

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    Tom, Stevie B and downtown Mel Brown did the Imlay winter descent:

    http://www.canyoneeringusa.com/rave/imlayfeb/imlay.htm

    Bill Bees and I did it the weekend after, I recall. We followed their very frozen tracks in the snow. 16F in the a.m. Brrr! They had unseasonably warm temp's for Feb. We had unseasonably cold temps. Wild stuff. Was a crazy day. Thankfully finished in the daylight.

    Not sure Heaps has had a true winter descent.

    Kolob? November with ice (sounded grim). Recall that maybe Jay Z had done it in winter? I know the ice climbers (Scott and crew) had been in or near there in winter?

    I've done Boundary in winter.

    Scary stuff.
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  14. hiac

    hiac

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    the hike up (picture titled "The landslide in SF Heaps"), how steep is it?
  15. ratagonia

    ratagonia

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    Steep sand, but no ice axe required.
  16. Scott Patterson

    Scott Patterson

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    Scratch that. I should have said Heaps Canyon has been attempted in winter. I was just curious if Kolob had been attempted or done in winter as well (though Brian answered that question).
    Last edited: Jun 4, 2018
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  17. Ram

    Ram

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    First few days in March is still tgechnically winter. Here is another attempt from over two decades earlier. That thing about being doomed to repeat the past? Heehee.
    This first time it was just from not knowing any better. I am accumulating a list of canyons descended after running away from Heaps. A total of three, although one was a redirect, not a true escape

    http://www.math.utah.edu/~sfolias/canyontales/ram/?i=heaps

    The redirect

    http://canyoncollective.com/threads/call-of-the-wild-12-25-14.20145/#post-87553

    Enough of that...


    PS that landslide sand in SF Heaps? It was so white and fine, that with the steepness, it required a sprint up it to gain ground. And emptying your shoes afterward.
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