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Fat Man's Misery West Fork - Memorial Day Weekend

Discussion in 'Trip Reports' started by VBlueV, May 29, 2019.

  1. VBlueV

    VBlueV

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    Dropped into West (near-side) Misery on the Saturday of Memorial Day Weekend. Bright blue clear skies to start the day at Checkerboard Mesa. Passed a gorgeous set of full pot holes as we hiked up Checkerboard Canyon to the sandy saddle. Then dropped into the scenic valley below and made our way to the top of the canyon.

    West Misery begins as another long set of full pot holes you can walk around in a shallow drainage. Eventually you get to the first rappel and slot section where we suited up.. not knowing how deep it was going to be around the corner.. glad we did. I was warm and comfortable in my 5mm full suit.. but some others with only 3mm said they shivered a bit.
    West Misery has a pattern of beautiful slot sections followed by more open drainages (serving as possible escapes as required for WX, etc) Within every slot, it seemed there was another cool archway. We finally get to Misery Spring.. another fantastic sight.. but it smelled like Sulphur.. so we opted to wait to filter until we got out to the Virgin.

    While West Misery was way awesome.. the stroll thru the East Fork of the Virgin (the "other" Narrows) was simply amazing! (Especially given the North Fork of the Virgin (Zion Narrows) has been closed to tourists for several weeks due to high cfs from Spring melt-off) btw.. I had been checking the flow rate for the East Fork all week.. Parunuweap was running at 75 cfs. I figured if Zion Narrows stays open to 150 cfs.. anything up to 100 cfs would be manageable for the East Fork.. and while the current was swift this day.. it didn't seem dangerous. That said, the views of the tall majestic walls reaching to the sky were glorious! Too soon, we reached the river bank on the right which marked the start of the steep exit climb. Did I say steep? =) Thanks for reading.

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    You're greeted with a nice set of full pot holes just as you fly abeam Checkerboard Mesa.

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    Soon enough you emerge from the other side of the saddle to a wide open valley as you work left to the top of Misery.

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    The top of West Misery begins as another set of sensually curvy pot holes =)

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    The first rappel and slot begin under a giant fallen tree spanned across the canyon.

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    Some skinny sections. Note to self.. turn around facing down-canyon before you get to the bottom of this rappel.

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    Umm.. you're already wet. Just get in =)

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    Me.. in one of the arch rooms =)

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    Happy faces as we exit West Misery.

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    And now.. the larger than life.. Parunuweap Narrows!

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    Amazing!

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    Too soon.. we're at the super steep climb out. Nope.. we're not standing on each others shoulders. Yikes!

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    Now for the marathon exit hike. Totally worth it! Next time.. East Misery =)

    Thanks for viewing.

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  2. ratagonia

    ratagonia

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    "Parunuweap was running at 75 cfs" ... as I remember, there is a gauge "Near Glendale" and one "Near Springdale". Currently they are showing 40 cfs at Glendale and 84 cfs near Springdale. So it is hard to say what the flow would be where Misery Canyon hits the East Fork.

    But it looks pretty reasonable where you were. Which gauge are you refering to?

    Tom
  3. VBlueV

    VBlueV

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    Tom..
    Used the link from Joe's Guide to Zion.. his "Conditions" page..
    https://www.citrusmilo.com/zionguide/conditions.cfm

    Joe's page links us to "USGS 09404900 EAST FORK VIRGIN RIVER NEAR SPRINGDALE".. Which is down-stream?
    https://waterdata.usgs.gov/nwis/uv?site_no=09404900

    Would the "USGS 09404450 EAST FORK VIRGIN RIVER NEAR GLENDALE" (Orderville) gauge be a more accurate/proximity reading.. as it's upstream?
    https://waterdata.usgs.gov/nwis/uv?site_no=09404450

    Thanks for pointing out the other gauge.
  4. VBlueV

    VBlueV

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    Tom..
    Used the link from Joe's Guide to Zion.. his "Conditions" page.

    Joe's page links us to "USGS 09404900 EAST FORK VIRGIN RIVER NEAR SPRINGDALE".. Which is down-stream?

    Would the "USGS 09404450 EAST FORK VIRGIN RIVER NEAR GLENDALE" (Orderville) gauge be a more accurate/proximity reading.. as it's upstream?

    Thanks for pointing out the other gauge.
  5. ratagonia

    ratagonia

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    I would take the average of the two. But then, what is the burliness to CFS correlation?

    At a higher water level than you show there, I think you would just hop into the water and float. Would you have wanted to deal with higher water? Or more importantly, would everyone in your party have wanted to deal with higher water...

    Tom
  6. VBlueV

    VBlueV

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    Yes. Knowing there's another gauge bracketing the target location, taking the average makes sense.. and will do.. whenever we go back to get the East Fork of Misery. Thank you.

    I would guess "burliness" to cfs would be correlated to the width of that section of canyon and possibly the topography of the riverbed (smaller cobblestones vs larger boulders).


    Not averse to floating.. as long as reasonable directional control could be maintained (obstacle avoidance and of course riverbank capture). Speed would be a factor too. I'm sure my group would require the same "control". On a rapids float, since we'd have rope, would you recommend for the team to tie-in every few meters (akin to crevasse field crossings).. in case the first person or two missed the riverbank? Or is there too much of a tangle risk?
    Last edited: May 30, 2019
  7. ratagonia

    ratagonia

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    Really, I am asking, once you take the average of the two gauges, what do you think that number means? What number is "cancel the trip too high"? What number is "no one under 100 lbs" too high? What number is "disappointingly low"?

    I don't have an answer... and I am wondering if anyone does.

    Tom
  8. VBlueV

    VBlueV

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    During mission planning.. (in my mind) I would've called it at 150 cfs. Rationale: It was our first time through and unfamiliar with the actual conditions in the canyon.. and if the NPS set that limit for the North Fork of the Virgin.. the East Fork should be similar. Yes/no?

    You bring up a good point on body weight. The NPS probably set the limit for the lowest common denominator.. a sub-100 lbs person/4th grader (though I've seen younger than that let loose in the Narrows) who could more easily be swept away if they didn't get their feet planted.

    We did joke with our lightest teammate not to get taken by the current. I suppose if it was much stronger.. we could've weighed her down with the rope-bags and the pack of our heaviest person =) Thanks for the thought process.
  9. ratagonia

    ratagonia

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    The East Fork is considerably narrower than the North Fork, even between Misery and the Powell Plaque. I think it would be about 3:2. I have been in the Narrows from Mystery down at about 170 cfs, and it was possible to stand, but not to move. A bit challenging to control location when you were floating downstream. So I think 100 cfs would be an appropriate limit for the East Fork.

    But hard to say without collecting some in-situ data.

    Tom
    Last edited: Jun 5, 2019
  10. Dan Ransom

    Dan Ransom Staff Member

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    I'd put the limit myself at 75 cfs on in the gnarliest section (where the sieve is). By 125cfs it starts to get really dangerous, especially around the sieve. It is way narrower than the North Fork. I probably wouldn't hike it with anything more than 50, personally. For whatever it's worth. (I prefer the gage at Springdale, btw. Not sure much water is coming in below labyrinth but before the North Fork).
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  11. RossK

    RossK

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    Nice report & pics @VBlueV
    thought it a good place to put an invite for partners for East Fork I was about to post + some questions I had about reaching Labyrinth Falls. See your group is keen to do E. Fork if by any chance you're interested in Oct when cooler (probably 15th). I have 2 experienced people interested (I'm not experienced but not a beginner, I've done W. Fork), but they may be doing another canyon with me & be unable to do both.

    Wondered if anyone could help with some Fat Man’s exit to Labyrinth Falls info, which I had thought was just a hike through water up to Labyrinth where you have to stop & turn round. But the zionnational-Park website description (not NPS) says you need to take a 50 ft rope just to REACH the falls (this is not to go down them, which is forbidden), other sites say take webbing, & the park service spoke about “barrier falls” stopping you before Labyrinth.

    Also how hairy is it for non-climbers to hike/scramble DOWN & enter Parunaweap via the cliff that is used as the normal exit route - to save time doing Fat Mans’ tech forks in Oct.

    (Thinking of doing either that hike in/out, or east Fork in, to see the best lowest part of the Barracks & Falls).
    Ps is the rainfall catchment area to check Bryce in the 24 previous hours?
  12. RossK

    RossK

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    ps just seen some answers to the info questions on my similar Facebook post. Thanks, those who replied there, who also go on this site.
  13. ratagonia

    ratagonia

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    Here is Lab Falls from the bottom. Almost impossible to get a shot of it because it is tucked behind a fin. Moving up and left from the position, the spray from the falls was too much, WAY too much, to take pictures. So if you are looking to take shots of Lab Falls, good luck.

    The best section of The Barracks, aka the East Fork, is the section between Fat Man's and the Powell exit. And maybe a bit below that.

    Tom

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  14. ratagonia

    ratagonia

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    "Ps is the rainfall catchment area to check Bryce in the 24 previous hours?"

    What does this mean? Bryce canyon is in the Paria River basin. If you want a weather report on the river at Fat Man's, you could look at the gauge for East Fork near Glendale, and look at the weather in Orderville or Glendale.
  15. Dave Melton

    Dave Melton

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    NEVER be tied to a rope in moving water unless you are wearing a Rescue PFD with a quick release (and the training to use it). You risk being held under water by the force of the current and being unable to free yourself from the rope.
  16. ratagonia

    ratagonia

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    This would certainly make it possible for all of you to drown together, if that is your goal.

    Instead, you could send the strongest person first with a rope to throw to others if needed. But the landing zone on this is HUUUUUUGE!

    Tom
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  17. Scott Patterson

    Scott Patterson

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    What/where is the MIA in East Fork?
  18. ratagonia

    ratagonia

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    Who said that? I never said that! I don't care that you have the video tape, I never said that. Fake News Fake News!!!

    (mixed threads. Ross also has queries going about Kolob.)

    I stand by saying that I never said what I actually said (twice)!!!

    Tom
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  19. Scott Patterson

    Scott Patterson

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    I was just wondering what you meant.

    I assume the best part of Parunaweap is between Misery and to just below the falls?
  20. VBlueV

    VBlueV

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    Thanks Ross. I saw you've done the West Fork.. but it might have been a while.
    Currently, the scramble up (down) the Misery Exit route is on rough jagged (sometimes loose) rock. Three-point holds are a must.. and with your fourth-point you're checking to make sure it's solid before you fully weight it. Also, knee and elbow pads are nice to have (if your non-tech friends want to keep most their skin). That said, there are only three or so short (10 foot) rock sections in the 60° incline range.. the rest of the route at a 45° angle on a dirt use-trail with a couple broad more level ledges in-between as a respite. A hand-line off meat or a tree would be helpful and I think facing into the hill to down-climb would be better. But note, the price of a slip is high.. at least a rocky slide of 10 feet or more. Have fun be safe.
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