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Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by Ram, Nov 20, 2014.
OK. I'll play. This one nears its first anniversary and was one of the best days of the year. When it snows, we go for short and close to home fare. When the weather is better, which is 80+% of the time, we take on bigger stuff. This was such a pretty day!
Shimrock on Ice
The hogs had been cold and blustery, but the night brought more snow and wind. We awoke on the last day of the year to several inches of the white stuff in camp. Spidey's kids had had enough but essentially everyone else was up for some intimate contact with the snow. Tom organized a trip to Shamrock. He would thread the way, avoiding slickrock all the way to the canyon. Another group formed around doing Shimrock. I joined that one, We got up top about 11:30 AM. Tom's group was right behind us. We took off and Basia joined us for a bit until I told her we were not going the same place Jerzy and Tom were.
We went down the Carmel slot to the normal entry. Even this involved a spot down low and a hand line up high. The normal way in has some steep slickrock. The other, more western entry is more technical. Or so i am told. I had not done it, but I had noticed a deadman in there 5 days earlier on the way to Shamrock. So as happens with snow, what is normally harder can become the easier option in snow. I said easier, not easy.
Two raps and a pair of captures were encountered in this fine fork. I will visit it again. The canyon was in full winter apparel. Snow coated the walls, filled the bottom, came down on us as spindrift avalanches from the rim....and it was snowing, at times hard.
The drops were spotted. The squeezes forced big boys to get help and most of came to resemble snowmen ourselves. At the confluence with Shamrock, all we saw was a note in snow and there prints heading down. The 2 hour canyon took over 4.5 hours, but delivered joy almost every step along the way.
tarp camping at the Thrax
What to do?
Tom and Mike are ready
The Spidey clan is ready for the road
Basia wanting in with us up top
A warm late morning stroll....not! Deeps in for his first slot of the trip. The grove's and the birthday boy follow
The bad idea that caught on
Mike and Ester
Tom at the Carmel drop
Coming to the drop in
This shows the caution needed on snowy slickrock. Jenny demonstrates
Jenny leads into the western entry and readies to thigh belay. Peter on top sets a handline
Queuing on down
Peter and Chris having way too much fun
1st rap. snow smeared off
looking back up at it
How old are you now, how old are you now?
Ester killin it
Spindrift avalanche. It can get pretty dark. Jenny delighted
These come in handy
Spindrift falling over the line of snow plastered to rock and bare rock
I love this one
This one too. Hi Chris!
A lot like fun.....
takes good concentration and care
A little B & W
In Deeps of trouble
Wes not in the lead, with Jenny
Ms. Meat Anchor and LAWAR...I mean LAPAR
Standard picture, this time draped in white
B & W
More snow art
Continuing to collect and catalogue FF trips Past, on this thread...and perhaps build the "stoke" for the coming year. A reminder...the icy, crazy picts and stories get the press, while most days are quite sane, if one takes advantage of what has been learned and a bit of solid prep too.
Call of the Wild 12-25-14
A Christmas Day canyon descent in Zion
Never again! Never! Never, never again! I swear it! It was just too much of a set up and such a big let down. Oh, oh so close. Heaps for Christmas Day was a dream. Not least of all because I thought I had figured out just how to do it. So we waited and waited and waited. Year after year. Waiting for that one year when winter conditions would come late.
Some might say doing Heaps in the winter when winter conditions hasn't arrived yet is kind of a cheat. I knew better. Deep within the wet corridors of Heaps, winter arrived many weeks prior to our planned visit. All that is needed is lower sun angles and time for the inner canyon to turn into a frozen world. I knew that the inner recesses have their own set of rules. Cold air is heavy and the canyon would be a snowy and cold place. An ice box.
But those icy conditions were not what concerned me most. Having done many Zion canyons in winter I know that the time needed to do the lowest and longest narrows of Heaps would not take much more time than the usual 4 hours. It would require caution yes, but these type narrows tend to be manageable. Manageable at least until the snows of mid winter accumulate, become deep and then start to melt out. You see, the narrow bridges of snow that melt out are often invisible, from up canyon and those are the conditions of true peril. these conditions occur most often in March and April, not the very short days of late December.
So the key to a winter descent is making time in other parts of the journey. So I am watching the weather for months leading into our Christmas day tradition. What I hoped for was the approach and access to the canyon to be fast and safe. Speed here was the key to "Safe Passage." It snowed a few times in November and December, but was always followed by a warm spell afterward. I expected some of that snow to remain....BUT it would be consolidated and older consolidated snow is easier and faster to travel upon that fresh snow.
The plan was built around entering via Gunsight Canyon AKA North Fork of Heaps, not the western fork AKA Phantom Valley approach. Gunsight faces south and if we could, just could, maybe get into that slot with good conditions, we could get down from the canyon head to Crossroads in 3 hours or a bit more. The numbers started to add up. You say another cheat this Gunsight plan? Go ahead and call it that. I will leave the fuller project to others...... stronger, fitter, bolder. Just learn your winter nuance first. So says I.
A month out, 3 weeks out. Two weeks out, one week out and all is a go....then with 4 days left, the forecast changes. It says snow the AM of the 25th. It's OK. Four days out is still only 50-50% on accuracy. But the forecast doesn't change. All we need is for the storm to arrive 5 hours later than it is suppose to.
Tom and I do Lower Refrigerator on the 24th. We test our mini rack devices, with hopes of making the final drop a bit easier. Tim Hoover caches a big rope at Emerald Pools. Big enough to do the watercourse out the bottom. Luke and Tre-C come from Vegas and we all stay at Tim's and Susan's place in Springdale. They feed us. We do our final packing. Jonathan is a few blocks away and we are to pick him up at 4 AM. We whisper in the dark and pretend the storm will not come.
We awake at 3AM, eat, boil water for the thermoses, do final packing and bring our gear out to the cars. My first trip to the car is at 3:10 AM. Cloudy, but no snow. My second trip to the car is at 3:13 AM and there is a full on blizzard happening, snow immediately sticking to the driveway, cars and us. I sigh deeply. Maybe it will stop. Maybe it will be off and on, as the forecast implies is possible. Maybe it won't be snowing 10 miles away. I am...maybe all of us are in full denial and we proceed as if the weather will work out.
We pick up Jonathan a minute before 4 AM and he is ready to go. Off to the Grotto trail head. Minutes past 4:15 AM we are hiking in a full blizzard. The snow causes no real challenges, but neither is it letting up. Up to the Angels Landing turn off and beyond to the Imlay Bridge. Just beyond here, we note that the snow is laying atop a layer of ice on the trail. We note it by slipping to our butts. Out comes the micro spikes. The snow intensifies and accumulates. One inch, two inches, three and then more. We pass the Behunin turn off and no one says what everyone is thinking. Heaps is out! To descend Gunsight in these conditions would take several additional hours. That would tip the thing into impracticable
At the Grotto
Just before the West Rim we stop at a spot sheltered from the snow and wind. We are able to put packs down, organize gear, eat and drink hot fluids. And get very cold, very quickly. Tom has been up front, flaunting his fitness along with Jonathan and Tim, but announces now that he is ill and begs off, now that Heaps is off the table. He will head down, nap for 3 hours midday, go home and take a few days to recover. The rest of us???? What to do? We continue up to the rim, now having tossed around the idea of doing Telephone Canyon. Its an OK canyon that could just be great, dressed up in winter. First light allows us to turn off our headlamps, after 2,500 feet of ascent in a blizzard and the dark.
The sheltered spot above Behunin
Almost on the West Rim
Now is a critical time. We find our way over to the canyon head and the wind is whipping. There is no wind block. The snow stings and the prospect of stripping down and into gear for the canyon an unattractive prospect. I eye my partners as they wrestle with the discomfort confronting them. It is the time people can bail on the project. To their credit, they agree to go on. Hearty giggles are heard as folks expose skin to the sub zero wind chill and then suit back up. Three in dry suits, two in wet suits.
The first view into Telephone
Gearing up in the frigid cold
The normal access to the canyon is a downclimb of 20 feet, to a tree and then a 200 foot rap. That slope is impossible in these conditions. At least for a last person, it is. A snowy slide and over the abyss would be the likely result. We also note a rope and pull cord left at the normal tree entry. It is hard to imagine it not frozen into the wall. We spy another tree, on the left, looking down canyon. This too is a dangerous proposition, but I see something I like. I slide gently into the tree from above, stemming its trunk, sliding down to the tiny platform and spotting Jonathan down to set the anchor up.
The normal entry, but not ours.... Note rope coming from the tree
The close tree on the left is our anchor. We slid into the tree from above
I watch Jonathan ease out on the of the snow laden, slabby cobblestone slope, to the edge. He does not like how sharp the edge is there. He gingerly slides over to another lip, smiles and disappears below the edge. I am next and when I come to the edge I am enthralled. The view down shows a large tube shaped drop, drawing, calling me on, eloquently descending straight down toward an ice covered pothole. The walls have horizontal stripes of snow, that have clung to the circular sloping ledges. I ride past the tiger stripes to the bottom, brake the ice, drop two more small drops and get off rap, below Jonathan.
J leads the way
I finish the entry rap below J
I am tasked with finding the next anchor. It is my 3rd time in the canyon and the first time in 11 years. No sign of an anchor and no material, on this level. I suspect a bolt on the wall but it is invisible to the eye, buried in snow plastered walls perhaps?. I take my ski pole, open it and slide it over the snow covered wall, like a wind shield wiper, hoping to find something and keep my hands dry and sort of warm. I find nothing. I take a short break, hear others come down the big drop and go back to the task of wiping snow off the wall, this time higher up and with tricky balance. Eureka! An anchor appears. Tre-C arrives. Rope is requested.
When I started my first rap down, the snow had mostly stopped. Patches of blue sky appeared, the wind continued to howl and flurries continued to fall from clouds not always seen. Then the sun burst into the canyon . The canyon is southeast facing. I think that perhaps no one has been here, with this timing, to see what I am seeing. The sun coming into the slot seemingly from below us. From an angle possible just a few December days a year. And if someone were to do the canyon then, they would not likely be here this early. I note something magical, looking out from the the top of the 2nd rap. The sky is blue, with cloud flowing in and out nearby. The sun is reflecting crystals from the flurries seemingly drifting in slow motion up, down and all around. Down here, a bit protected from the wind, the sun is almost warm, as I observe the wondrous light show. I know, that if we return safe, what I see in front of me right now, is very much worth the price of admission. I point the wonders out to those that come down to join me.
When the rope arrives, I take the lead. I think only Tim has not done the canyon and he follows closely. I combine drops, unaware of the usual sequences. I recall some downclimbs, but they are greased up with some snow and wet rock. Tim offers to sit on my pack, as I take hold of the attached sling, hand lining down some drops I am uncertain I can downclimb safely in these conditions. Two of my four partners following me, will lose purchase and 'come in hot," sliding in quite fast, but into a safe landing, as we all regroup halfway down the canyon.
Tim on the downclimbs
Luke's turn to "Come on down!"
Waiting to regroup in the warmth of sunshine
Jonathan as LAPAR
I slip to last, sated with my time out on point. A tough rope pull leads into a section of canyon that has many short drops and is firmly in the shade and quite slippery with the new layer of snow. Just a few degrees of angle separate deep winter from the warmth of just above.This is cold dangerous work and Jonathan mostly takes point, but others get up front too. I stop taking pictures as the passage requires more of my attention. This section eats time in large bites. Anchors remain difficult to locate under drifted snow, but the beauty is sublime.
We accept spots from each other, for what are normally easy downclimbs. We knew early on that the normal exit along slickrock slopes would likely be out of condition and so it was. Much time will be spent finding viable lines of descent, well lower than the standard exit. Will will slide down to trees, hoping cactus is not under the snow and criss cross the drainage in search of safe purchase.
Once we reconnected with the trail, the dry suit crowd stripped down and Tim and I, adorned in wet suits, moseyed on down. Luke and Tre-C took many pictures and were a tad behind. We were alone, all day long, till we got to the Angels Landing trail junction. It was after 4:30 PM and we found crowds, most from India, some from China and the occasional Anglo, pushing daylight to the limit. We arrived at the Grotto at a solid 13 hours, car to car, having given many hours to caution on snowy slopes and elusive anchors.
We all went to Tim and Susan's for the customary Christmas night fest, this time chili, cornbread and other assorted goodies. I thank them for their generosity on this Tim's 5 straight Christmas adventure. Jonathan and family came for desert . Luke and Tre-C left for home, having to work in Las Vegas early the next day. I eventually laid my foam pads out on the floor, sleeping and then waking at 5 AM the next morning, on my way to Sandthrax and Freezefest proper.
I will never set myself up for that disappointment again, as I did this year, with the last minute, oh so close, cancelling of Heaps. If it comes to fruition, some year in the future, it will sneak up on me....yeah right, when pigs fly. But dreams are important. In the last year I got to climb a pair of mountains, with my son's help, dreams realized after 20 and 50 years respectively. I wept at the time. But perhaps having dreams, one's still out of reach, but not out of sight....or maybe even out of sight is OK too......is as important as realizing dreams.
Telephone was a special place this day and it did not feel like a consolation prize. Great friends, exercising caution and care, in a tricky environ, of great beauty. Let the tradition continue!
Last edited: Jan 7, 2015
Ram, Jan 6, 2015
Nice report. Has Heaps ever been descended in winter before?
Hi Scott...The answer is......I don't know.
So many descents go under the radar, in canyoneering, even when permits are required. Imlay has seen at least 3 winter descents, one naked descent in there too.
Was that crazy Kolob descent a March trip?
Lots and lots of winter descents are known. Heaps? Perhaps
Are you referring to Jared's trip where they dropped their long rope into the pool? No, that was late November. Winter conditions perhaps:
Tons of ice in the pools. Lots of rapping in and breaking through 1"-1.5" thick ice to get to the other side. Damn cold, probably ~10-15F ambient air temp. Absolutely beautiful though, the entire thing. Wow! Can't wait to do it in more favorable conditions.
Funny shot he sent me at the time of the "fishing" pole they constructed to retrieve their dropped rope:
Cost them three hours...(11 hours car-to-car). Could have been pretty grim had they not got that rope.
Winter conditions...not without risk!
Funny...Englestead has been done down and up (as an ice climb) a bunch by now methinks. At least a one climbing magazine cover shot and several other other areas and routes done:
Some of the photo's in the above article are STUNNING. Look at that water flow in Kolob Creek...beautiful and SCARY. RIP Scott.
The Euro's have been descending some frightening stuff in winter, Pascal and Evan, who many know from the rendezvous in Europe.
Everything changed in 2008 in the heart of winter. Forums already circulating a challenge presented at the time as foolish: the Trummelbach * (3.8 / 4) in the Bernese Oberland just côtéd'Interlaken. Tourist Gorges summer, well known, the level of water is breathtaking summer with 20 m3 / s, they drain water from the peaks among the most prestigious in Europe: the Eiger, Mönch, Jungfrau. It is in February that it is engaged with the information disseminated by Pascal Van Duin. He tells us that he has already been opened by Andreas Brunner, canyoniste well known for impressive firsts. The day of our descent, 5 hours we are fighting in the crushed ice that fills the basins. The advantage of the cold - 4 ° that day, the water level is very low (20 l / s). ¾ of 18 waterfalls are in almost total darkness. We are mesmerized by the giant milky blue pools. No roughness disturbs our dream. The generous cascades lead us Obstacle obstacles.Everything is designed to leave a indelible memory. But fear accompanies us all along: the cold, falling ice, jamming a rope in a candle, the basic equipment to complete ... The perforator weighs increasingly on our shoulders in our bags weighed down by ice. Crossing the basins is exhausting. Sprawled over 10 cm of crushed ice giving way under our body, we try to move at best. It ends with a great breath of relief when finally, we realize the last reminder unscathed.
WOW!! Where to start?
I was aware of the November Jared trip and their fishing or die, with the rope. The March one may have been people who did not understand the way snow accumulates even in a dry year, at that altitude, with big walls and a very long west to east section below, the tech section but before Oak Creek comes in, with the more north to south trending. But more important, after Oak their is perennial flow, which does more to keep snow levels lower, than any other factor, in my experience. The west to east section was reported to be like Echo in certain winters. Epic difficulties that went on and on This to was a "do or die" situation.
Kip, Jenny, Bruce and pals and I, did a February 2013 Engelstead, out Orderville that was quite reasonable and Brilliant. Looks like the conditions, on bottom, in the ice climbing article was about the same, perhaps a tad worse? The ice climbing on the other hand s awing.
The Euro winter descent is awesome. The floe dams too. hat music? What was it. I felt like I was in a Russian Epic battle!!. Notice how they were holding their arms and hands? Hee hee. Looks like a treat.
Incredible. I am not worthy.
I had to be a responsible adult at FF last year. But this year no kids for the holiday. I should bring my mt bike...
Sounds like another full moon at FF this year!!!
I miss the bacon bombs
Shit, this has got me thinking I want to do the Black Hole again...
Heaps has been done in Jan, in winter conditions.
Is there a thread of the folks coming out to FF this year? What timeframe is planned? Jen and I are talking about New Years options, but Jen doesn't have much time off work. I, on the other hand, was recently laid off, so plenty of time; but don't really want to make that drive for only a couple days. Might be more feasible if someone was coming from Boulder/Denver who might be able to share a ride back home...
You and I can shiver together. I'll probably be colder. I'm bringing a 5/4 but plan to put neo shorts and a 2 mm neo shirt over it. And a neo hood. And a lot of hot chocolate. And maybe now a life jacket after seeing those pictures. Life jackets add a lot of warmth actually.
@VillainousTurtle - "Well I plan to be there, but all I have is a 4/3 and 5mm boots and 3mm gloves. Can't afford better at the moment, but I mostly want to make some canyoneer friends and keep to canyons doable with my gear. So we will see. Just a nice winter camp will be worth it."
- If you are size Large (or Medium), I have plenty of beat size L wetsuits that can be converted into shortees and worn over a good wetsuit. Let me know.