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TR: Family Discovers Canyoneering, Loves It

Discussion in 'Trip Reports' started by Divisadero, May 24, 2021.

  1. Divisadero

    Divisadero

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    Hello! I'm probably going to be asking some obnoxious gear/technique questions in the near future. To partially counterbalance such obnoxiousness, I'm going to at least try to first add something of semi-value .

    My family--wife, daughter (14), and son (10)--discovered canyoneering last October. We live in Tahoe, so our recreation is more focused on mountains than canyons--skiing, ski mountaineering, climbing, mountain biking, backpacking, and trail running. Instead, of exploring yet another nook of my beloved Sierra, I opted to show my kids the standard attractions in Southern Utah. In researching hikes in Capitol Reef before our trip, I came across the canyoneering route for Cassity Arch. I thought, "Huh, I've got (climbing) ropes and the family already knows how to rappel." Thus, it was that I discovered canyoneering. I did as much "online" preparation as I could by researching general canyoneering practices and beginner-friendly routes that we could safely descend "climber style." I also took the family to some local crags for some practice before our trip.

    (1) U-Turn Canyon, Arches

    I couldn't imagine a better first canyon. We had gotten up early that morning and watched the sunrise behind Delicate Arch . . . with 30 other people. We had also did the tourist thing of driving to a few other popular Arches spots, getting out of our car for a 10-30 minutes, and then moving on. Our thoughts were that Arches is stunningly beautiful but also stunningly crowded. Then we did U-Turn, and it was like another park. We had the canyon, which was as aesthetic as anything we'd seen elsewhere in Arches, entirely to ourselves. And it was fun and straightforward. We were hooked.

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    (1.5) The Joint Trail, Canyonlands

    It's not really "canyoneering," but we went backpacking in the Needles District (via CP2) and the kids loved exploring the Joint Trail.
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    (2) Cassity Arch, Capitol Reef

    I think Capitol Reef might be my second favorite national park after Yosemite. It's low-key, uncrowded, and feels a little wilder than Utah's other parks. I dig it. Anyhow, Cassity Arch was a tremendously fun canyon. We were the first parties there and, thankfully, faster than the group who showed up as we were setting up the first rappel. For those curious, we did the first two raps on double-strands of climbing rope with autoblocks. The kids had to go slowly due to excess friction on the top halves of each rap, but it felt pretty safe.

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    (3) Diana's Throne, East Zion-ish

    This was such a fun canyon and perfect for a family. One of the things I like about canyoneering with the family is all the teamwork it entails. Everybody is involved, from setting up the rappel, bagging the rope, finding the next rappel station, helping with downclimbs, etc. Anyhow, Diana's Throne was a real treat, and I'd rank it right there with Keyhole (the next canyon) in terms of enjoyment.

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    (4) Keyhole, Zion

    Zion reminds me of Yosemite. Its jaw-dropping beauty is so brazen and accessible. And, if you limit your visit to the 10-20 miles of each park's most popular road and trail, it's an utter junkshow. But, like Yosemite (and perhaps Arches), if you go just a little off the beaten path, you can often find solitude. At least, that was our experience with Keyhole, which we thought we'd have to share with other groups given our midday start. Instead, we had it to ourselves. Sadly, we also had a permit for Pine Creek, but the park cancelled it the day before, I think on the basis of the toxic bacteria issue. Next time. In any event, Keyhole was a nice consolation.

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    I've since taken a canyoneering course and am planning a family trip to Capitol Reef/Escalante/Zion next fall. I'm still married to the mountains, my first love. But it's an open relationship, and I'm enjoying my affair with canyons.
  2. stefan

    stefan wandering utahn

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    great report!

    your gear/technique questions are always welcome. posting the report is a great way to introduce yourself and also give people a sense when responding to your future questions. thanks for sharing
    Jenny, ratagonia and Divisadero like this.
  3. Yellow Dart

    Yellow Dart It's only hubris if I fail.

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    There is also a very handy search component to the forum, that will likely answer your questions more quickly than posting and waiting for replies.

    Enjoy.
    Jenny and Divisadero like this.
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