Filson Outdoor Clothing Features ZAC Guide Ben Rhinesmith

Our very own Ben Rhinesmith was recently profiled in Filson’s “In the Field” section of their website. In the video, Ben guides the Filson crew down Battle Creek, a high country canyon southeast of Kolob Reservoir, while talking a little bit about his guiding approach and philosophy.

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Winter Grand Circle Field Trips

Our 2012 season has been rewarding in many ways. We have had enjoyable experiences with thousands of new visitors. Our staff has been the happiest, healthiest, and most cohesive of my eight seasons at ZAC. We head into December celebrating the largest winter staff in our history, as eleven staff will continue work in some capacity. Winter is a time of reflection, relaxation, rejuvenation, improvement, creativity, and innovation. We look for ways to improve ourselves and the way we do things.

One such initiative is the Staff Winter Grand Circle Field Trips. With enthusiasm, we are eagerly visiting places visitors often ask about, or even tell us stories about. Our goal is to broaden our skill level as information givers by becoming familiar with more of the Southwest, its places, and context. We journey to destinations few, sometimes none of us have visited, putting staff in charge of planning the trip who have never been. (We love adventure, too.)

In the coming weeks, you will see ZAC blog articles of our exploits and the potentially hilarious hijinks that ensue. We aim to travel to Toroweap, Escalante, Antelope Canyon, and more. Our aim is to use these field trip experiences to further pursue our mission of helping each other learn, grow, explore, relate and reconnect.

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Zion Narrows Fall Colors Video

Long-time ZAC client Jerry King visits us at least every year, regularly recording his hikes and canyon descents via video and still images. When Jerry gets home, he puts together some nice informational videos about the adventures he goes on. If you are thinking about doing a Zion Narrow Through-Hike, check out Jerry’s movie to learn about the hike and see the Narrows in prime fall color splendor.

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Imlay Canyon Trip Report, 9.2.2012

Went through Full Imlay Canyon with Steve Brezovec and Kelly Birdwell – to enjoy the canyon, of course, and to work on the anchors. Found some interesting things.

We started the canyon from Potato Hollow, from the very tip-top there, a few hundred yards higher than I had before. We used a retrievable anchor off a tree in order to not leave a sling visible to the public.

Downcanyon a ways, we found a tied off rock for the third stage of a rappel that can be done as a three-stage rap. This rock as cleverly wedged in a slot, but was tied off with some cord which was quite pretty, but had a core of paper (indicating that this cord was never intended for any purpose requiring strength).

Further down, we found an anchor tied with a non-knot (versus a Water Knot)… but I guess it held for whomever tied it.

Short drop off a log jam anchor, Imlay Canyon

Quite a few anchors in the canyon were tied with the Minnesota-clip style of equalization – especially scary since on a lot of these two-bolt anchors, one bolt is an ancient eroded stud-type bolt (very unreliable). We re-rigged 4 or 5 anchors usually with fresh webbing.

The upper section of the canyon was not especially full, and water quality was exceptionally poor. Between the Sneak Route entrance(s) and the bivy Alcove was a 20′ tall wood jam (in one section) and a section of dense log stew. The long two-stage rap, though, was free of debris. Water from the pool at the Alcove was murky, but we were able to filter and purify.

Log jams in the next section were present, but less of a problem than I had expected. Going into the first Extreme Narrows, we passed a group of 5 from Arizona who were wrapping a tweaked ankle from hitting a rock on a downclimb. Water quality was good and water level high for the rest of the canyon. We added a 1/2″ x 3-3/4″ to two anchors that did not have at least one bolt in the upper Narrows, including the rap into Big Bertha.

Pressed by time, we did passed on re-bolting in the lower Narrows, but no anchors were at the same level of “scary” as the two in the upper Narrows we reinforced. At the second-to-last rappel, someone had added a bolt to the dangling chain/hanger Jonathan had left earlier in the year, so it was now up to snuff. I brought a bar to torque out the bolts from the cut-through aluminum hangers, and with the bar they came out easily. I added a steel hanger and put one of them back in, but was out of rapid links, so it is not tied into the chain.

Several of the pothole anchors in the lower section were of the Minnesota-clip style mentioned above, and we re-rigged cordalette-style with fresh webbing.

At the final rappel, Steve and Kelly took off to catch their plane while I stayed and added a bolt to the anchor. In this case, the two-bolt anchor is in a precarious position, and a convenient safety line runs between the good two-bolt anchor and the old two-bolt anchor on the wall before that. The two ancient bolts are of the eroded rawl-stud variety which in my book are very suspect. I placed a 1/2″ x 3-3/4″ bolt in this position to supply a secure starting point for the safety line.

The third party in Imlay that day caught me up just as I was finishing the ‘work’, and generously carried my ropes out the Zion Narrows – my pack being conveniently full before adding the 235 feet of rope from the last rap. Thank you Evan, Susie and crew from S.G.

Great canyon, as always. My thanks to Steve and Kelly for the patience to allow for some anchor maintenance work.


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American Canyoneers Elects New Official Board

American Canyoneers, a non-profit canyoneering organization promoting canyon access, environmental protection, and safety, transitioned from its initial Interim Board of Directors to its first regular Board of Directors after its the membership voted in July. You can meet the new American Canyoneers Board of Directors on their website… or maybe you’ll bump into one of them in a canyon somewhere.

Thanks to the outgoing interim Board for their initiative and leadership over the last nine months. It is incredibly difficult to get a non-profit going starting with zero budget or staff, but this group made it happen, and they seem to be doing it the right way with 501c3 status, good transparency, and member support. Joining American Canyoneers is a great way to support canyoneering, and it only costs $5! If you’re interested, join American Canyoneers and get involved.

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Virgin River Flash Flood Video

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Mike and Seth caught some revealing footage of the Virgin River in scary flash flood mode as it carried a huge cottonwood tree down-river like an insignificant Poohstick. See how dark the water is? The color comes from the high load of silt, mud, and rock the river picks up in a flood event. 95% of the erosion in Zion happens in punctuated events like this, where sudden, heavy rains create high-volume, high-velocity river conditions that pick up tons and tons of sediment and move it downstream. Once the momentum gets going, all that debris can scour banks and displace large areas of sediment, replacing ankle-deep shallows with deep pools, and vice-versa. It’s super fun to explore the river after a flood event like this and try to find the best “new” swimming holes the flood has created.

The guys filmed this footagee just above the Springdale River Park, where we pick up tubers at the end of their runs. Seems like tubing would be a little extreme with that amount of water and debris in the river, don’t you think? If you want to see a flash flood, I highly recommend a viewing it from a safe place like this, versus the in-canyon flash flood viewing a couple of our staff caught a couple weeks ago.

Posted in Natural History, Safety, Seasonal, Springdale, Summer, The Narrows, Tubing, Weather & Climate, Zion National Park | Tagged , , , | Comments Off

Landslide Closes Hidden Canyon Trail

Hidden Canyon Trail rock slide

Hidden Canyon Trail, covered in rubble. NPS photo.

A teenager recently asked me, “Do big rocks fall ever fall down here?” Looking around most anyplace in Zion, and you can see that MANY big rocks have fallen from the canyon walls over time. Because we seldom see rockfall, however, it’s easy to forget where all the boulders on the ground came from. When the Hidden Canyon slide happened last week, it was a great reminder that geology happens all the time… even on actively used trails, in the middle of the day. Thankfully, nobody was hurt. Thanks to Zion’s rangers for helping the stranded hikers out, and for the inevitable work that will need to be done to restore the Hidden Canyon Trail. Until then… it’s a good thing there are lots of other 5-star trail to hike around here. Here’s the news release from the Park Service:

Zion National Park Superintendent Jock Whitworth announced today that the Hidden Canyon Trail is currently closed due to a rockslide that occurred on Wednesday evening, July 25 at 5:30 p.m. The rockslide covered a narrow section of the trail with debris trapping 11 park visitors behind it for approximately three hours. Once the debris movement settled down, park rangers set up a rope line and provided the stranded visitors with helmets and helped them out of the canyon. There were no injuries due to the rockslide or rescue efforts.

The rockslide was active again overnight, depositing nearly six feet of debris on a narrow and steep section of the trail, which made it impassable, prompting the closure of the trail. Work to remove the debris will begin early next week assuming the area has completely stabilized. The Hidden Canyon Trail will remain closed until further notice.

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Spry Canyon Flash Flood Video, July 11, 2012

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Flash flood videos can’t do justice to the real thing, but this video from Spry Canyon last Monday (7/11) offers an educative perspective. The narrators’ emotions perhaps say more about the danger than the actual video… these two guys are clearly scared, excited, and riveted by the crashing, dynamic conditions. They literally have no idea what might happen, how high the water might rise, what debris might come crashing down to them. A scary situation.

Were these guys in danger? It’s really difficult to say. Obviously, the water came up quite a bit while they were there, and they seem trapped in the alcove they are in by the middle of the video. But they seem to feel safe in their perch, amazed and lucky they weren’t stuck in a worse position in the canyon. As they point out, their next anchor is 1-2 feet under water by mid-video, and even as the waterfall slows toward the end, they point out how the overall depth just keeps rising. The parting shot shows the red webbing anchor filled with debris, hinting at the surge that receded only minutes before.

The weather forecast on this date was not obvious: 40% chance of rain in the AM, 30% chance in the PM. It is easy to think, “If it doesn’t rain in the morning, we’ll okay to go in the afternoon.” Yet this sort of thinking is completely illogical. This flood started around 5 PM and dumped one inch of rain in an hour’s time. So the important take-away lesson is the weather forecast doesn’t matter much. If you are going into a canyon with questionable, cloud-scattered skies overhead, you’d best be in a canyon where escape is frequently possible. Even in Spry, where escaping the drainage IS often possible, you can get into deep trouble if you are caught in the wrong spot.

Please have fun, and be safe out there!

Posted in Accidents, Canyoneering, Flash Flooding, Outdoor Leadership, Safety, Summer, Trip Reports, Zion, Zion National Park | Tagged , , , , | Comments Off

Boundary Canyon Conditions

Went by, but not IN, Boundary Canyon Zion yesterday. No flow. No flow from the spring down to the head of the canyon. Likely dry from there except a few puddles. Drought conditions have returned.

If the Kolob Reservoir does an extended period of significant water releases, the spring at the head of Boundary could perk up, but it seems unlikely.


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American Canyoneers Now Open to New Members (Take Two)

A few weeks ago, I posted an appeal for new members from American Canyoneers, a fairly new organization founded to take positive, progressie action on access and education issues in the U.S. canyoneering sphere. Just as American Canyoneers issued their membership appeal, however, their PayPal payment gateway stopped working, turning away many folks excited to join. I’m pleased to say the payment gateway problems have been resolved, and anybody interested can now join American Canyoneers via their Membership Page. At $5 for the first year, can you really go wrong? And by joining in this first, formative year, you’ll have the opportunity to shape and hone the organization’s mission and initiatives, an important and difficult task for this all-volunteer organization.

Thanks to the interim board at American Canyoneers for persevering through the early organizational processes and bringing about the first Board Election this summer. The canyoneering community owes is in your debt.

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