Send us a suggestion!

UT: Zion A Snowy Echo 2-17-16

Discussion in 'Trip Reports' started by Ram, Feb 24, 2016.

  1. Ram

    Ram

    Messages:
    2,132
    Likes:
    3,457
    It doesn't happen every year. Usually about every 4 or 5 years. When it does, I can't resist. It happened to us the first time, in the early 90's. We descended Middle Echo, one May day, finished the short raps and came smack into a walls of ice. For the next 2 hours, we dangerously weaved our way through the snow and ice. One stretch we crawled in a 2.5 foot high tunnel, half filled with flowing ice water, for 40 yards. That same day we cut steps in an ice wall with the only thing we had that was hard enough to do the job, the edge of our helmets, cracking mine in the process. It was a 95 degree day, out in the sun, but in the slot? The ice turned to vapor (Sublimation) and we were in a hazy cloud. Huge blocks of ice hung overhead. Blocks that would crash down soon. When? Spin the wheel. Pays your money, you takes your chances.. After getting out that day, we sat on a ledge, in the high heat and sun, in our wet suits, getting our core temp back up, smiles a mile wide. Our response to the experience was to.......Go back there 4 days later, of course. A huge block had collapsed in the time between descents. In this way we learned that something special could be found in that canyon, at certain times.

    Cable Mountain towers above Middle Echo. It has just enough angle, that snow lands and accumulates for a bit, but it is too steep to hold the snow for long. So it slides down the wall and into the canyon in a series of mini avalanches. In this way, the canyon fills with snow, with every storm. It is unusual for there to be snow in May. It takes a huge snow year for that to happen, but an above average snow year will provide wonders to those who dare, in February and March. The thing about it, is almost every week the conditions and the route through can and does change. Snow has accumulated up to 85 feet high, then melts out, isolating slopes and forcing one to weave through tunnels and passage ways inside the snow masses. You often don't know you are so far up...until you see ....gulp....a hole. Other places, gaps in the moats form and the unwary could plummet dozens of feet, deep down into the unseen and black abyss.Then the blocks over head can collapse at any time. Huge icicles form overhead too, turning the canyon bottom to brown and blue ice fields with their icy drips. These areas are passed one at a time and without dallying. Also, down canyon snowfields tend to melt out along the canyon walls, in ways that the unsuspecting could break through to their demise.

    Now that I have made the case for how totally insane and potentially reckless this is....It is also, off the charts, surreal in its beauty and diversity. All life has objective dangers. There is just a little more of it here, during those special spring seasons. With all of this in mind, four of us headed up and in for a peek. Very wise are those that go from the bottom up, for more hazards are visually observable going that way. And one can just turn around if it becomes more dangerous than one wishes to experience. One also can't get trapped between the raps and the bottom, where the snow is most often found. The objective? Get to the bottom of the lowest rap, then get back out in one piece. Bring ice axes, thermal protection and your alpine judgment.

    A group of 2 had gone down the canyon, found the snow and without choice, made it down thru. We came a few days later. We found the conditions to be safer than average compared to my half dozen trips through, in the last quarter century. We did not have to "tunnel" at all, staying up on top. Melting along snowfield edges has not really started yet. What we did note, was the moats are forming, soon to isolate the upper snow fields from access and force tunneling. These holes we observed were frightful to peer into. It has been a week since we were there and I am sure a more sinewy route, with snow above head, is likely to be required now. Watch for that huge dripping icicle too!

    We encountered something different than I had seen before. There were places, with sand ripples on the canyon floor. WAIT! That was NOT the canyon floor, but solid and human supporting ice. Coulda swore I was on the ground. Small floods had moved sand across solid ice. We would drop off these false bottoms into swims. Tom was likely sick of hearing me talk of this experience, over the years. Same with Guy. Both signed up. Tom led most of the way, with a wicked little smile in the corner of his mouth. Guy stayed back spotting and generally helping us over the moats before dealing these dangerous spots as "last person at risk." Kat said no initially due to commitments, but moved mountains and the timing of the commitments so as to partake in all the fun. A great time! Once the 6 hour round trip was over, I hit the road for home...The next big snow year? Yeah, I will be back. The stories I could tell of past snowy trips in there!!

    Tom
    [​IMG]

    Kat
    [​IMG]

    Guy
    [​IMG]

    Some other guy
    [​IMG]

    The light before the dark
    [​IMG]

    Broken ice
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    telephoto of a large icicle 80 feet up
    [​IMG]

    What the dripped on walls looked like
    [​IMG]

    and the canyon floor below the icicle
    [​IMG]

    Thin ice passage
    [​IMG]

    Moat ahead
    [​IMG]

    The hole to the left of Kat (in blue) is 50 feet deep at least
    [​IMG]

    wondrous passage
    [​IMG]

    Looking up toward a different world
    [​IMG]

    The ground is 70 feet below here
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Finger holds
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Delicate
    [​IMG]

    Happy campers
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Miss the moat top or collapse it and its a long way down in there
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Happy Tom
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Out of the deep
    [​IMG]

    More pictures?
    https://picasaweb.google.com/108034287150978265447/MiddleEcho21716#
    Last edited: Feb 27, 2016
    RossK, carol, Taylor and 13 others like this.
  2. Mike

    Mike epic blarneys

    Messages:
    232
    Likes:
    497
    Location:
    Pollution City, UT
    Just making sure nobody missed that one.
    Rapterman, Ram and Kevin like this.
  3. Ram

    Ram

    Messages:
    2,132
    Likes:
    3,457
    Chatting with Johnny B, reminiscing about first time we found ourselves in a snowy Echo AND from the top. I mean the thing was full on hard ice, in May and at this one spot overhanging. That was where we encountered the tunnel. It was along the left wall and I mean I had to stoop a little when on hands and knees going through. The sound of the rushing water that half filled this mostly round 2.5 foot diameter passage added to the intimidation. Before passing thru, we sent Johnny B into the dark hole, headlamp a blazing to scout if it came out again or dead ended.

    One of the best lines ever. Vogel and I talking in the sublimation cloud, at the tunnel entry, distracting ourselves from the fear we were feeling, as Johnny scouted the hole....We call ahead to him........."Is that going to work?"

    Johnny's reply, muffled by the ice and tunnel, but loud enough to hear

    "You got a better idea?"

    Actually....no
    Rapterman likes this.
  4. Canyonero

    Canyonero

    Messages:
    578
    Likes:
    614
    Now that trip actually really looks fun. Way better than Middle Echo in July.
  5. ratagonia

    ratagonia

    Messages:
    3,677
    Likes:
    4,193
    Location:
    Mount Carmel, Utah
  6. Taylor

    Taylor

    Messages:
    143
    Likes:
    93
    Good Lord! Please invite me to join you on one of these trips. And, as I'm one who has been to that special place known as "Poe", please tell me about that skull cap.
    Ram likes this.
  7. Ram

    Ram

    Messages:
    2,132
    Likes:
    3,457
    Just short of 35 years ago, two young, athletic and talented guides descend Poe. A bold venture. I have plied several stories from Jenny and as per her sensibilities, kept them private. I can only hope that someday I will be graced with Mike's experience in there.

    In October 2009, before the inventions of the sandtrap or Aguanchor, we attempted to ghost Poe, failing this time, on the rap before the Wart pothole. Dan Ransom made a video of the attempt. Here is Dan from that trip
    [​IMG]

    A year or so later, A friend of Jenny's, named John Johnson found the video and sent it to Jenny, out of the blue
    .
    Here is John in Woody canyon March 2010
    John with Jenny
    [​IMG]

    Jenny started a cautious correspondence with Dan. Eventually she started coming on trips. Eventually she returned, 30+ years after her first descents with Mike...... to Tight Asp (East Baker), Kaleidoscope and Poe too. It was quite remarkable to see her experience these 3 places, 3 decades after those remarkable descents. A big privilege indeed.

    We visited and ghosted Poe several times in the coming years. One of those times, we were accompanied by Murray Clark. Murray is simply one of the funnest, kindest and most generous people on Earth.
    Murray here, near the Bakers
    [​IMG]

    So enamored of the canyon was he, which I believe he did twice with Jenny. He had those "commemorative" hats made, as a surprise gift and sent one to each of us, on the trip. I had an exact hat, sans the embroidery. I used that one, saving the gift from Murray...until I lost the plain hat. Well its just too warm a piece of gear to be without and I now use the embroidered one in cold places, such as Echo a few weeks back.

    no man/woman is a failure who has friends.
    Clarence Oddbody


    Ram
    Last edited: Mar 2, 2016
  8. Ram

    Ram

    Messages:
    2,132
    Likes:
    3,457
    2008 was a big snow year, so there was substantial snow left, all the way into June that year. There was very hard snow and ice in equal amounts. Seventeen year old Aaron Ramras and I drove hours out of our way, to take a peek into the canyon. While there was a snow slope leading into and out of the snow section, the middle part offered no travel up high, with huge snowfields wedged way over head and the slot clogged with snow down low, with vertical walls of snow and ice at both ends of these clogged areas. One was forced to find a squeeze down low, or climb part way up the snow and ice, to find a spot one could wedge into or stem through, between the ice and the slimy wet vertical walls. In one spot in particular, passage looked impossible....except....there was a snow arch 12 feet up. We climbed up and slipped through, then down and found a tunnel through. We made it to the raps and then returned. When we were returning downcanyon, we heard a huge CRASH from back where we had just come from. One of the serac blocks had fallen.

    Has anyone noticed that the sound of thunder will increase a groups pace, almost like an involuntary reflex? Ever noticed yourself adding a mile an hour to your pace, when it starts to sprinkle? So when Aaron and I heard the crash, our involuntary response was to talk in whispers.....as if lowering sound vibrations would lower the odds of a block collapsing on us. Weird, these humans, huh?:rolleyes2:

    Aaron stemming up onto a block, on the way in
    [​IMG]

    Squeezing through in Middle Earth
    [​IMG]

    rock to the left, snow to the right and a crawl through tunnel ahead, down low
    [​IMG]

    Snow, above, below and to both sides
    [​IMG]

    This hole was a dead end
    [​IMG]

    The slot chocked by ice
    [​IMG]

    The key to the route going. The crawl through snow arch
    [​IMG]

    On the way back from the last rap. The top of the snow is an overhang wave and may have been what collapsed on our return trip...Tom, if that upper snow went up another 15 feet at that angle, it would essentially be our turn around spot from a few weeks back
    [​IMG]

    Aaron going down another lucky passageway crux, on the route, down 15 feet, into "Middle Earth.
    [​IMG]
    Last edited: Mar 5, 2016
    kmanz, Taylor, Alane Urban and 2 others like this.
  9. Ram

    Ram

    Messages:
    2,132
    Likes:
    3,457
    Another run thru in 2008 with Brejcha....on May 23rd!
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
  10. Ram

    Ram

    Messages:
    2,132
    Likes:
    3,457
    It had snowed so much in the early winter. I KNEW that Echo was going to be full of snow again! A rare two years in a row, with it in that shape. So I sold the idea to Jenny...Lets go up and look! Ice axes?
    Check. Thick wet suits? Check. Good judgment? A matter of opinion.

    I know a lot about what happens in Echo in the winter. Yet....I also know very little. A lot of snow will last for a long time. Into the spring, as the area is its own refrigerator. BUT what would a big flood do to all that snow? Might just take it out. BUT what would a little flood do? Erode the snow? Pass underneath in a cave like manner? Would blocks suspended collapse. Would a lake form? WHAT?? EYES GOTSTA NO!!!!

    So on a gray day, following a few days of moderate rain, we head to Weeping Rock. Ummmm, errrrrr, ahhhhhh....Echo Canyon has a pretty big waterfall dropping that 340 feet over Weeping Rock. Might not be such a good idea. Might this, might that. Dang. We are here and the temps are ideal so up the hill we head. The hill went fast and I enjoyed moving uphill easily, for a change. Jenny moves with ease always. Me occasionally.

    We get to the suit up spot and water is flowing...well....kinda fast. Well....maybe not so fast. We put on our monkey suits, me wet, her dry and head in. We see snow at the turn, going up the gully cross joint. It is 5 feet thick. Encouraging....BUT....the thing that worried most was.....are we going to be able to get up to the snow? There is a chockstone, rarely seen as it is buried in log debris almost always. Last year, we tunneled under some logs, to get up through a hole to the top of this 10 foot falls, that starts from a swimmer. It was the hardest spot on approach.

    We came around the corner and....YUP! That falls is flowing pretty good. Can't see a hole behind the water. Is the climb possible? Probably. For me? Maybe. What is certain is that it would be a face shot the whole way, starting from a swimmer. Ummmm, ehhhh, ahhhhh. We swim over closer and....the force of the water makes approaching it more than a passive project. We decide that maybe this is not the best idea today....BUT, BUT, BUT, if we get by this place, we can likely see what mysteries are above. It is too much for me today. BUT, we decide on a back up plan. A flowing stream going down from here, through some nice slot. We are dressed for success and off we go. Was it fun? Heck yeah! Strongly considered taking another lap. We even floated and swam with the trail feet away, all the way to the first rap in Lower Echo, before exiting. So success yanked from the jaws of defeat......BUT, BUT, BUT! What is up there?

    Is Echo still flowing? How did the flow impact the snow? What that I have not conceived of, is the reality, in there right NOW!!! If I were not typing this 700 miles away....You know where I would go tomorrow? Seed tossed. Be careful. Pictures now

    [​IMG]



    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
    Last edited: Mar 9, 2017
Similar Threads: Snowy Echo
Forum Title Date
Trip Reports A less snowy trip to North Wash Dec 2, 2015
Archives - Yahoo Canyons Group Pictures- A Snowy Angels Landing Feb 29, 2012
Archives - Yahoo Canyons Group Pictures- Snowy FreezeFest 12/29-30/2010 Jan 6, 2011
Archives - Yahoo Canyons Group More Snowy Zion Weekend Pictures Nov 2, 2008
Archives - Yahoo Canyons Group A Snowy Zion Weekend Pictures Nov 2, 2008
Archives - Yahoo Canyons Group TR- A Snowy Zion Weekend Nov 2, 2008