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Zion - implications of a Real Winter

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

  1. ratagonia


    Mount Carmel, Utah
    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?

    townsend, Kuenn and baggiebloke like this.
  2. baggiebloke


    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.

    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
  3. deathtointernet


    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? :)
    Kuenn likes this.
  4. Kuenn


    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.
    ratagonia likes this.
  5. townsend


    Plano, TX

    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:

    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:
    ratagonia likes this.
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