Category Archives: Guided Events

Three Great Biking Options in the Zion Neighborhood

“It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best.” – Ernest Hemingway There’s no better way to see Zion than by bicycle. In my own time off, biking is my favorite mode of travel and recreation. Zion has every type of biking for every level and ambition of biker. I find pedaling the perfect speed between hiking and driving through our vast, scenic landscape here in the Southwest. Here are a couple of my favorite bike rides in and around the Canyon: Biking Zion Canyon Our free shuttle system is great, but cycling the Scenic Drive is the best way to take in the scenery and (especially after our rainy winter) the Spring flowers blooming alongside the road. It’s also a great way to experience peace and quiet; other visitors pass by on packed buses, while you and a few other cyclists have the road to yourselves. The Details: The full scenic drive is about 14 miles round-trip and takes most bikers 2 – 3 hours. The steepest sections (Canyon Junction to Court of the Patriarchs) is really not too bad, but CAN be avoided by using the shuttle system to transport your bikes … Continue reading

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Flowing Water Makes Spring Canyoneering Awesome

In The Secret Knowledge of Water (I think), Craig Childs writes about canyons as enormous, beautiful machines for moving water. The desert’s plumbing system, if you will. Twists and turns and slopes and swirls, all carved, grain by grain, by water making its way downward, in unthinking efficiency. And the remnant of this dynamic fluidity, these rushes and trickles and torrents, are our canyons. If you’ve never experienced a flowing canyon, it might be difficult to understand how alive a canyon can be, how someone could equate a flowing canyon to a living, breathing animal or being. And you might be GLAD you’ve never been in a flowing canyon, as most people equate flowing canyons with life-threatening flash floods, borne from summer thunderstorms. Every spring, however, as the snow melts from higher elevations and the saturated soils rejects spring rains, the canyons reliably flow, creating a wonderful world of water music, waterfalls, and raised voices, straining over the cacophony of running water. While spring canyoneering often requires drysuits or wetsuits to fend off frigid waters, the fun it absolutely worth it. There is nothing like enjoying a good dousing while rappelling through a waterfall, or swimming in deep, fresh water between narrow … Continue reading

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Explore North Wash with Tom Jones, March 25th – 27th

We had so much fun during our 2nd Annual North Wash Canyoneering Camp in November, we decided to offer another trip this Spring. ZAC guide and canyoneering pioneer, Tom Jones, will again lead the charge into the tight, twisted, gorgeous slots with a team of enthusiastic clients . Will you be one of them? Go ahead and sleep on it, then call tomorrow to join us March 25 – 27 for another great North Wash Canyoneering Camp. You get three days of canyoneering, meals, and camping for the incredible price of $695! What’s that you say? You want three good reasons you should travel to the middle-of-nowhere Utah for a “canyoneering” trip? I’m so glad you asked… 1. North Wash is the ultimate canyoneers’ playground. With names like Monkey Business, Lucky Charms, Black Hole, and Leprechaun, the canyons here beckon any outdoor enthusiast with even a morsel of curiosity. There’s something for everybody here, from easy, meandering canyon hikes, to beginner-level stemming and squeezing, to X-rated stemming 60 feet off the ground. Since this area has something for every level of ability, it’s easy to find appropriate canyons for any group here, canyons that keep you intrigued, challenged, and smiling … Continue reading

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Undercover Zion Rangers Nab Illegal Guide Service

I’m not necessarily happy Mr. Garilglio was arrested and banned from Zion (see below), but I DO appreciate the ZNP folks enforcing their rules. This is the second or third time  in as many years I’ve noticed an illegal guiding arrest in Zion, which either means a) the Park is stepping up enforcement, or b) there has been an increase in illegal guiding. Let’s hope it’s the former, not the latter. We spend a LOT of time and attention each year making sure our permits with the NPS, NFS, BLM, and Utah State Park Service are in order. Building good relationships with public lands administrators can be challenging at times (lots of red tape and waiting time), but ultimately it leads to responsible use, friendly relations, and often great cooperation with our public lands. In fact, I feel like all the public land managers we work with go out of their way to answer our questions, help us solve problems, and provide fair and prudent guidelines for commercial use. With all the budget cuts the Parks have experienced over the last decade, public lands managers are constantly asked to do MORE with LESS, and I don’t think they receive much … Continue reading

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Travel Journal: The “Spring Break” Climbing Road Trip

We have all known moments of freedom, simplicity, and contentment that stand apart from day-to-day life. These moments are, to me, some of the most memorable and extraordinary of my life. I recall the swelling of my heart, the deepness of my breath, and the smile on my face the first time I drove west through the mountains of Montana, or when I flew over the fjords of Norway, realizing with fear and excitement that I would be calling the landscape home for a year. These memories have a transcendent quality. They remind me to be in awe, to dream, to love, and to trust. I don’t want to get too wrapped up in the “touchy-feely” stuff. My point is this, travel and exploration is amongst the highest levels of existence I have experienced. It is a romantic idea. Not romantic like in the movies, but romantic like Jack Kerouac’s “Dharma Bums” or “The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan”. The thing that gets me all hot and bothered, and captures the romantic in me, is taking rock climbing road trips. I am building towards a sales pitch – can you feel it? I cherish the memories of my first time traveling through … Continue reading

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Rappeling Off Sand: The Sandtrap Anchor System

A Revolutionary New Canyon Tool Without a doubt, the most interesting and widely discussed canyoneering innovation of the last year or two has been Steve Woodford‘s “sand anchor”, a simple but brilliant contraption allowing canyoneers to rappel relatively safely off a plentiful canyon resource: sand. Though not nearly as simple or obvious to use as bolts or a tree, Woodford’s design enables trained canyoneers to leave no trace safely and securely in remote, pristine canyons much more easily than previous leading-edge “ghosting” techniques. As this tool, and the understanding of how to use it, spreads through the canyoneering community, I hope to see less new bolting in canyons, and perhaps even less rope scarring as well. The Sand Anchor Concept The fundamental idea behind the anchor design is straightforward: If you can spread a lot of weight over a large enough friction surface, you end up with a safe anchor to rap on. In the past, there have been lots of approaches to this concept, but most of them relied primarily on the weight variable, and not as much on the surface area variable. Thus, we always needed a sharp corner or deep hole to gain enough friction to hold … Continue reading

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Is It Really A Leap of Faith?

Ran across this great photo from photographer eddie_tk on Flicker recently. There’s a spot in Zion like this, up in Cave Valley, where I like to jump across a similarly wide gap to a beautiful promontory, high above the world below. I really have to be ready for that leap, because the consequences of missing the leap are likelydeadly, or at least permanently debilitating. The leap requires a bit of a run, and definitely no slipping or hesitation. And then, to get back, you discover the far edge is actually a bit lower than the near edge, so it gets HARDER. Eek. Is it crazy to do stuff like this? To risk your life simply to be on a pillar with a slightly different view? Is it really risking your life, if you are confident you can do it? What is it that incredibly visceral urge that wants to make such a leap? Where does it come from? Why do I feel better after having done something like this? I love these questions. I have never gambler, in the Las Vegas sense, and I have always thought that sort of gambling is pretty ridiculous. But this urge, this need, this … Continue reading

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‘Tis the Season for Winter Canyoneering Photos

ZAC Guide Scott Williams snapped these pics whilst enjoying an exciting day of white canyoneering with clients over Thanksgiving weekend. As the pictures show, we had a healthy helping of fluffy flakes last weekend, which made for some incredible canyon experiences. Guide Sarah Stratton reported 18″ of snow in Cave Valley on 11/24, with icy rappels and refrigerator temperatures in the canyons. To prepare for conditions, Scott and his crews donned drysuits, which kept them super cozy, not to mention easy to spot, in the canyon snow globe. Scott promised to report all the details next week… check in to read about the wintery action.

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Stemming: An Essential Canyoneering Technique

If you ever played on a jungle gym or climbed up the door jambs of your home as a kid, you know how fun it is to play with the simple, opposing bodily forces. Climbing around a natural or structural environment is both intuitive and irresistible to most children, one of the original ways to have good, clean fun. So why, as we grow older, do we stop our monkeying around? I think one of the reasons canyoneering makes us feel so much like kids is the literal return to our childhood travel methods. In the canyons, we crawl, climb, swim, and hang, just like we did when we were kids. My favorite canyoneering technique is STEMMING, the multi-faceted act of using our hands and feet to travel through rock corridors without touching the ground. While there are a number of variations on stemming, such as chimneying, bridging, and galumphing (to name a few), all stemming techniques share a common element: Don’t touch the ground. Practically, there are lots of reasons to get off the ground. We may want to avoid a pool of over-our-heads water, or a deep, dry pothole that would be tough to escape. We may be … Continue reading

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2nd Annual North Wash Canyoneering Camps, 10/22-24 & 11/5-7

North Wash isn’t a town, it’s a drainage that runs smack-dab through the middle of nowhere in south-central Utah. It so happens, however, that the specific combination of geology and hydrology in the North Wash area conspire to create some of the very best tight slot canyons in all of Utah, in very close proximity to each other. This fall, we are running two North Wash canyoneering camps, October 22 – 24 and November 5 – 7, for new and old clients alike who want to experience a very different, exciting side of canyoneering. Are you qualified? Yes. Will you join us? We sure hope so. In more ways than one, canyoneering in North Wash is a departure from a typical Zion or Moab experience. Unlike Zion’s relatively wide, colorful, hike-and-rappel canyons, North Wash canyons are true slots and super-slots, canyons you squeeze, climb, stem, and wiggle through. We travel lightly through these canyons, taking only what we really need, as inches and pounds always count. We also rely on our partners more than usual, spotting each other on numerous short downclimbs and backing each other up on rappels. While the canyons do feature numerous rappels, for the most part … Continue reading

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