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Friendly canyons in Zion - Spring break

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by Yaron, Mar 4, 2018.

  1. Yaron

    Yaron

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    Hi community
    We are coming over with the kids (11 and 17) to Zion Park end of March and looking to do 1 day of canyoning and possibly another afternoon. We are quite experienced canyoneers (also the kids) but the kids are more familiar with real dry canyons.
    Reading Tom's book (Zion Canyoneering) I found few alternatives that look interesting - Pine Creek, Key hole and maybe Behunin. So.. have few questions:
    1. Any other suggestions? recommendations? Something I missed in the book?
    2. Updates on the current conditions of those canyons? water level, flow, anchors etc..
    3. Should we bring wetsuites with us when going to those canyons? are we expecting any swims? we are used to hot weather here :)
    4. Behunin - Is it doable with the 11 years old?
    5. Any recommendation on some sweet and short canyon for a fun afternoon?
    Thanks in advance and obviously if someone is there 03/25-29 and wish to join the fun he/she is more than welcome!
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  2. Scott Patterson

    Scott Patterson

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    Pine Creek or Keyhole would require very thick wetsuits or drysuits in March.

    That's question is a red flag. Keyhole and Pine Creek often require wetsuits in the middle of summer.

    You said you had Tom's book. Did you read it?

    Keyhole: Wetsuits recommended even in summer.
    Pine Creek: Highly variable. Wetsuits generally required. "Generally" really only applies for summer. They would always be required in March.

    It depends on the 11 year old. Some 11 year olds can any canyon in Zion. Other 11 year olds might not be able to do any.
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  3. CRNPRES

    CRNPRES

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    Read Tom's book some more or visit his website. There are dry/drier options in Zion for March. I would stay away from Pine Creek in March with 11 yr unless you have a drysuit for them.

    This question comes up on here a lot for winter options for Zion, search forum and you will probably find a list.
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  4. ratagonia

    ratagonia

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    Location:
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    March is winter in Zion.

    First rule of winter canyoneering: only do canyons that you have done in more gentle conditions.

    First rule of canyoneering with kids: only do canyons that you have already done.

    First rule of canyoneering with kids in winter: Double that.
  5. Rapterman

    Rapterman

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    We once met a young couple with their three kids at the bottom of the last rap in Pine Creek.
    They had no wet suits or dry bags, having cruised the canyon in dry conditions the year before.
    All were hypothermic and had nearly drowned (Canyon was tip top full of cold water).
    In June.
  6. ratagonia

    ratagonia

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    We once did Pine creek in winter (not sure what month) and saved a life.

    At the first rappel, there was a Dad trying to coax his 8 year old kid on the start of the first rappel. Kid had a 2-sizes too large wetsuit. Dad had a Farmer John suit and was using a 200' climbing rope. No helmets, of course. (It was dry to this point).

    We show up with full wetsuits, lots of gear, etc. We set up a meat anchor and rappelled past them (except me). By then, the kid was an adamant NO, and dad and kid retreated with a little help. The canyon had a lot of swimming that day, as one might expect.

    Tom
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  7. Canyonero

    Canyonero

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    I'm having a very hard time reconciling these two statements. I would submit that by virtue of even asking these questions, you have no business in Pine Creek in March, much less calling yourself an experienced canyoneer.

    I could be wrong. Perhaps you've somehow done dozens of Southern Utah canyons without ever venturing into Zion or have done wet canyons in cold conditions but seem unable to comprehend what Tom wrote in his book about those canyons, but it seems unlikely. More likely is that you've done a dozen dry canyons in summer and the kids have done three.

    Don't get me wrong. I'm not trying to be mean, just helpful. I got into trouble in Pine Creek on my first real canyoneering trip in late November. Luckily, it was in exceedingly dry condition and I survived. I was not an experienced canyoneer at that time, but I developed a whole lot of respect for canyons and their ability to kill you that morning.
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  8. ratagonia

    ratagonia

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    As I remember, Yaron is a very experienced canyoneer from Israel.

    Tom
  9. Canyonero

    Canyonero

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    Do you think Israeli experience equals Colorado Plateau canyoneering? I suspect being good at one does not equal being good at the other. However, that does explain why he would be experienced without knowing Zion well. It might also explain his difficulty reading the guidebook.
  10. ratagonia

    ratagonia

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    Allow me answer to your questions more directly -

    1. There are very few canyons in Zion that do not require a wetsuit in March. Pine Creek and Keyhole require a wetsuit. Behunin has one pool which can sometimes be avoided, or one person can get wet and set up a guided rappel off body weight for the rest...
    2. I like Spry in the spring, but with wetsuits. The two best places in the canyon are generally swims.
    3. Birch Hollow is good in spring as it does not hold swimming spots. One waist deep wade is possible. CAN be very muddy. The road to get to it can be impassable.
    4. March and April are often the wettest months in Zion, so it is hard to predict conditions until the day before.
    5. You can rent wetsuits and/or Drysuits at Zion Adventure Company or Zion Guru in Springdale.
    6. Behunin seems like a long day for an 11 year old. Behunin is characterized by long rappels. If the kid is good with 50m rappels, and an all-day canyon, then yes. No particular problems for a kid. (I would do Spry over Behunin, partly because it is 2 hours shorter.)
    7. Lower Frigerator is a fine 'canyon' for a short afternoon. It, too, is mostly long rappels (to 55 meters), but also has a fun downclimb. Short approach, short exit.
    8. Birch Hollow does not require a permit, but all the other ones mentioned do.

    Tom
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  11. ratagonia

    ratagonia

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    Well... yes. The canyons in Jordan appear to be much like Zion in summer. Their winter is not as cold as our winter.

    Zion canyons are not like the rest of the Colorado Plateau.

    My Zion Guidebook is written largely from the viewpoint of a summer canyoneer.

    Tom
  12. Yaron

    Yaron

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    Many thanks Tom for the detailed and serious answer and for recognizing who I am and my experience.
    I will take all your comments, warning and recommendations into consideration and will plan accordingly. Hopefully weather will be in our favor :)

    I also believe point #3 in my original post was really badly phrased. What I was actually trying to understand is wether we should bring wet or dry suites and are we expecting just pools or also real flow / white water. I assume this is what created the confusion that made some guys here jump to conclusion about our experience.
    Rest assure that we have done various class 4B/CIII canyons around the world and the kids are familiar and experienced with very high rappels and demanding canyons. We are aware to the fact that it is our first run in Zion (and it is winter) so we specifically looking to do canyons that are below our normal technical capabilities
    38747472020_c6e5d4a9d9_z.
    Last edited: Mar 5, 2018
  13. Canyonero

    Canyonero

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    For sure I jumped to a conclusion and my apologies for doing so. Enjoy your trip. I think some of the better cold weather classics in Zion include: Spry, Behunin, and Mystery. Keyhole is reasonable by either moving very fast with a light wet suit or wearing full on cold water gear (thick wetsuit or dry suit). I wouldn't go into Pine Creek in March in anything less than 5 mm of Neoprene.

    Don't expect flow in Zion. If it is flowing, you don't want to be in there. The flow is usually either non-existent or flash flooding, Kolob excepted. Although I did Keyhole once with some very mild flow in December. Only one person got really hypothermic. :)
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  14. ratagonia

    ratagonia

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    Yes. Mystery is also good in somewhat winter conditions, though the approach faces north and can hold snow. I think Yaron is more looking for kinda-early-summer condition canyons, as we have noted, and Mystery does not really fit in that category.

    Tom
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  15. Yellow Dart

    Yellow Dart It's only hubris if I fail.

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    Location:
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    Come the end of March, depending on snow conditions up the KTR (and thereby the slickrock approach), Subway can be feasible as well.

    Am local, so let me know if you need a shuttle drop off at Wildcat.
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  16. Yaron

    Yaron

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    Thanks Canyonero, Tom and Yellow Dart (great picture :))!
    I now have a much better understanding and idea of what we will hopefully do (if the weather permits). I admit it is completely different than where I started and your inputs were valuable.
    Yaron
  17. Scott Patterson

    Scott Patterson

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    If so, maybe North Wash or the Roost might be better destinations.
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