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Zion - implications of a Real Winter

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by ratagonia, Mar 13, 2019.

  1. ratagonia

    ratagonia

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    We have almost had a real winter. Snow and rain. Some, not a ton. But since things have been "barely wintery" for a few years, I thought I would review what we know about Zion vis a vis a real winter.

    A. Hard to say what will happen when. Caution advised. The melt-out depends on how warm it gets how fast. There is always the possibility of more snow/rain and either a slow or a fast meltout. We will know when we know.

    B. The Narrows will likely close for a one to three weeks in April to May, or so. Temperatures at 7000 feet are the determinant here.

    C. The Subway may or may not flood and be closed sometime in April. There is no gauge on the Subway, so it is entirely based on going and finding out. I predict two rescues this year due to high water.

    D. Many canyons will flood as the snow melts out. Don't be there when that happens. Many anchors will have been disrupted by the floods. For early season descents, bring plenty of webbing, rapides and anchor skills, and expect to re-rig several to many anchors in even the trade-route canyons.

    E. As far as temps in the canyons, consider it "spring" and cold until about June 1st.

    F. Approaches that involve climbing talus or otherwise loose stuff then to be even looser after a good winter.

    Anything else?

    Tom
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  2. baggiebloke

    baggiebloke

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    Thank you for this post.

    My canyoneering experience has been in last 5 years, and mostly following dry winters.

    I am self taught, but with 30 years of rock climbing and mountaineering experience.

    My previous experience is limited to only Subway in November, and Diana Throne, multiple Egypt’s, Red Breaks, Bull Valley, etc. in April, but all in dry years.

    I was unsure what my upcoming 1st week April trip was going to offer - and this helps.

    With the 9 in question over last week we have moved our base from camping in watchtower to a house in Kanab, in order to guarantee speedy access to east Zion and Cotton Canyon/Skutumpah.

    We are happy to mix up high country hiking, rock formations and 2nd class scrambling canyons, as well as 1 or 2 more technical, but wonder with the latter what will be accessible by April in just High Clear AWD, and not a complete mud fest: birch hollow? water canyon?

    Advice of this community welcome, if you have suggestions for technical options given this winter.


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  3. deathtointernet

    deathtointernet

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    Probably a good year to be cognizant of the snowpack in Echo. Hammerhead could be another that could cause problems with snow later than might be expected. Hidden can hold a good amount as well, but then again, no idea when you'll even be able to do the canyon anyhow with the rockfall. Might see some flow in Boundary later into the year.

    Maybe don't do Heaps if there's a big waterfall coming out into Emerald Pools? :)
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  4. Kuenn

    Kuenn

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    Tom, thanks for this info. To us out-of-towners it is extremely helpful data.

    A group of us had sights on planning a trip in early May, but have now determined that the best bang for the buck will be to push it out a couple of months.
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  5. townsend

    townsend

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    Tom,

    Great information as always.

    I just moved to western Colorado in June 2018, so this is my first full Colorado winter. One thing I learned immediately was that a record (of sorts) was set for snowfall last year in Colorado -- it was incredibly low. This hurt farmers and ranchers. Residents of the western slope were acutely aware of the situation.

    In contrast, the 2018-19 winter is much improved. The amount of snowfall was slightly above normal for December through February, which in itself would have been an improvement. Winter storms in March had dumped a ton of snow in a short time.

    Western Colorado can never have too much snow, to judge by the reservoir near Ridgway (way down from what was once considered normal.)

    Check out the update map here: https://www.wcc.nrcs.usda.gov/ftpre...Efxr3rT-FwW2oTH1_3D2IQS9-fpTKp5CMyDilwrxN_HZs

    All this snow will definitely impact Ouray canyoneering season -- making it later.

    Note: you can always drop by Canyoneering Colorado in Ouray for specific information on any canyon: https://www.canyoningcolorado.com/
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  6. Yellow Dart

    Yellow Dart It's only hubris if I fail.

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    G. Approaches with scrambling or light climbing, or descents with stemming and downclimbing: the rock walls and boulders stay wetter later into the year, compromising their strength. Counted 9 holds pull loose on a recent outing; one of which disintegrated in my hand after it pulled out. Chaussssy...
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  7. baggiebloke

    baggiebloke

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    Is Zion sandstone like Red Rocks...brittle when wet, bomber when dry?

    I don’t free climb in Zion so have not thought about tensile strength of rock after rain...not enough moderate routes for me, but in Vegas, free climbers know to give it a day to dry out after rainfall to avoid breaking off the holds (let alone watching your gear rip) and avoid turning a moderate 5.8 juggy face into a 511+ blank slap


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  8. ratagonia

    ratagonia

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    Zion Sandstone is WAY softer than Red Rocks.
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  9. MSS

    MSS

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    Thanks so much for this post! me and 2 other climbers are new to canyoneering and wanted to try Birch Hollow for the first time in April. We are expecting it to be cold/ wet but are curious about the hike out. We have read it is hard to navigate out and can be VERY muddy/ snowy. In a nut shell.. is it worth it in deep mud? or should we wait a few months? If anyone had any tips/ things we should know about it would be greatly appreciated.
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  10. Yellow Dart

    Yellow Dart It's only hubris if I fail.

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    If I never did Birch again, I would not mind.

    Better canyons worth the rub of the $20 permit a short drive away.

    IMO, naturally.
  11. townsend

    townsend

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    An update to my post: Folks, the winter ain't over . . . yet! Snow in April in Colorado isn't all that unusual . . . storms passing through continue into April.

    And we have a fairly good-sized weather system arriving here this week, and 9 1/4" of snow is predicted for Ouray on Wednesday: https://howmuchwillitsnow.com/in/ouray/co

    This past Sunday, I wanted to try out my new Atlas snow shoes. I just bought them, and I have never snow shoed before in my life, but I figured I'd like it. I decided to try them out doing Weehawken Creek from the bottom. I have hiked up the creek to the 90' waterfall about five times this past summer. It starts as a hike, then a scramble, and finally, as noted by Michael, you eventually have to do "minor rock climbing" to get to the waterfall. Basically, you have "chimney" between the L wall of the canyon and a massive boulder.

    At any rate, snow shoes worked great. I probed with my trekking poles as I proceeded. Yeah, I fell down a couple of times, because the snow gave way, but the creek isn't that deep. I got as far as that minor climbing move section. I was by myself, and didn't want to attempt it without somebody being around to tell the authorities about the dead body stuck in the crack.:inpain:

    With all the snow, it was a steep, vertical shoot. I am thinking about going back after the storm calms down. Unless I find another way over -- perhaps standing on 4-6' of packed snow will allow me to cross over the wall of boulders at a different spot -- I would probably need to take off my snow shoes and . . .

    Nice knowing you guys . . .

    Oh -- more snow, more melt, later Ouray canyoneering season. The San Juan Mountains are now -- before this soon-to-arrive snow storm -- at 154%: https://www.wcc.nrcs.usda.gov/ftpre...Efxr3rT-FwW2oTH1_3D2IQS9-fpTKp5CMyDilwrxN_HZs
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  12. CRNPRES

    CRNPRES

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    Depending on how early this month, I would be worried about accessing the TH (might have to walk a bit of snow to get to the TH). I hiked through Bull Hollow about a week and a half ago and it was clear of snow on south facing and pretty dry but still till a lots of snow on North faces and the road. I almost got stuck messing around in the snow.

    2nd thing is if you are coming from Springdale, 9 is closed on the switchbacks to all traffic so you would have to drive all the way around the park to get there.

    I would except Birch to not only be wet but likely flowing.
    Yellow Dart likes this.
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