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Imlay "R" rating

Discussion in 'Utah' started by Alex Temus, Oct 23, 2018.

  1. Alex Temus

    Alex Temus

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    I did Imlay a few weeks back, had a good time, but I keep seeing that it's rated "4B IV R" which mostly makes sense, except for the "R" rating.

    What about Imlay justifies a "Risky" rating? Is there something that is only risky with higher or lower water levels, that I didn't experience? Did I miss something? Did I just naively glance over some danger which, if I wasn't careful, would've killed/seriously injured me?

    Being completely honest, I felt perfectly safe the entire time we were going through. I don't recall any required high stemming with the possibility of a bad fall, I don't recall any big jumps that could go south...

    Some clarification would be much appreciated. Thanks!
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  2. Rapterman

    Rapterman

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    Hi Alex
    Full Imlay or Sneak?
    Water levels high or low?
    Trash compactor stable or not-so-much?
    Anchors/webbing fresh or wrecked (late or early season)?
    Pot holes filled with sand or bottomless?
    Water temps friendly or frigid?
    Strong group or weak?
    Imlay veterans or noobs?
    SRT with multiple working ropes or DRT with just two ropes?
    Bagging or coiling?
    LUCKY?
    :D
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  3. Jared Robertson

    Jared Robertson

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    Full documentation for R Risky:

    R One or more extraordinary risk factors exist that could complicate the descent. Solid technical skills and sound judgment critical. Not recommended for beginners.

    NOTE: The presence of a risk/seriousness rating suggests that the canyon will involve higher than average risk. The absence or a risk/seriousness rating does not suggest that there will be no risk. All canyoneering involves risk.
    Risk factors include number and frequency of rappels, length of rappels (single- or double-rope) and exposure, anchor availability, anchor quality, route finding, obstacles, problem-solving, terrain encountered between technical sections, flash flood potential, availability of exits and high ground, water temperature, prolonged immersion, and difficulty of evacuation or rescue. Specific factors should be addressed in the route description.

    After reading through the documentation the risk factors I would say contribute to its R rating would be
    • number and frequency of rappels
    • obstacles
    • problem-solving
    • flash flood potential
    • availability of exits and high ground
    • water temperature
    • prolonged immersion
    Specifically there are the huge number of rappels, the trash compactor, prolonged exposure to cold water, long approach hike, and high flash flood potential. While there may be one or two of these other risks in non-R canyons, it's still a lot of risk one takes when entering this canyon.

    Lower water levels implies more keeper potholes, more difficult potholes, longer time in cold water, longer time in the canyon. All of this means greater risk.
    If you did it full or mostly full then yes, you missed out on some of the risk and some of the challenge. Go again and again and you'll catch it in different conditions each time. And invite me :D

    Yes. Well, maybe not naively. You probably forgot that you are a badass for making it through the canyon safely and aren't thinking about how much work you put into preparing for and mitigating those risks. I put a ton of preparation into my first descent of Imlay and I assume you did, too.

    My observations have been that most R and X canyons are so rated for unavoidable risk associated with exposure and falling. But there are many other risks that we often don't think about that are always there ready to catch us unprepared.
    I'm glad you felt safe the entire time - canyons are a pretty miserable place to be otherwise. Congrats on descending Imlay! It's a big one!
  4. Ryan R

    Ryan R

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    In my mind, the biggest contributing factor to the 'R' rating is the keeper potholes that show up mainly with low water. This combined with prolonged exposure to the cold. I do agree though, the R rating is quite soft. Personally I wouldn't even call it PG-13.... but that's just me
  5. Canyonero

    Canyonero

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    I've only done it once, but the only things I can think of that could possibly justify an R rating were two downclimbs over logpiles and the extended exposure to flash flood risk in the lower half. I agree that R is usually used to refer to high stemming/potential falls like it is in Rock Climbing. I wouldn't attach an R to Imlay.
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  6. Bootboy

    Bootboy Atwood Gear

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    The R ratings given to canyons generally fall into one of two categories. Exposure and special technical difficulties.

    The R in Imlay is for special technical difficulties, specifically potholes.

    You may say that that is that the “4” in 4BIV-R. But Imlay certainly warrants special consideration when the water is low. It can be a beast.

    Rapterman’s point about the trash compactor/log soup section is relevant as well. It can pose a significant objective hazard.
    Last edited: Oct 24, 2018
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  7. Scott Patterson

    Scott Patterson

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    It's R because of the keeper potholes. When the potholes are low, the canyon is much more difficult and has a higher risk factor.

    An R rating doesn't mean conditions will always be difficult, but it can mean that the canyon is potentially difficult in certain conditions. Choprock is another example.
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  8. ratagonia

    ratagonia

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    The R rating is archaic.

    Back in the day, Imlay was a really difficult canyon. We were not familiar with keeper potholes, and they were scary, WAY WAY scary... Thus, the existence of keeper potholes in a canyon gave it an automatic "R" rating.

    Keeper potholes are now a common and well-understood feature of canyons in the region. The "4" rating essentially now covers keeper potholes.

    Times have changed. Imlay is now in the fun-canyon category, with a bit of a serious edge to it. It no longer deserves an "R" rating. There is nothing especially difficult, scary or hazardous about Imlay, any more. Certainly grading on the curve of Zion Canyons, it is on the difficult end of the spectrum. But across the extent of canyons regularly done in the USA, it is moderately difficult, and the risk is entirely manageable.

    YMMV.

    Tom
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  9. Tom Collins

    Tom Collins

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    I would say only because the worst of the potholes in Imlay have hook holes, if those ever blow out an unsuspecting group could be in serious trouble. With the right sand and water levels those potholes could cause serious trouble if you can't hook.
  10. Canyonero

    Canyonero

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    Yes, I would. :)

    I think 4 covers difficult anchors, downclimbs, potholes, and stemming. Once that stemming/downclimb gets high enough that a fall would likely cause serious injury, add an R. Once it gets high enough that a fall would likely cause death, add an X. It doesn't seem that complicated. PG/R/X ratings, adopted from the climbing world, are traditionally used to denote the danger of falling while climbing. We have no equivalent system to rate the difficulty of potholes. One keeper, it gets a 4. Twenty five difficult keepers including a 35 foot deep one requiring a 65 foot sandbag toss, it still gets a 4.
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  11. Canyonero

    Canyonero

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    Now you've been in there more than me, but are there any potholes that at any water level can't be overcome with traditional ghosting pothole techniques such that you MUST hook? My understanding was you could throw/boost/climb all of them but admittedly I've only been in there in full condition.
  12. Tom Collins

    Tom Collins

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    I don't think any of the potholes couldn't be escaped via traditional pothole techniques, no matter what the sand and water levels conspired to bring, I just meant that with the right sand and water levels they could become significantly more difficult to escape via those techniques. I would say that a good portion of the people doing Imlay these days aren't coming prepared for the hook holes not to be there.
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  13. Rapterman

    Rapterman

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    One of my favorite epic canyon tales from a veteran of over 30 Imlay descents (short version):
    Two canyoneering hotshots, going for a late season speed descent of a zion classic.
    One small consideration- its been dry- how will the potholes be?
    Upon reaching Big Bertha, they are shocked to find a two story plus (20') deep shaft with icy cold water at the bottom.
    With nothing for pot shots to stick to, they rap in together, and find the ONLY way to reach the lowest hook move is a shoulder stand
    with the bottom persons head underwater.
    Hold breath/ shoulder stand/ leader climbs/ the hooks blow out/ crash back into the pit.
    Rinse, Repeat.
    Several times they make it within feet of easier ground only to take horrific falls back onto the water and each other.
    Without a drill to improve or create new holes they try to hook out and fail again, and again, and again.
    Some four hours later, exhausted, hypothermic, bruised, and half drowned they go for one last try
    And make it.
    How hard is Imlay we ask?
    It depends.....
    :D
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  14. Canyonero

    Canyonero

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    I used to take hooks with me through canyons but after doing a few dozen pothole canyons without them, I've started leaving them behind. I just wonder if there actually are potholes that you need them for. It seems especially silly to take them when I'm not carrying a drill.
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  15. ratagonia

    ratagonia

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    Some of the potholes in Imlay and some in Heaps have nothing to toss to. As in, just flat rock past them. Including Big Bertha. If you had enough rope ends, and enough things to toss, you could maybe get enough surface contact to get someone out, but...

    Seems like the holes in Imlay worked well for 15 years, without touchup required. Lotta traffic through there these days... time to carry a drill and hammer too again, perhaps.

    Tom
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