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UT: Zion NUTE Canyon

Discussion in 'Trip Reports' started by RobbyB, Jun 30, 2020.

  1. RobbyB


    Given the limited recreation opportunities between the heat and Covid-19 health measures I thought I would share a trip I did back in August of 2017.

    Hayley and I have a summer tradition of doing a trip that a wiser group would save for cooler temps. Originally, we called these Burning Sun Adventure days (aka BSADs) which eventually became more optimistically known to us as the Hotter than Hell Tour (no acronym needed). This is the Hotter than Hell Tour for 2017; the first descent of a canyon in Zion.

    Mike had mentioned the canyon years before this and we had loosely talked about going to explore it; however, that never panned out before he had moved out of the area. I had figured that after a few years and relocating several states away, his dibs on the first descent had expired.

    I was still curious about the canyon so I convinced Hayley that this would be a good idea- and if we got an early start we could also bag a peak along the way.

    We started hiking before the sun was up. The morning air was cool and by the time we made it to the to the rim of the first major canyon crossing, the sun was already up.

    We hustled down into the canyon and made good time scrambling out the other side, adding a few rips to the sun shirt in the process. The terrain eased to a pleasant hike through a meadow.

    The peak, our first objective, loomed above us, baking in the sun.

    At the base, we stashed our pack under a big Ponderosa and slogged up the exposed ridge in full morning sun. The summit offered a spectacular view of surrounding peaks and canyons. Returning down the ridge, we debated what the path of least resistance to our next objective would be. Every option after the meadow seemed to be extraordinarily brushy or cliffy…or both. Nothing before us seemed like anything reminiscent of pleasant.

    We settled on what we thought would be the least awful of these options: link small sections of slickrock between a sea of dense brush. Sauntering across the meadow, we mentally prepared to do battle with manzanita and scrub oak. To our delight, this section of the park is fairly well connected by a network of deer trails. The sun shirt was only ripped a few more times. And despite the complexities of the terrain we found ourselves hiking up the final saddle to the head of the canyon and into some real shade in the early afternoon.

    The slot looked like a dropper and was especially skinny. Suspiciously skinny for Zion. Over a late lunch we discussed our initial impressions and checked in if we were onboard with exploring the canyon. In agreement, we suited up, took a deep breath, and scrambled in.
    The canyon started off fairly benign, the RDC wall leaned over the canyon and we soon found ourselves so off-balance that we mostly scooted while leaning on the LDC wall. Then it started to get tight. After a short while we left the ground entirely as it was far easier to stem than to pretend that walking was really an option.

    After more stemming the canyon began to drop in a major way. This was our ‘pull the ropes and deal’ moment, it seemed unlikely that we could retreat if we went any further. After brief discussion, we continued. Several big awkward, strenuous down climbs led to our first rappel off a suspended log. The canyon bombayed just beneath the log and we had back track after setting the anchor to get to the landing below. this stance at the top of the rappel was the first time we were standing in over an hour. The rappel, while strenuous in its own way, was a wonderful change of pace.
    Several more downclimbs and a rappel ensued before we reached the last rap in this canyon. The high perch opened into a box canyon and we knew this was more or less the end of our canyon, but it wasn’t done with us just yet. We scratched our heads for a while pondering what do for an anchor. Not seeing any options for natural anchors, we elected to put in a two bolt anchor at the lip.

    We maxed out our ropes to land on a bench of slickrock below. Before us was a delicate slab downclimb that had just enough imperfections that we were able to piece it together sans packs. From here the canyon dramatically eased and we were treated to a nice stroll into the larger drainage. As we rounded the corner, we were confronted by a section of potholes, oof, more work. It was the evening at this point, and we were tired. Fortunately, we followed a ledge past the potholes and discovered what appeared to be an anchor made of old climbing rope! Still intact, we rapped again.

    We continued down canyon past one more rappel before finding a place to bivy near a seap.
    The next morning the canyon walls receded and after several sweaty hours of hiking we made it back to the air conditioned shuttle car. On the hike out we struggled to think of a name for the canyon; ultimately we settled on an homage to canyons like DDI and PINTAC: we named it NUTE - Not Until The End- because the trip didn’t really ease up until, well, the end.
    Dan H, Ram and ratagonia like this.
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