Heaps Report - May 21-22, 2016 Hello all. As a member of the group of 3 that recently went down Heaps, I felt like I should give some more insight on the situation. I appreciate the constructive feedback, but also know it’s easy to be a “monday morning quarterback” and jump to conclusions without the full story. I am NOT going to deny that the last rappel turned into a “near miss” for one of our members, the pics clearly show that’s indisputable. But let’s start at the beginning. A party of 4 head to Zion NP for Heaps and Keyhole. 1 member has to drop out due to an injury, so he agrees to bring our 300’er to Emerald Pools (a method done by numerous other groups). ⅔ of our party studied and researched the beta from multiple sources and brought 2 of those sources along for reference, if needed. We packed emergency gear (bivy, water filter, lights, food, etc), maps/beta, plenty of anchor gear, rope, 6mm pull cord, etc. Our 4th member had full knowledge of what we were carrying. We each had drysuits (2 rented in Springdale and one borrowed). We all have self rescue training and experience, have considerable outdoor experience, and have very good canyoneering experience. I’m not going to call us expert canyoneers, but at least 2 of us have many under our belt. We are more all-around outdoor enthusiasts with significant technical experience and knowledge and a good safety sense. We departed at 4am from Lava Point. We made good time getting to the first set of narrows. However shortly into it 2 drysuits began to leak, thought at this time it did not appear bad. Then the borrowed drysuit began taking in water. “D” had the leaking borrowed drysuit and started becoming cold from taking in water. I had the leaking rental drysuit, but it was not nearly as bad as “D’s”. When we reached the Crossroads we discussed our current situation and decided that staying there for the night was the best decision. We had plenty of food and water and sheltered ourselves for the night. (We even tried to climb up the side of the hill to get cell service to tell our friend what we were doing, but to no avail. Though we didn’t expect much from that, but worth a shot.) The next morning we had dry clothes and felt better. We tried to patch up the badly leaking drysuit used by “D”. We met a party of 5 and spoke to them about our situation. We figured since a group was there, we would ask for help at the end (only if we couldn’t reach our friend, since we were now overdue). They agreed and we appreciated the gesture. We still assumed we would be able to reach our friend with either cell phones or the radios we brought, as the end does open up to the lodge area (meaning cell service and radio capabilities). Yes, we were getting tired, but we were managing the second day well, considering “D” was getting really cold and tired from the drysuit malfunction. We reached the end and found that the party of 5 was still there and waited to check on us. Again, that was very considerate of them and appreciated. It was then learned that our friend with the 300’er had it pulled up the night before by a group who was coming out late. (This was done as a precautionary measure, as he didn’t know what we were doing or when we were coming out.) The last rappel. “D” was cold and tired. Our thought was to have him get down first. He made it down rap 23 and 24 just fine. I followed and met him on rap 25. I clipped his pack to his harness and stated he should dangle it below him. (I take responsibility for not insisting this.) He had rappelled a 270’er with a much lighter pack on, but he didn’t think about his heavier pack this time around. The combination of being cold, tired, and not hanging his pack resulted in the near miss. I am not going to deny that he/we were lucky there. And the fact the other group was there to help out at the bottom. It was a hard lesson learned. Myself and the last followed behind. Everyone made it home safely. Some key points I would like to bring up. We were a group with experience heading into a known tough canyon. We prepared just as well as we probably could have, aside from taking someone trustworthy with us who had been through Heaps. I don’t feel that would have helped in this situation. Accidents happen, the key is to be prepared for them and mitigate any issues resulting from it. Our drysuit malfunctions were the accident and felt like we were prepared and mitigated it as well as we could have. Yes, the borrowed drysuit could’ve been checked before the trip, but it’s also easy to trust a friend when they say it is in good working condition. The rappel by “D” was a mistake, no denying that. I should have insisted he take his pack off, rather than advise him to. That was a lucky “near miss” and our group appreciates the significance of it. There are numerous reports out there where people have stashed their rope or had a friend bring it up to the pools. Our friend was very trustworthy and we had phones and radios ready to call for him, if he wasn’t already down there. This was not an issue. The other group’s willingness to assist with their rope is appreciated. I want to be clear that we were confident we would have access to our own rope, but thought it wouldn’t hurt to talk to the other group “just in case”. We used our own rope to rappel at the end. If we didn’t have a 300’ rope, we did have the means to get down. As Craig K. mentioned in the previous thread (Facebook), I could have used the 6mm doubled off the 200’er (I’m the lightest). And yes, we all have knot passing experience and gear. Not ideal, but an option. I tend to use a Pirana more often as I am very light and have extensive experience on it. I am very comfortable on it. I am not going to speak for the others here. One used an ATS, as he is comfortable with that. “D” felt comfortable with the Pirana, but it’s up to him to decide what’s best for him. I have seen issues with the Pirana when people with much more weight use them. As far as gear opinions, as long as the equipment is built for said activity and you are fully trained on it, then it really comes down to personal choice. I agree that certain pieces of equipment shouldn’t crossover from rock climbing to canyoneering (ie, ATC, etc). If we are going to be on the topic of safety, then there were some anchors in this canyon that looked very suspect to us. Not only the rusted piton halfway pushed in, but the poor webbing that was continuously used. We came across a piece of webbing on the first day that literally had a slice in it. It had been used quite a bit too. I should have taken a pic of it after, but this was during the leaking drysuit saga. There were numerous anchors that had weathered, frayed, discolored webbing and even a cheap aluminum ring that was more than half worn through!. We replaced the musts, but we were blown away by what some had continued to use. Finally, SAR was called by our friend because we were overdue. When our friend was able to answer all the coordinator’s questions (and then some), the coordinator felt confident in our preparedness and assumed we had probably bivied, so waited until the next day to see if we came out. No major operation had been started. To sum up, our group had a plan in place based off previous trip reports. The plan was followed and we made it out. We had emergency plans in place as well. We were fully prepared for an emergency and it happened (drysuit malfunction). Also, we would have been able to improvise to get down the 300’ wall in an emergency, with the gear we had. Not ideal, but I would have been comfortable doing so if it came to that. We fully understand there was a mistake made by one group member at the end and we appreciate the significance of it. But even the most experienced can make a mistake, especially after dealing with the effects of a leaking drysuit in a tough canyon. The important thing is that he walked away safely and it can now be used as a reminder to others too. However, let’s not use it in a negative manner. I hope this is helpful and mitigates some of the name calling and assumptions that tend to come with incomplete information and internet trolling. If you have any questions regarding this trip, I would be more than happy to answer them. I enjoy canyoneering and plan to keep doing it and I know the others plan to as well. I appreciate the outdoor world being a community and hope it continues to be that, looking out for each other, constructively discussing incidents like this, and being mentors to others. Thank you for listening. Christian.