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AZ: Grand Canyon Cove Canyon - Good, Bad & the ugly

Discussion in 'Trip Reports' started by joeb, May 9, 2014.

  1. joeb

    joeb middle aged guy who lies around alot

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    Location:
    Big Island Hawaii
    Okay, so take your average old guy "rap & swim" kiddie canyoneers and stick them the big ditch via Cove Canyon and here's what you get.

    THE GOOD!
    1. Amazing canyon! Long, fun & interesting.
    As you descend the four miles down it, you get treated to a fabulous lesson in geology as each layer of rock has it own type of narrows, look and feel.

    2. Not overly technical or difficult (except for)
    Very comparable to other 3B canyons, so if your experience is mostly Zion routes like us, you won't feel like you are in something way over your head with the following important notes:
    - A lot of rappels have free hangs, practice rapping with your heavy pack hanging below you before hand as Rangers Therese Picard and Craig Thexton are a long way away (see "Pine Creek" & "upside down" for more info)
    - Since it is a naturally anchored canyon with many overhangs, the starts can be funky as there is no bolt in the "perfect" place to start your rap. All anchors were easy to spot and/or construct - no bolt kit needed.
    - Make sure to re-position your rope after each person where necessary, your rope will be subject to abrasion, my 200' got the sleeve cut though in one spot (but not the core) as we did not pay enough attention to this in the beginning.
    - INSPECT ALL ANCHOR WEBBING - came across at least two rappels where the webbing looked okay but then after rotating it around the pinch point/rock/whatever, the section with the big tear in it would appear. Make sure you are familiar with how to tie webbing for anchors.

    3. The river float - Fantastic!
    The length of Colorado to navigate from Cove Canyon to Lava Falls is quite pleasant with a few "riffles" to keep it interesting. The views are incredible and the water temp no problem at all with a wetsuit.

    4. Tom's Rental Packrafts!
    So I was looking at the canyoneering usa website to buy a 200' pull cord when I noticed Tom was renting packraft, paddle & PFD for $30/Day used (not travel days). This was the best $30 I have spent in a very long time. The intex 200 we had weighed over 4 1/2 lbs and were quite bulky - swapping them out for 15 ozs and the packed size of a water bottle. Picked them up on the way out to the canyon & dropped them off on the way home - no brainer!

    5. Todd's Book "Grand Canyoneering"
    Fabulous book for canyoneering - bad book for my marriage. I already am thinking of leaving the wife behind and doing another route in the book with the gang of idiots.

    THE BAD!
    1. Bring plenty of webbing, we almost ran out as the Ranger mentioned how all the anchors were already in place and several parties had been down it lately. So we decided to only bring 40' or so instead of Todd's recommended 80'.
    - used up quite a bit to make lines to dangle packs for the free hanging rappels
    - used up a lot more replacing webbing than expected
    - luckily we didn't have to start sacrificing our extra 100' rope but did get down to only 5' left.

    2. Route Finding on the Tuckup Trail
    Ended up hiking for 9.2 miles on the way out as the trail becomes quite indistinct with several splits and false trails. Was not smart enough to use the GPS unit until after we had taken several "scenic route" detours.

    3. Extra time for car positioning
    Decided to drop off people and gear at Tuckup trail head, go park car at Lava Fall exit - the "road" is awful at best, will take you awhile to get the car parked and then walk back to Tuckup. However, do this at the start as believe me you do not want to have to get the car after coming out of Lava Falls (or take two cars)

    THE UGLY
    The Lava Falls "hike" out
    1. This is NOT a "trail" or a "route" - it is a few cairns and spray painted arrows scattered across a nearly vertical field of loose scree and lava rock with one slide down per two steps up.
    2. Of course the warmest day of spring occurs when we are heading out - Weather Channel posted 82 degrees for the "Tuweap" forecast - at 2:30pm when we reached the car, it showed 91 degrees. Much much hotter on the "trail" where there is no shade whatsoever and black lava rock radiating heat.
    3. Easily 25% of time you will be using your hands to climb, crawl or pray - WEAR GLOVES!
    4. There are several times where you traverse over to another ridge or gulley - PAY ATTENTION to the cairns or you may end up on a dead end route and have to back track.
    5. Rafted down the morning prior to hike out - thus insuring our wetsuits, ropes, gear etc was water logged just to make those packs at least another 7 lbs heavier.
    6. This is a brutal climb out - we went through 3 liters of water/gatorade each and took 5 hours to do it and we are in pretty decent shape (for old guys). The only guy to do well was the one to do hill repeats with a heavy pack prior to this trip. Just doing standard cardio is does not prepare you for hauling yourself and your 45lb pack up and out of the ditch. People die on this trail - be prepared! no joke!



    The road out to nowhere - would not attempt after any substantial rain
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    Buying a pot from the Dutch Tourists for $10 as we screwed up on the packing list and during the drive out realized we had no pot to boil water & trying to make ramen noodles and oatmeal with cold water - not an option
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    The start of the hike out along the rim - easy to follow for the first half, then not so much.
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    The gang of idiots
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    The start of the Canyon
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    One of the first drops - the canyon is awesome right off the bat!
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    Lots of neat places in the canyon
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    A LOT of downclimbs and spotting
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    Figuring out how to kick the hanging pack over the edge and then get over the lip yourself
    IMG_0047.

    Dangling backpack - is the way to go on these raps!
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    Another great rap!
    IMG_0094.

    Filtering water - did a lot of this! IMG_0125.JPG


    At top of last rap - Todd's beta indicated you can bypass this first part by the downclimbing the ridges on the right side. Given the serious penalty points for slipping and our end of day fatigue - we decided to turn it into a two stage rappel off this tree.
    IMG_0134.

    The first stage of the final rappel
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    The second stage of the final rappel
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    Blowing up the super light rental rafts & looking like a commando - priceless!
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    Enjoying the awesome float in the canyon - too short! IMG_0183.


    The start of the slog out - still a smile to be found but not for long
    IMG_0193.

    At the end - zoom in and read the sign if you can! IMG_0198.

    A great canyon with a great group of friends - it's why we are "canyoneers"!

    Featured image for Homepage:
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    Last edited by a moderator: May 13, 2014
    Josh Case, Mike, ratagonia and 2 others like this.
  2. joeb

    joeb middle aged guy who lies around alot

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    Location:
    Big Island Hawaii
    The sign at the end (start of lava falls trail) - "ARE YOU FIT AND ADVENTUROUS - IF SO YOU FIT THE PROFILE FOR THE THREE RECENT DEATHS ON THIS TRAIL"

    Good thing we are not "fit" or we would have been in trouble. But seriously, do not do this trail in summer time - no shade whatsoever, like hiking up a blast furnace.
    Scott Chandler likes this.
  3. Jolly Green

    Jolly Green

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    Location:
    Farmington, UT
    Great report. Sounds like a fun adventure. How is the condition of the road out there? I've been told to pack a few spare tires. Any damage?
  4. joeb

    joeb middle aged guy who lies around alot

    Messages:
    102
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    90
    Location:
    Big Island Hawaii
    We took the main route that starts 7 miles west of Fredonia - the road is great for the first 45 miles or so, averaging at least 40 mph. It is the last few miles where it gets bad. We had a rented Yukon with 4 wheel drive and had no problems. You could easily get away with 2 wheel drive with decent clearance on the vehicle just being slow on a couple sections. Of course, the road was dry when we were on it, crossed several washes and sections where if it was wet, don't think you would make it unless you had a true off road rig. We packed a can of flat repair plus the car had a spare. Saw at least a dozen or so jeeps, etc out there as well so you won't be stuck for long if you really do run into car trouble.
  5. Jolly Green

    Jolly Green

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    Location:
    Farmington, UT
    Thanks for the info.
  6. Josh Case

    Josh Case Rock!

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    Thanks for mentioning that no bolts are required. The mindset of Canyoneering in Grand Canyon is that of natural anchor building. Please spread the word to NOT bolt any routes in Grand Canyon. Unless you are doing a first descent, no bolt kit should be needed. :twothumbs: NPS has a list of all locations where there are bolts, and nobody wants to find any new ones (I believe that some river parties may be behind some recent bolting rather than the canyoneering community). Great trip report, thanks for sharing!
  7. ratagonia

    ratagonia

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    Location:
    Mount Carmel, Utah
    Hi Josh -

    Where have there been new bolts added that you know of?

    Or, more specifically, could you email to Rich Rudow the information that you know and the source, so he can chat with the Park about having them removed on a timely basis. Or email me and I will pass on to Rich (I am ratagonia at gmail dot com) Thanks.

    Thanks.

    Tom
  8. Josh Case

    Josh Case Rock!

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    HI Tom-
    Rich is aware of the newer ones I was made aware of and Rich confirmed last night they had been removed. We are working the other forums to help educate the boaters on proper canyoneering etiquette in GC. I am hoping I do not find any new ones next month, but if I do I will make sure Rich knows so a plan can be made to remove them. As I know you are probably aware, but some others may not be, there are some bolts in GC that are permanent. NPS knows where these are and is OK with them remaining. We just don't want any more popping up, especially with the Management Plan coming out later this summer. No reason to warrant any more regulations, etc. I am a firm believer in education, and there just isn't as much information stream for GC as there is for Zion (many thanks to you on that too). Kind of like rope grooves aren't an issue in GC like they are in Zion and other softer-rock canyons in S. Utah.

    -Josh
    ratagonia likes this.
  9. Ted

    Ted

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    Location:
    Zion NP 8-16 to 12-16
    Good Job! Cove is a wonder. Lava Falls "Trail" is brutal. We did the exit the same day as the float, luckily it was in October so the temps were reasonable.

    Just finished the N Bass to B Hall trip....awesome! (Though I did get tossed from my raft at 110 mile!!)
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