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Spring Subway trip

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by Tom Collins, Feb 5, 2019.

  1. Tom Collins

    Tom Collins

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    I've heard about the Subway in Spring runoff conditions, but never done it, I'm thinking this might be the year for me. That said I don't spend much time in Zion early spring so I'm not good at predicting what the conditions might be.

    I know it will only be speculation at this point, but for those who have done it in Spring, what do you think it will be like in early April this year? Would it be better to plan to go earlier or later, or just plan on it for that time hope for the best and be willing to change last minute? The plan is to catch it in "sporty" mode so higher water is better (within reason of course)
    Ram likes this.
  2. Ram

    Ram

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    Well, it depends on a few things, much of it discernible to some degree. How much snow up at Lava Point? I believe there is a gauge. Someone will provide the link, I hope. Then one can see how much water is coming down North Creek near Virgin, Then one can hike in a few tenths of a mile at the Left Fork trail head and take a peek down. How has the weather been the week before you go? Is the thaw early or late?

    Many years, the road is closed at the base of Mahoney Hill, adding 1.5 miles of hike to the Wildcat trail head. You might find a fair bit of snow for the mile hike over to Northgate/Subway trail junction. Can be wet, can be post holing. Almost certainly, once you get onto the south facing slopes, the snow will be minimal. Sometimes the slope leading up to the little pass, beyond where the route splits from Russell drainage, one will find snow on the north facing and steep slope. This can be a show stopper, at certain times. Have the ability to descend Russell Gulch and that becomes a moot point.

    If in Russell, expect challenging conditions and beware of the potential for collapsing icicles. Once in Left Fork, you can bail back north (South Guardian Angel route), if conditions are too dangerous at the first few narrow spots, like the bowling ball chockstone. Keyhole falls is the likely crux, with the rap into the Subway section beyond, not a "gimmie." Fun, fun, fun. Judgment and seasoning required.
    Austin Farnworth likes this.
  3. Dan Ransom

    Dan Ransom Staff Member

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    There's no gauge I'm aware of.
  4. YoungBuck

    YoungBuck

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    Two years ago I had done Das Boot and Subway in early May. Das Boot had light flow, and Subway was wet and flowing. But not overtly so. We are aiming for a late March trip this year hoping to catch some more flow in Das Boot. Most of it will, as Ram said, rely on the weather just before your trip.
    Last edited: Feb 6, 2019
    Ram likes this.
  5. Brian in SLC

    Brian in SLC Brian in SLC

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  6. Dan Ransom

    Dan Ransom Staff Member

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    Ram likes this.
  7. TJ Cottam

    TJ Cottam Adventure Plus

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    April 19, 2012
    Snow was still melting on the trail on approach.
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  8. Tom Collins

    Tom Collins

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    That's about the conditions I'm looking for, so here's hoping it works out.
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  9. Ram

    Ram

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    So I watched TJ's video on YouTube and at the bottom of the options for other videos was this one. Just a little more water that TJ's and things can get very much more interesting. Did we ever find out the name of "Canyonman?"
    Anyway, I know I am an old fogie, but......... the lack of helmets. The jumping. No gloves.....scary movies. Just sayin.

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  10. 2065toyota

    2065toyota

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    Keyhole falls can be bypassed on a ledge system up and too the left if conditions are too dangerous. I've done April and May passes multiple times. No way to predict it as it changes daily based upon air temps and melting snow. Will gradually get more flow as the day progresses. I've also spent the night in the Subway from an April decent in high water conditions with an injury caused by high waters.
  11. GravityWins

    GravityWins

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    Das Boot/Subway flowing is a winner, I want to come! I've done Das Boot/Subway in various conditions including flowing, and frozen over, but the best way to do any canyon is when I can get YoungBuck to carry the rope.
  12. ratagonia

    ratagonia

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    Do you mean the bowling ball section can be bypassed on a ledge up and left? - I've done that. Not easy, but reasonable.

    I've looked for a bypass at Keyhole Falls, and have never seen a possibility. I've heard going through the Keyhole is the high-water sneak route there.

    I realize some people apply the name keyhole falls to a different feature than I do. I apply it to the short drop, bolts on the right, a small arch on the left, that drops you into the corridor just before the right turn to the North Pole... is that what you mean?

    Tom
  13. Rob Schwarzmann

    Rob Schwarzmann

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    I think it is important to put The Subway, and generally speaking all desert south west canyons into some context. They do not normally have running water, so they shouldn't be treated as "running or flowing" water canyons that exist in other places. You have to do two things to find them in a flooding state:

    1. Spring time run off from snow melt

    2. during or after a rain storm.

    Neither of these conditions are static, the water has a dynamic capability. What I mean by this is illustrated by a short story:

    There were two guided groups going out on a spring day. The day before these two trips it snowed in Zion and the surrounding area. One guide took his trip to lambs Knoll, the other guides took their trip to water canyon. The guide who went to lambs knoll had a wonderful time with his group, splashing around in the water, with very low risk of the warm day melting the snow and creating a dangerous environment. The group that went to Water canyon had a much different experience, they underestimated what spring snow, and melting snow can create in the slick rock environment. A guide was mid descent on the longest rap in water canyon, when she was hit by a flash flood. The sun melted the snow so quickly it was like a violent rainstorm without any warning. That guided group narrowly escaped death, if they would have been a few minutes faster or slower they would have been caught in an even more dangerous place in that canyon. They were also warned by the guide who went to lambs knoll of the danger.

    When one chooses to descend a desert canyon with snow above the drainage, you are climbing, skiing, snowshoeing, or snowmobiling into the most dangerous avalanche terrain. There is absolutely no way to gain the knowledge for safety that you can in the mountains by digging pits, observational data, expert forecasting, etc. You are absolutely blind to the danger.

    I've personally seen the water in the subway in completly reasonable conditions, an hour later if you misplaced a foot, or slipped you were most likely going to get killed. There is no way to judge how quickly the snow will melt about you.

    I think it is foolish to search out these conditions unless you have descended the canyon dozens of times, know every high spot, know the exits, have running water defensive swimming techniques, swift water rescue training, among other things. Each person in your group should accept the fact, illustrated by the canyonman incident that the park will leave you in the canyon to die in flooding conditions.

    Rob
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  14. Kuenn

    Kuenn

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    Your methods help insure you reach "OLD"!
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