Staff trip to Neon Canyon

First time down Neon Canyon.

The ZAC Neon crew consisted of Elana, Hayley, Erin, and Robby. We had a quick breakfast and an early start. It was a cool, windy morning with a stunning desert sunrise. We crossed the Escalante River at the confluence with Neon in cold knee-deep water and exited the canyon on a popular social trail.

After some rim walking, we arrived at the north fork of Neon in 2.5 hours from the trailhead. DSCN0877

As we were exploding gear from our packs at the “first rappel”, we saw a short stemming section just up canyon from our yard sale.


DSCN0863  We finished packing up and walked in above the sweet side drainage. It reminded me of the brief pods encountered in Shenanigans (north wash) but in a shallow canyon. The side canyon ran into a fault and we were onto to the short, sweet, and easy, stemming section- it was maybe 15 ft off the deck.  Continuing down to Neon proper we traveled through a wonderfully tight and sculpted canyon. Those in the group lugging behemoth Heaps packs found this section to be very physical.

Shortly we were into Neon and the water, it didn’t take long for me to discover the shops 7mm wetsuit is almost as good as the drysuits, if you fill them out properly (aka I need more doughnuts in my life). Neon proper offered beautiful, playful narrows interspersed with increasingly deeper and longer wades. The down climbing was fun and straightforward. I found myself attempting to play hot lava and was only somewhat successful, but thoroughly amused.

Eventually we came to a pothole that could be stemmed over. Wanting to stay low, our group opted to swim across.  Erin made short work of the beached whale maneuver and helped Elana up with a counterbalance using his tether. Elana in turn helped Hayley defeat the pseudo keeper with the same rope trick. As I was about to enter the pool, my unlocked Pirana, which was attached to my harness’s hard point, unclipped itself as I squeezed through a flute and fell to my feet! Had it fallen anywhere else, I would have certainly made a canyon donation. Fortunately, Neon was in a good mood and I was able to force myself to be flexible and reach my toes and Pirana successfully. This led me to wonder, do you get to make a wish if you drop gear in a pool like pennies in a fountain?

More cold swimming followed, the 7mm wetsuit was barely adequate.  Once this section of canyon relented, we hung out at the “normal” entrance to warm up via sunbathing and snacking! We found Moki steps that led out of the canyon to a bench opposite of where we hiked in.  On the way down we had an opportunity to practice sliding and capturing. This diversion generated enough warmth for us to rally and finish the canyon.


We entered the final narrows via handline down a committing but doable down climb-be ready to belay the first person and capture the rest. More cold narrows and another unnecessary handline and we found our selves taking our separate route through the cheese rock to the stance above the keeper. The showstopper keeper was a bit of a let down; we were able to swim right over it.

Onward to Golden Cathedral (or the Monster, depending on who you ask), an 80ft rappel through a blown out pothole and into a pool of water. Down a flute and into space, the canyon opens dramatically and you have a front row seat to view two blown out potholes as you descend into the final pool and terra firma. The final rappel in Neon is among the prettier I have done. We pondered the Golden Cathedral for a solid half hour as our cold-water gear dried out in the sun before packing up and “bee lining” the hike back to Egypt trailhead. The hike out has lots of loose sand but the uphill sections are quick! On the way back we rim walked parts of Fence Canyon, which seemed to be an enjoyable non-technical canyon.

We made killer canned chili by adding our burrito leftovers to the pot…. Then again, hunger makes great seasoning. We ate our dinners, listened to reggae, and then watched the sun mostly set on Neon Dome before we packed up and drove to the water tanks trailhead for more fun on a scouting trip in coyote gulch but that is a story for another blog!

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