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UT: Zion Right Fork: via Elken Ridges

Discussion in 'Trip Reports' started by Yellow Dart, Jun 27, 2016.

  1. Yellow Dart

    Yellow Dart It's only hubris if I fail.

    La Verkin
    A couple months ago, @ratagonia posted the list of canyons and the 1-5 star ratings there-to. I realized that having been canyoneering for 4 years, and living in La Verkin for the last year, I had only done 12 of the 50 canyons listed (though of those 12, most were done many, many times). What have I been doing with my life?! So, I resolved to not do any more canyons with friends unless it's one I haven't done. I'll round out that list sooner than later, mark my words.

    Thursday I went to the back country desk to acquire permits for Kolob, having seen that @bhalvers2002 had done it the previous weekend; only to find that even though the spillover the dam is very low, the park does not permit Kolob until the WCWC reports zero spillover. Hopes of a wet romp dashed, I thought of backups. Checkerboard? Nay, need a Narrows permit for the exit, and they were all out. Full Left Fork? Nay, same problem with the Subway aspect. Final pivot to Full Right Fork? Bingo.

    Thankfully, this venture there was nobody in the group without rappelling experience, as everyone attending were either couchsurfers who are visiting Zion to climb, or of my intrepid cadre of wandering venturers. The plan was to straight-shoot it in one day, doing Blue Springs raps, but not the pots, exiting probably via headlamp; though I figured with the amount of time I usually shave off projections, we may make it out by dusk.

    For some reason, everyone was moving slowly the morning of, so instead of leaving from Lava Point at 8am, it was the crack of 10. I know. There were slight trepidations rattling around the back of my mind while I antsily paced at the vehicle, waiting for sunblock to be applied, etc. I almost sent the 2 weak links (climbers didn't have the best cardio, and I knew they would be slower) back down with the vehicle, but they were insistent on not being drags.

    Off we went. Down the Blue Springs raps, which are currently 69' and 55', fun fact. Took the scenic route a ways too far west thereby dropping into Left Fork in a subprime spot, resulting in some spicy scrambling up. But at the summit of that unique route, Jorts stumbled across a fairly recent (less than 3 years) elk shed. 3 hours to this point.

    Bones with the decent shed. Don't worry, he put it back. Though it would have been funny to watch him schlep the 10+lb thing around all day...

    Between the climb out of Left Fork and the final drop into Right Fork, we came across 8 elken rubs (one recent enough the toe groove was still visible) and 6 elken scrapes on trees 3-7", one of which was still damp to the touch. Neato.

    We discovered that following the elk trail on the westernmost rim as close to P7205, the descent to the pots of Right Fork and the ensuing scramble back up can be avoided. The game trail was very decently defined and required no bushwhacking. In fact, playing with different angles on Google Earth, I found the actual high-way. Not helpful if you do Hammerhead, but interesting to note regardless.

    The route we took, best I can figure.

    Getting to the picturesque little sandy area right before the descent proper, we saw the remnants of the first footprints of the day.

    Finally, big downs.

    6h42m in, the Black Pool becomes a reality, and everyone jumps in with great gusto, ready to be done with the heat of the day. Yes, it was cold. And halfway through, a floating, dead, large (3.5'-ish) snake. Yum.

    Squints and her cold-water face. Ironically, she didn't breathe almost the whole swim, it was that cold. (For her, anyway.) The Sicilian climber chick had a rough go of this as well..

    Spirits much lifted after the dip, we sauntered on; raps are made, rocks are scrambled and parkoured, the seeping walls of the Grand Alcove and the ability to refill from flowing water is a reality. Wonderful.

    10 hours in, Double Falls is found, still flowing 4 falls, as @Scott Patterson noted 4 weeks ago.

    Boring part of the story skipped, got out at 00:12, 14h18m car to car. Exit in the dark wasn't so bad, as the starscape was truly spectacular; and Jorts had smuggled some pretty good moonshine which he broke out when the last of the sunlight lifted above the peaks.

    PS: To get ahead of it, we all had and wore helmets through the technical, except whilst breaking bread in the Alcove.
    PPS: Of the 3 of us that have lived/ventured here for the last year, all 3 put the Grand Alcove in their top 3 spots in the Zion area. Maybe one day I'll break my mantra of "No camping if you can shoot it in one day" and take some real time to enjoy that marvel.
    PPPS: Kept a separate run of how long I waited for the group throughout the day, 1h44m. Thereby, soloing in 12h34m. A new goal for the summer: RF via Hammerhead in under 10 hours.
    Ram, ratagonia and townsend like this.
  2. Scott Patterson

    Scott Patterson

    FYI, if you do the rappels at the Grand Alcove, you miss the best part of the entire route. I'd highly recommend the watercourse.
    ratagonia likes this.
  3. Yellow Dart

    Yellow Dart It's only hubris if I fail.

    La Verkin
    I read that in the beta this morning and am kicking myself for rapping! Next time, next time...
    Ram likes this.
  4. ratagonia


    Mount Carmel, Utah
    Great TR James, thanks.

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