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Spearhead, looking for Info

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by NevadaSlots, Nov 9, 2018.

  1. NevadaSlots

    NevadaSlots

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    Myself and some other folks are looking to make a descent of Spearhead Canyon in Zion before the end of the year. The last report of descent on the wide web was from the Latest Rave back in 2010. Any news of more recent descents? We have some concerns about entry rappel anchors (if bolts have been placed next to the sketchy tree?, we are prepared and experienced to bolt if that still shows itself as the best option) and if the exit chimney bolts and pitons are still in reasonable condition. I guess I'm just trying to calm a questioning mind, we will go on without any beta, but some would be helpful if its out there. Thanks
  2. Ram

    Ram

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    Here is the TR from the old Yahoo group, before Tom wrote the Rave you referenced. There is some additional information in there. The Yahoo group info, is archived on this site (Canyon Collective) too, for others, searching other things. Just an FYI
    http://canyoncollective.com/threads/tr-spearhead-canyon-oct-13-14-2010.15962/

    Here is the Rave that Nevada mentions, for all to glean.
    http://www.canyoneeringusa.com/rave/spearhead-canyon-zion-national-park/

    Thoughts.....if someone is fiddlestick proficient, then from the sound of it and my memory of it, one could work the places of low angles and ledges and add rope (in the right order), at appropriate places and work this big wall relatively easily. This sounds like great fun to me. Just remember to bring enough thin pull cord.

    This should be especially true, as the 300 footer worked for us, even with two anchors found at the bottom of the drop. While I am unsure that the 2 separate chunks of webbing found, did not come from the same tree (anchor) or two separate stations, it seems there is plenty of margin and options, as I recall the wall. By all means, carry a bolt kit, if you wish, as an emergency fall back, but from my sense of your skill set, you should not come close to needing it.

    Our friend Brendan (who is out now, exploring) did not tell us, that for years, that he carried a kit, in the bottom of his pack. He did not rob us of the sense that we were operating "without a net." We told him that we were glad for the extra conditioning he got from carrying all that dead weight.

    Safe passage and please report back. Love to hear about it. A lovely wilderness experience. Are you planning two days?
    R
  3. NevadaSlots

    NevadaSlots

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    Thanks for the info Ram, much appreciated. We are planning to do it in about 1 and 1/4 days, in one push. Fingers crossed we are fast enough to swing that. TR to come.
  4. Brian in SLC

    Brian in SLC Brian in SLC

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    Seems like a longer rope would help avoid all those single bolt anchors of dubious worth.

    Be careful! (Goes without saying!).

    When in doubt, beef up those anchors!
  5. Scott Patterson

    Scott Patterson

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    I haven't done Spearhead and have no idea how long it takes, but in November you only have 3/4 a day or daylight (compared to some other months). Why pack a 1 1/4 day single push into a November (or even December) day? This isn't criticism; I'm just curious.
  6. NevadaSlots

    NevadaSlots

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    Based on the mileage, elevation gain and loss, technical difficulties that are to be reasonably expected, and physical fitness of the group I believe we can do this in the daylight we have, plus night time travel. Yeah, your right Scott, it would be better to take two days, but sometimes the time we have is all the time we have. I think everybody has to squeeze trips into a busy schedule sometimes. We have to keep feeding the fire somehow or we will all just become cowards to the improbable. This quote comes to mind.

    “On a mountain, caught inside a welter of ambition, fear and struggle, you will shove yourself right out on the edge––climb right to the lip and get a good long look into the abyss. In that look, all you see, all you know, all you can possibly feel is the absolute intensity of your own mortality. The sheer, inalienable certainty that, ‘Hey, I am alive.’ This is exactly where the rest of life keeps you from going. This is exactly the confrontation modern man strives to elude. At all cost avoid it. Avoid being there. [At the edge.] Stand back. Keep cool. Keep everything, including your own life, at arms length. Keep this perspective: ‘I like to watch.’ That’s the right answer. Everyone a spectator. The perfect passionless life. And that’s it! That’s what puts men on mountains. The fear more sick than the fear of death; more dreaded than the fear of failure, the fear of mediocrity. The excruciating fear of a life without passion.”
    Mark Jenkins
  7. Brian in SLC

    Brian in SLC Brian in SLC

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    Wow...sweet quote! Cowards to the improbable vis-à-vis Conquistadors of the Useless....!

    Jenkins has had a bit of looking at the abyss...

    https://www.climbing.com/news/rare-avalanche-kills-wyoming-ice-climber/

    "He who fights with monsters should be careful lest he thereby become a monster. And if thou gaze long into an abyss, the abyss will also gaze into thee."
  8. ratagonia

    ratagonia

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    I disagree with Ram's assessment.

    But first, Tre C K placed bolts as suggested on the last TR, down on the terrace before the rollover, I think, thus making the dubious Christmas Tree unnecessary as an anchor.

    Ram's assessment is that there are lots of options. I don't think so. We lucked out and our rope reached the ground with very little to spare. The slings on the tree remnants on the canyon floor were both mine, from two different trees. I think Cabe's and mine original descent used a 200' rope and eeked out raps in a couple cases. BITD when 300' ropes were a rare thing. (Cabe and I expected that Cabe would place quite a few bolts on this descent. I, at least, was both disappointed and happy to find established anchors on the final chimney section as it suggested we would get out before dark on the 2nd day.

    Additionally, I do not think the canyon is fiddlestick friendly. The big raps at the beginning go by numerous dry nasty bushes - strong enough to capture a fiddlestick and not break, but not strong enough to anchor off of. I think traditional pull-through rappels would be more reliable here. On the final chimney, with numerous chockstones, making long rappels, pull-through or Fiddled, is unlikely to be successful. Careful analysis of stuck-rope hazards and rigging of numerous short rappels is more likely to get you out with all your ropes in hand.

    And yes, bringing a bolt kit that you know how to use is prudent.

    Timing: on the "Ten Years After" descent, we started early, and it was late in the year, but the climb up the Behunin Ridge was still toasty. It takes roughly 3 hours to get to the start of the ridge, and if you have done Behunin and remember the route in, that can all be done in the dark. If you have not done Behunin (etc) then the first two hours can be done in the dark.

    Tom
  9. ratagonia

    ratagonia

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    You have beta.

    Perhaps you are used to beta that includes waypoints for each rappel and exact lengths, a picture of the anchor and a suggested way of rigging the rope. This is not that kind of a canyon, in fact, perhaps no canyon is that kind of a canyon.

    And no, I am not particularly ornery today - this is my normal.

    Tom
  10. NevadaSlots

    NevadaSlots

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    Thanks Tom for all the info. No, actually I was not interested in, "waypoints, pictures of anchors, lengths, and rigging." If you look back at my original post I was only asking for the conditions of the bolts in the canyon. Nonetheless, I appreciate the beta you (and Ram) gave. I think it would be unreasonable and unsafe for me not to tap Canyon Collective as a resource in preparing for Spearhead.

    I agree with you that no canyon should be "that kind of canyon," but perhaps in the future, you should not make so hasty assumptions toward your fellow canyoneers and possible customers.
  11. Kip Marshall

    Kip Marshall Bshwakr

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    I'm not sure if anyone mentioned this but you probably won't be making a descent before year end. All canyons dropping into the Emerald Pools area are closed and will likely remain so until the seasonal trail crew gets back to work. Sorry.
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  12. ratagonia

    ratagonia

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    My apologies.

    "...we will go on without any beta,..."

    I am being a stickler for language here. You CANNOT go on without any beta, because you already have beta.

    Tom
  13. Brian in SLC

    Brian in SLC Brian in SLC

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    Spoiling the onsite (ha ha):

    Preferred attire for the canyon (sorry for the pic quality but probably a blessing!):

    tom spearhead.

    Here's my notes:

    Spearhead Canyon Descent @ Zion National Park

    Overview: Technical canyoneering descent of the canyon located directly behind (west and north) of the Spearhead and to the west of Cathedral Mountain. 18 rappels, the longest being 200 feet. Compiled by Brian Cabe following his and Tom Jones’ descent on 15 October 2000.

    Equipment: Two 60 meter (200 foot) ropes, 200 feet of 6mm retrieval cord, rappelling gear, bolt kit, extra sling and rapid links. Full rock climbing rack including set of pitons and hooks. 4 liters of water. Overnight gear (lightweight sleeping bags, headlamp, etc.). All fit into daypacks.

    We started hiking from the Grotto Falls parking lot, up the Angel’s Landing trail, and past the spring at the top of Refrigerator Canyon to the base of Cathedral Mountain. Searching for a reasonable ascent route led us to the “hook” canyon, which ascends between the elevation points 6955 on Mount Majestic and 6930 on Cathedral Mountain. In the upper stretch of this canyon, we ascended the right (west) fork. This approach required technical climbing of approximately 5.8 A2 in difficulty (we belayed four pitches) took the entire day and was somewhat of a grunt: loose rock, brush, and post holing up deep sand and scree. This approach is not recommended.

    Descent into the canyon: After a night on the Cathedral Mountain mesa, at the canyon rim, we scouted the steep canyon walls dropping into the gorge for the safest, most logical descent path. Opposite and slightly down canyon from our camp, we noticed a tree line on the northeast wall of the canyon, 2-300 feet downstream from the head of the canyon (which appeared to contain an unsafe amount of loose rock).

    At 9:30am, from a large tree on the rim of the canyon, we rappelled 40 feet to a small single tree setting in a shallow bowl located 60 feet to the skier’s left of a large clump of trees. From this 10” diameter pine, we added a green sling with a rapid link and rappelled 200 feet to a single 14” diameter pine. Again, we left a green sling and rapid link and rappelled for 130 feet to a loose gully which ran parallel to the main canyon for 200 feet before turning and running straight out over a pour over. At 11:15am, we rigged another rappel in the brush at this pour over but could not ascertain whether the ropes reached any fruitful anchors. Tom jugged back up the rope and we hiked back up to the top of the gully. Cutting across slope, back toward the head of the canyon, and then down to a large pine tree, which we rigged with webbing and rappelled past a steep wall, to a bench then low angle for 140 feet. At a gnarled, bent over pine, we rappelled the steep wall for 160 feet to a sturdy spruce tree, which we rappelled thankfully for 100 feet to the canyon floor.

    Main Canyon: Immediately down canyon, we rappelled a 10 foot pour over, hiked a short distance, and rappelled for 100 feet past multiple, short pour-overs. After a nice bit of hiking, we rappelled 40 feet over an avoidable water hole where we took lunch and refilled our water bottles at 1:15pm. At this point, the canyon ran almost straight away with not much elevation loss, which we hiked for a fair distance intermixed with some down climbing. A 2” tree on the right side of the drainage provided a handy anchor for rigging a sling for the 40-foot rappel. Just downstream, a 60-foot rappel past a pour over was from a 3” tree out on a ledge on the left side of the drainage at 2:20pm. We climbed up a short dirt filled chimney to a large pine tree for a 40-foot rappel, which immediately led to a 30-foot long pool. Thinking we were in for a swim, Tom successfully negotiated the deep pool with tenuous chimney technique. We weren’t to remain dry for long, however, as the next pool required 40 feet of swimming. Just downstream at the final pool in the canyon, I rappelled 30 feet into the water, swam downstream and rigged a Tyrolean traverse for the packs and a lucky, though nervous, Tom. After a short hike through some lush green foliage, we arrived at the big air and open exit of the canyon, surprised to find a single bolt anchor on a large rock guarding the final steep descent. At 4:00pm, we sorted our gear and grabbed a snack in the flat stream course.

    Finale: At the airy shelf, we rigged our rope off the single bolt anchor (SMC hanger, 1” webbing) and dropped down 30 feet to a small shelf, continuing the rappel to another single bolt rappel station located another 40 feet down and inside the main exit chimney system. Another single rope rappel for 80 feet again led to a single bolt anchor at a small stance inside of the chimney. Here, we opted to toss our double ropes down the confines of the backside of the chimney (instead of outside) as there appeared much less chance for sticking the ropes. Tom extended the rappel full length but didn’t end at any useful anchors at a large ledge. I rappelled down and rigged the rope through a ratty sling around a chock stone at an uncomfortable (slanting, narrow) stance. Pulling the rope through and tossing the ends down to Tom, we made sure the rope would not get hung up in the pinching slot before rappelling to the last big ledge. Tom scouted for anchors and soon located a pair of lost arrow pitons out to the far, left side of the ledge, which provided thankful access to the ground. Removing the old sling and adding a new one with a rappel ring, we descended the final 150 feet to the ground and hiked the short distance to the Emerald Pools trail.

    Notes: The initial descent into the canyon was a high angle whopper. Our route made the best use of available tree anchors, which seemed to be spaced perfectly for our doubled 200-foot ropes. No evidence of prior passage was observed in the upper canyon. We were surprised to find the single bolt anchors in the finale exit chimney at the end of the canyon and mused about from whence they came. It is possible that the final chimney exiting the canyon was descended after a climb of the Spearhead from Zion Canyon. The single bolt anchors (3/8” Rawl type studs) appeared to be in good shape with SMC hangers and green 1” webbing. The loose ends of the webbing were finished in a distinctive style with the ends cut in a point and notch that fit into each other when mated together. Unwisely, we chose to not back up these single bolt anchors but added new webbing and rings at a couple of the lower rappel stations.

    Time: After obtaining an overnight and canyon permit at the Visitor Center, we left the shuttle at Grotto Springs at 9:45 am on 14 October. We completed our approach in the dark at 10:15pm and settled in for sleep by 11:00pm. At 8:00am the next morning, we scouted our descent and started the first rappel at 9:30am. At 4:00pm we began the initial rappel of the steep exit chimney and finished the final rappel at 5:50pm. We were reunited with the shuttle bus at 6:30pm for a seemingly long, 2-day trip.
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  14. pynkchink

    pynkchink

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    My memory on Spearhead is pretty fuzzy since it was 5 years ago. It was a 17 hour day in October. We brought a TON of rope (well a lot for two people to carry) and a bolt kit. I remember the sandstone was very soft where the bolts by the Christmas Tree were placed. We did use the 300 footer at the beginning. The last portion was descended using a 200 foot rope (climber’s descent looked like). Some back up bolts were placed.
    Last edited: Nov 19, 2018
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