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A Strange Day in the Subway

Discussion in 'Trip Reports' started by deathtointernet, Sep 18, 2018.

  1. deathtointernet

    deathtointernet

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    Couldn't let a whole year go by without a trip through the Subway, so I (easily, for those of you struggling with the permit system, sorry folks) grabbed some last minute permits and set off for a stroll through the canyon. Since my mom had never been down Russell Gulch before (and I had only ever soloed it a couple of times), I invited her to join me and take that approach. Little did I know how weird it was going to get.

    First off, we met a solo canyoneer at the drop into Russell Gulch. He had rigged a rope to rappel in instead of just walking around to get down into the canyon... okay, whatever, right? Started talking about how he used to do this canyon back in the day with his wife, who he divorced and all, sure, good to know. He offered to team up with us, but that isn't really my style, so off we went. When we got to the first rappel in Russell, we suited up before a little pool of water, knowing that a much bigger pool awaited us below. He caught up as we rigged the rappel, and trying to be courteous, I offered to let him use my rope to pass by, since I figured a solo canyoneer would be faster. He immediately got somewhat combative, chiding me for rushing him, saying that he didn't move as fast as he used to and would get there at his own time. Okayyyy. He wanted to know how we climbed around the small pool of water, and when we told him we went through it, and it didn't matter since the water below was totally unavoidable, he wasn't happy. He hadn't planned on getting in any water, and didn't think the Subway had any swims, and least, not when he had done it. Then he decided that maybe this was his first time down Russell and he wasn't actually going to go down Subway. He had camping gear and said maybe he'd just spend the night camping down there instead. Considering the illegality of that and all, it was becoming obvious he didn't have any permit for the canyons. At this point I very much wanted to be down the canyon away from him, so I rappelled down to the ledge halfway down the rappel. Did I mention there was a really cool and somewhat disturbing log perched precariously over the drop?

    P1700022.JPG

    Up above this character was definitely confused by the single line rappel I had set up and was confusing the heck out of my mom, trying to get her to change her rappelling setup. Finally she ignored him and rappelled down safely. She was still concerned for him however and asked if he would be okaying in the canyon alone. Again he got edgy, stating that he was a member of the American Alpine Club and very experienced and didn't need anything from us. And so down canyon we went. Later we would meet several other groups that had encountered him along the way. To one group he said that he lived in Zion itself. The odd encounter would seem to color the rest of the day.

    We almost lost a rope in a pool in the second rappel, a first for me really, but had no trouble completing the rest of the canyon. At the bottom of the last rappel in Russell, we stopped for lunch, but I had to stop a group of canyoneers that were about to rappel down a crack system down to us. Looking closer, I could see that someone had rigged up several poor looking anchors down the drop (I mean, who is going to trust the anchor-building skills of someone who can't follow the Subway trail???). The drop, I believe, is the end of the last wash you cross on the normal entry route, and people are walking down it instead of following the trail out, and when they find anchors, down they go, totally missing the walk down. I've seen a couple pictures people have recently posted rappelling this drop. If anyone happens to be doing the normal Subway route, perhaps it would be a great idea to visit this drop and remove the anchors at the top that are leading people down this, before someone messes it up and kills themselves for absolutely no reason.

    P1700051.JPG

    Down in the Subway, we had ourselves a pleasant little time. Right up until we reached the final rappel and ran into this.

    P1700116.JPG

    Apparently every single group in the Subway arrived at the same time. An enormous group of tourists was mucking things up. They had only a few harnesses in between them. and little to no experience rappelling. Several of their group could barely move once on rope. At first they would not allow anyone to pass them, so folks started leaping across the falls to use the anchor on the other side. Eventually the large group was convinced to let some folks pass by. Wait time was over an hour. And the best part... a guy from another group ahead of them offered to help them out and belay from below... a good thing since many of the group liked to take their hands off the rope. And that guy helping them out was none other than one of the guys I bailed out of Spry a couple of years ago. He looked up at me and said "hey, I know you! Spry, a couple of years ago, we were totally unprepared and you saved our asses!" Small, small world. It was good to see that now he had an opportunity to help some folks out.

    This was my 18th time through the Subway, and I might need a little while before I'm ready to hit it again. What a day.

    Oh, and @ratagonia the large group said there really should be more anchors available on that ledge. Obviously they meant it as the park should install some more, not knowing that it's your anchor there. So I'll pass their request on to you if you want to get cracking on it. :D
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  2. ratagonia

    ratagonia

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    No Meat anchors???
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  3. Mountaineer

    Mountaineer Is that an X slot?

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    I haven't had the chance to do the subway yet. The last pic has given me pause for adjusted planning. Thanks for the "heads up".
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  4. Scott Byington

    Scott Byington

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    Looks like a great opportunity to photo bomb all those pics.
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  5. Tirrus

    Tirrus Rope rider.

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    It’s like playing where’s Waldo looking for the (2?) helmets in that crowd.
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  6. Sutitan

    Sutitan

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    Possibly 3 helmets? Far far left, on rappel (other side), and in the water

    I'm seeing at least 4 ball caps and 1 beanie (bright orange). At least they'll look cool for the 'gram.
  7. Tirrus

    Tirrus Rope rider.

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    Rule #1: Look good
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  8. deathtointernet

    deathtointernet

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    I was totally thinking of it. I wasn't honestly feeling super helpful, and by the time I started seriously considering it almost everyone that seemed competent had jumped across to the other side. I didn't think I'd have much luck convinced the remaining members of the (fairly terrified) large group to trust a meat anchor.
  9. deathtointernet

    deathtointernet

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    I know I felt out of place.
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  10. Cameron

    Cameron Long Tall Texan by birth

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  11. Jman

    Jman

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    I did the Subway via Standard route the same day as you apparently. Small world.

    We had a permit for 4 and ran into 4 large groups on the approach.

    The people in the red shirts in your picture were a Latino group that I took a picture of by the red rock cascades (where the awesome “fern shower” is located too). So seeing them at that spot in the Subway tells me you were most likely 30-60 minutes behind me.

    We first passed the “bros” group of 6, and then an Asian group of 12, and then a mixed-age family group of 12 at the first pothole, a young family (but very well prepared) of 4 and another large group of 8 or 10 at the last rap.

    I thought about providing a meat rap for the group but opted not to due to time constraints later that day. So where the old log is, there is a ledge (can be sketchy to some) that you can cross without jumping. One of our guys did that while the rest of jumped and handlined the old anchors. We did all of that for the 4 of us in literally 5 minutes. Typically we do shallow-jumps into the potholes from the anchor spot up high but since everyone was there watching us we opted not to since we didn’t want to lead by bad examples (although we did jump the gap...).

    But to be honest, it wasn’t that bad from other days I have seen it. This descent was number 27 for me.

    And I discovered a social thing that people do when doing the subway. When groups meet other groups in the subway they typically gather up and stick together. So that group of 4 and that group of 8 is now 12 doing that last rap together...

    A word to the wise is to NOT do this - Bunch up. When we saw those other groups, I told my group a strategy on how to pass them quickly and we did it and worked like clockwork. It involved efficient and coordinated team-work from everyone.

    1) At the rock obstacle where everyone down-climbs/raps, you can actually sneak through a hole in the middle of those rocks and wade through the water very quickly. We moved all 4 past that obstacle in the time it took one to downclimb the rock. If you don’t want to do that, you can take the wall-downclimb option instead.

    2) We were originally planning to have lunch at a particular spot in the subway where there are flat spots and a bunch of sun, but that got changed due to another group suiting up in wetsuits there. We just ate 45mins later after the tech section. Not a big deal.

    3) we saw another group headed to keyhole falls right before us and so I pullled out the rope while walking and walked up to the group fast and asked if it was okay to pass them, and then basically slid down the rope into the water. All 4 down probably in 3-4mins. We all stabilized the person while they were sliding down the rope. Easy.

    4) at the last rap, all but one jumped the gap and did a handline down the rope. All 4 literally down in 5 mins while 1 person was still attaching to the rope and rapppeling down.

    There’s a few more things but the key-word is not to bunch up. That will mitigate these 20people gangups at certain chokepoints along the path.


    And sure, another anchor on that north side would speed things up a bit. Especially as the subway will ALWAYS be popular and crowded. It’s never going to become not crowded.


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
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  12. deathtointernet

    deathtointernet

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    How the heck am I ever going to catch up to you if you go whenever I do???
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  13. Tom Collins

    Tom Collins

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    You know there are other canyons out there.:tongue:
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  14. deathtointernet

    deathtointernet

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    And thank god for that!
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  15. Jman

    Jman

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    Well...3x year will get you there quickly :)

    You mentioned how you will reconsider doing the subway due to the crowds, and I was thinking for me, the reason why I do it so often is because I have the most fun in this easily accessible canyon.

    Clean flowing water, numerous places to jump and swim in, underwater tunnel/arch to swim through, many cascades and waterfalls, the heat of Zion to warm you up, the downclimbs at the raps , and all of the waterslides, the Dino tracks, and of course a good leg exercise. And the single guy that I am currently, have even gotten two numbers for two cool girls which I dated for a few months afterwards. (Tinder-Subway??)

    But come to think of it, I would probably love canyoning in all of those euro canyons too.

    Sure, I like North Wash and Escalante like every one else, but something about perennial water filled slots is just..awesome.



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  16. Kuenn

    Kuenn

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    Love that first picture! Now that's what I call extending the rappel anchor.

    And the picture at the last rappel. Wow. Was it family reunion weekend in Zion?
  17. Canyonero

    Canyonero

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    I'm just going to say it.

    The appeal of this canyon is completely lost on me. Long approach. Very short canyon. Long uphill exit. Nearly every drop easily downclimbable. Big crowds. Difficult, expensive permit system. Time-consuming shuttle required. Just enough water to force you to carry gear for it. Just enough ropework to force you to carry gear for it. And the supposedly unique feature of the place exists in at least half a dozen other places I've been to. The subway is the most overrated canyon I know of. It has to be a really crappy canyon for me to wish I was doing the Subway instead. It might be my least favorite Zion canyon. Maybe it's better with Das Boot or in the Winter or something, but after 4 times in there, I'm still not a fan. It's a hike worth doing once, but 27 times? 3 times a year? I don't get it. Sorry.
  18. Jman

    Jman

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    Personally, that’s a good thing! One less person in it or applying for permits.

    That’s perfectly fine that some people (or maybe a lot of people?) think it’s overrated too. And I completely agree that the Subway may be too much for some people to handle.

    And there’s no practical sense in defending one’s opinion, right? You like what you like (and who, for that matter) and for various reasons.



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