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Left Fork Subway Zion

Discussion in 'Utah' started by Hiyume, Mar 24, 2016.

  1. Hiyume

    Hiyume

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    April 20, 2016

    First time canyoneer, going with a more experienced one. What is your opinion of the spring snowmelt this year? Do you think it will probably be prohibitively high water?
  2. Ted

    Ted

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    Location:
    Zion NP 8-16 to 12-16
    Snow is mostly gone.
    Nope.

    Do It!
    Be safe.
    Have a great time!
    Hiyume likes this.
  3. ratagonia

    ratagonia

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    You been in there in the last week?

    T
  4. Ted

    Ted

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    Location:
    Zion NP 8-16 to 12-16
    Not I, but some acquaintances have and I'm going next week.

    BTW, to put some perspective on my previous post, I've been living in Zion NP since the first of January, crisscrossing this marvelous landscape, watching the snows diminish, wondering at recently budding trees and flowers, treading its stream filled canyons and frosted summits, 4xing obscure back country routes (and of course canyoneering, too!). Now the Spring Break crowd tends to make me want to escape further into the wilderness, but the season is just so perfect for some of the area classics that I can't resist visiting them again.

    Mr. Ratagonia, hopefully our paths cross sometime and we can be formally introduced. Until then, enjoy!

    Off now to the Grand Canyon for a long weekend, C-Ya!
  5. ratagonia

    ratagonia

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    "Mr. Ratagonia, hopefully our paths cross sometime and we can be formally introduced. Until then, enjoy!"
    Well, let's make sure of that!

    I ask because it is not necessarily so straightforward. There is a substantial catch-basin above the Subway (meaning, at higher elevation) which still holds snow (I am pretty sure). So there WILL be a time when that melts out, and if it does so quickly, then the Subway will be impassable for a few days or a week or more.

    It is tough to make predictions, especially about the FUTURE! Much better to say what you know, and offer an opinion as to how it will play out, than to make definitive statements. Especially when the definitive statement is not more than your opinion about how it will play out based on very limited information and only a short history of the area.

    Tom ( :moses: as the house scold )
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  6. ratagonia

    ratagonia

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    The key point, Hiyume, is to make an informed decision when you are IN the canyon. After the approach hike, you descend a steep gully down to where Russel Gulch joins the Left Fork, and at that point you find out how much water is flowing in the stream. Normally, there is NONE, ZIP, NADA! If there is flow, you will need to share a very narrow section of canyon with that flow. You will be rappelling, downclimbing and swimming in an 18" wide slot with that flow. And the flow is likely to grow stronger during the day.

    So consider the consequences, and make a wise decision. It if very difficult to be definitive without actually standing in the stream on that day. All other opinions are just so much blather.

    My expectation is that there will be NO FLOW on that day.

    Tom
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  7. ratagonia

    ratagonia

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  8. Deagol

    Deagol too many hobbies

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    Location:
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    also, the water is cold.
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  9. Hiyume

    Hiyume

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    Ratagonia, flow is different from the existence of water, right? Like, puddles are okay, but basically just bail if there's flow?

    I've read that accident report somewhere else, part of the reason I'm worried about the water level, esp. given the snowstorms this winter, and this site: http://waterdata.usgs.gov/usa/nwis/uv?site_no=09405500 which seems to imply the water level this year in Virgin River is higher than it was late March in 2009 and 2010 but less than march in 2011. Not the best graph, and I'm not really sure what that means about the future, nor how well correlated this is with the Left Fork, but it's a mildly worrisome trend:

    upload_2016-3-25_16-42-0.
  10. Hiyume

    Hiyume

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    how cold? I'm pretty confident of like, a 5min swim in 50deg water, but anything much colder than 40deg is like 15s before I start shivering so hard it's impossible to climb/walk out of the water. Do you know how fast the three swims can be completed?
  11. ratagonia

    ratagonia

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    The North Fork and the Subway have very different drainage basins. The gauge on the NF has little correlation with what is happening in The Subway.

    The North Fork (Narrows, including Deep Creek) has a hyuge basin, including a lot of area from mid to upper elevations in the trees, that can hold a lot of snow. Thus, it needs to melt out across a wide range of temperatures, and often the question is "how fast". The Narrows being high-ish this early means that the mid elevations are melting out, and that tends to keep it from going huge later. "Huge" is generally when the Mid and Upper levels melt out at the same time, with unseasonably warm weather, after an extended cool period.

    The Subway has a lot smaller drainage area and it is at mid-elevations. The recent report that the road is open as far as the Lava Point Road indicates that much of this snow may have melted out already; or at least, there is not a generous supply of unmelted snow in this area. So it may not go big or much at all.

    The Subway always has some water in it, as parts are spring-fed. The good news is that the spring water is relatively warm. The first few pools in the Subway are from snowmelt and are COLD, but once past them, the water is much more reasonable.

    Yes, "Flow" is different than standing water. And is also different than a Trickle. Whatever flow or trickle you see, imagine it pushing directly on you. Fun? or Scary?

    :moses:
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  12. ratagonia

    ratagonia

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    In April, you will want a wetsuit.

    T
  13. Deagol

    Deagol too many hobbies

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    I would always refer to Tom's info over mine. All I can say is from a qualitative standpoint based on my own experience. When we went in, the weather was a bit over 100 degrees (September) and we were shivering by the end. Back then, only had a shortie wetsuit. Wife had full length and was very cold..
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  14. Hiyume

    Hiyume

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    Full wetsuit it is! Thanks, Ratagonia, everyone, that was extremely informative. :))
  15. John Styrnol

    John Styrnol

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    I've been in the Subway in early Apr, and that water is freakn' cold.
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  16. Hiyume

    Hiyume

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    Hi! Post-trip short report:

    We did the Subway, Pine Creek, and Keyhole over three days. Subway had a tiny bit of trickle at the start, the air temp was warm, and my 3/2 wetsuit left me a little cool but not unduly so by the end of the technical section (the other canyons were far colder, I'm so happy the ranger talked me into renting a drysuit for Pine Creek). The swims were shorter than I expected. Narrows was completely closed the entirety of the time, so both fit Ratagonia's predictions quite well.
    Rapterman, ratagonia and hank moon like this.
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