Awesome Right Fork Trip Report on CUSA’s “Latest Rave”

Rapping into the head of The Hammerhead, Zion National Park

Rapping into the head of The Hammerhead, Zion National Park

After taking a year off in 2011, Tom Jones has reinitiated his popular canyoneering blog The Latest Rave in a beautiful, updated format, making high-quality, illustrated trip reports even more accessible to canyoneers searching for canyon beta, pictures, and stories. The Latest Rave is a “canyoneering diary,” featuring accounts of recent canyon descents and trips throughout the canyoneering world, but primarily focused on Colorado Plateau canyons. Tom has expanded the Rave a bit, inviting long-time canyoneering partner Steve “Ram” Ramras as a regular Raver, as well as publishing well-written and illustrated canyoneering stories from other canyoneer/authors in his Guest Rave section.

Fortunately, quite a few Rave trip reports are about Zion canyons, which are, of course, our favorite. Mark Duttweiler published a particularly nice trip report last week on his party’s descent of the Right Fork of North Creek, a less-travelled canyon deep in the Zion Backcountry. Mark and his crew descend the “Hammerhead” variation of the Right Fork route, adding a great, technical start and a number of rappels to the package. The meat of the Right Fork, however, is the Direct Variation, a formidable section of slot that, though relatively short and not particularly difficult, threatens inexperienced canyoneers with shadows of Imlay-esque challenges – large potholes, very cold water, and dark, sustained narrows. Mark does a nice job of highlighting the grandeur, mystery, and emotional roller-coasters of a Right Fork trip, which will whet the appetite of anyone thinking about making the 2-3 day journey.

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Free Canon Camera & Video Workshops in Zion

Canon has been running their National Parks promotion for six years now, and they are finally coming to Zion! From June 24th to July 9th, you can borrow a Canon SLR, point-and-shoot, or video camera to shoot gorgeous Zion scenery… AND you can receive free instruction on how to do it. Yes, it’s an unabashed marketing promotion on Canon’s part, but it’s also a fantastic opportunity to a) try out top-of-the-line technology for free, and b) get expert advice from Canon photography teachers/mentors. Here’s the meat of the press release from Canon:

The Canon Photography in the Parks Program offers participants the opportunity to learn about photography or hone their skills through free professional instruction as they take part in a guided walking photo tour of some of the most scenic national park areas. Participants can bring their own equipment or borrow, at no charge, Canon equipment from a selection of EOS DSLR cameras and EF lenses, PowerShot point-and-shoot cameras, or VIXIA camcorders. Equipment is available for photographers at every skill level. Following the tour, participants have the opportunity to print their work on site, and to download their image collection later from the Program website. Visitors of all ages and experience levels are welcome to participate.

New to this year’s program are Canon video workshop sessions. Visitors can experience and learn about shooting video using VIXIA camcorders or EOS digital SLR cameras and participate in a hands-on videography demonstration with experts.

Those interested in the workshops should show up 15-30 minutes ahead of the scheduled start time. Instructors are experts at putting artistic and technical concepts into language that participants of all ages will understand and help unleash their creativity.

After wrapping up three weeks in the Grand Canyon, Photography in the Parks will be coming to Springdale, UT for the first time, from June 24th until July 9th. Instructors will lead photo and video workshops three times daily at 8:30, 12:30 and 4:30 pm from the pedestrian entrance of Zion National Park located in the Zion Canyon Giant Screen Theatre complex. We recommend and encourage participants to take the Springdale shuttle which will drop off passengers next to the park entrance where the Photography in the Parks registration is also located.

Browse the full Zion workshop schedule on Canon’s Photography in the Parks page.

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Free Werner Herzog Documentary at CCC Tonight

It’s not canyoneering, and it’s not in Zion, but exploring long-lost caves and ancient paintings in France is pretty cool. If you’re in Springdale this evening looking for something to do, check out the free Z-Arts! presentation of Cave of Forgotten Dreams, an excellent documentary from Werner Herzog. If you’re interested, just drop by the Canyon Community Center (126 Lion Boulevard, just up the street from Zion Adventure Company) a few minutes before the film starts at 7 PM. Here’s the official even release from Z-Arts!:

June 15, 2012, Friday
Z-Arts! Film Presentation
7:00 pm – Canyon Community Center, Springdale

Cave of Forgotten Dreams (2011)
A Film by Werner Herzog
Run Time:  90 minutes

Cave Of Forgotten Dreams, a breathtaking new documentary from the incomparable Werner Herzog (Encounters at the End of the World, Grizzly Man), follows an exclusive expedition into the nearly inaccessible Chauvet Cave in France, home to the most ancient visual art known to have been created by man. One of the most successful documentaries of all time, Cave Of Forgotten Dreams is an unforgettable cinematic experience that provides a unique glimpse of pristine artwork dating back to human hands over 30,000 years ago — almost twice as old as any previous discovery.

For more information see 

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Grand Canyoneering Film Makes Splash at Telluride

Dan Ransom’s 22-minute documentary, “Last of the Great Unknown,” is receiving great reviews on the adventure film documentary circuit this summer. The Aspen Times wrote a nice review in anticipation of the 5Point Film Festival (April 26 – 29) and Outside Magazine picked “Last of the Great Unknown” as one of it’s Top Ten Documentaries from the Mountainfilm Festival (Memorial Day weekend) in Telluride. The acclaimed Banff Mountain Film Festival (Oct 27 – Nov 4) has yet to make final film selections, but will announce them on their website at the end of July. Here’s hoping Ransom and canyoneering get to show their stuff in that great annual showcase of fine outdoor films.

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Neon Canyon: Braving the Summer Heat in Escalante

Clouds at Cow Camp

Clouds at Cow Camp

Al enjoying Upper Brimstone Canyon

Al enjoying Upper Brimstone Canyon

Went down to Escalante for a little Neon action. It being June and all, and a hot year to boot, and knowing Neon was dry dry dry; for this trip Mike Schasch and I convinced our guests that running daytrips out of a car-camp would be a much better plan than backpacking down (and back up!) in this kinda heat. (Some pictures by ME, some pics by Mike Schasch.)

This was the third and final spring Neon trip for Zion Adventure Company Mike and I ran, and each trip was very, very different. Some were inspired by the Neon Trip Jonathan and I did with Greg Aiello and Motion TV. And some were just inspired by the beauty of the Golden Cathedral, and signed on up… like Gary, Al and Dennis from the Portland Area, who are experienced mountaineers (or, at least, golfers) and therefore used to suffering (or, in Dennis’s case, frustration).

First day, I reached 10 years into my past and remembered a delightful day in March I spent in upper Brimstone and upper Spooky with Larry Halford. It did not click with me that: A. I have a terrible memory; and B. March and June do not have the same weather. So we wandered around in the sun and it was very hot. Finally found a good section of Upper Brimstone that was quite narrow for a wonderfully long time. We enjoyed the cool of it, with some downclimbs, some squeezin’s and some snakes! Then we wandered around in the hot sun again to get back to the car. It was… kinda like fun, only different.

The crew in the glow of the Golden Cathedral

The crew in the glow of the Golden Cathedral

Back to camp for a glorious sunset, and vigorous attempts to refill the depleted reservoirs of precious bodily fluids. I had no problem convincing folks that an early start was a good idea for Neon. With light packs, it took us exactly 2 hours to get to the mouth of Neon, where we took a long break. Then back into the sun, up and along the rim to the “More Fun” entrance – one hour and 15 minutes in the sun was tolerated, barely. Another bit of lunch and a brief siesta in the cool of the canyon, and then we were off downcanyon with some downclimbs, the occasional rappel, and of course the keeper pothole that people find so intimidating – Mike almost climbed it without assistance. We were up and out fairly quickly, and the pool afterwards was wonderfully cool, if only waist deep. We lingered for a bit.

Then back into the sun, past the sport entrance, down the downclimb, another rappel, then to the main Keeper, now with the wishbone in place, and the BIG EVENT, big finish.

We pumped water and lingered in the holy space of the Cathedral, but eventually, the sun had to be braved and we hiked out via Fence. A few clouds really helped with the exit hike, and we cleared the summit before dark. A long day, but very satisfying… thanks to all for a great day out in the wilderness.

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American Canyoneers Appeal for Membership

Wolf Schuster, founder of American Canyoneers

I first met Wolfgang Schuster when he brought his family to Zion for a canyoneering course in 2007. An ex-fighter pilot with laser focus and a wry humor, Wolf calls it like he sees it and loves to get straight to the point. Wolf quickly became hooked on canyons, and over the years, we have gotten together for some great canyoneering trips. This last winter, Wolf stunned me by sticking his neck out and leading the charge in establishing a new not-for-profit canyoneering organization, American Canyoneers, dedicated to improving access problems and relationships between land managers and the public in the canyoneering world. Wolf and a cadre of other dedicated volunteers have impressed me with their professional approach to setting up the organization, outlining their mission, gaining 501c3 status, and creating a board representing a wide swath of the canyoneering community. Kudos to everyone involved.

Taking a professional approach to founding American Canyoneers also meant it took some time, so AC was waited until now to formally organize a membership drive. The time has come, however, so please take a moment to look into the organization. If the “ACES” mission fits with your own, please consider joining to help play a role in evolving this new and promising group.

Thanks for getting the ball rolling, Wolf!

American Canyoneers Appeal for Membership 

Canyoneering is experiencing rapid growth in the United States. With it, the effects of increased demands and impacts on canyon resources are providing glimpses of what the future of canyoneering could be like, including limitations on access.

Some of the areas currently regulated or closed include:

•• Deer Creek, a popular gem of the Grand Canyon, has been closed to canyoneering.

•  Many of the canyons on the Navajo nation are closed or require a permit and/or a guide.

•• Canyons on Apache Tribal Lands require a permit and/or a guide.

•• Zion National Park has closed access to several canyons, some due to sensitive resources and private land access issues. Any technical canyoneering requires purchase of a permit.

•• Arches National Park is currently developing a Climbing and Canyoneering Management Plan. Canyoneering in the Fiery Furnace requires a permit.

•• Snow Canyon State Park has two established routes. One has seasonal closures for falcon nesting, and both require that canyoneers attain a permit.

•• Upon learning a canyoneering route had been established in 2011, Goblin Valley State Park immediately responded by closing the resource until they could establish their regulatory system for canyoneering. The resourse is now open, but requires a permit.

Just a few areas of concern for potential future closures include:

• Death Valley is considering regulating canyoneering access by using a permit system similar to that of Zion National Park. This could pose serious problems for canyoneers due to logistical issues related to long canyon days, great distances of canyons from the visitor center, and lack of internet (or even cell phone) access throughout most of the park.

•• Grand Canyon is in the process of finalizing regulations for canyoneering, which is complicated by logistical challenges, including land and river travel limitations.

•* Zion/BLM: Birch Hollow canyon is growing in popularity and a permit may be required for descent in the future.

Many problems related to increased demands and impact can be prevented, mitigated, or overcome. Communication and cooperation among the canyoneering community, and the people and agencies that manage the resources we cherish, will be fundamental to protecting canyoneering resources for use, enjoyment, and environmental quality. The mission of the American Canyoneers is to facilitate this process by working for ACES: Access, Communication, Education, and Safety.

We need your help! Join the American Canyoneers in our work on ACES. Become a founding member, and help us start this important movement for just $5.00 for your first year, or $25 for your first two years’ membership. You’ll receive voting privileges, as well as the knowledge you are supporting future canyoneering access, plus more benefits to come. Join by June 23 to be eligible to vote on the first board of directors (anyone who has already donated is already a member).

Ready to became a member? The best way to become a member is to join via the PayPal portal on Membership Page.

Thanks for your support!

American Canyoneers Interim Board of Directors
Bo Beck
Sonny Lawrence
Malia McIlvenna
Rich Rudow
Wolfgang Schuster

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Yesterday while descending Water Canyon with a small CAD I learned a little something about quicksand. Over the past several years I have experienced quicksand, quickmud, and various other mires, but NOTHING like what I experienced in Water Canyon on 4/18.

After descending into Middle Water Canyon, we got past the first three raps and started heading down the long hallway into Lower Water Canyon. About half way through this section, we experienced a couple of sloppy, sucking sand areas, but nothing above the knees, which made extraction casual. Moments later, however, I stepped off of a rock in the middle of the watercourse and INSTANTLY sank to my crotch into thin, watery sand. It was somewhat entertaining initially, and I took 10 seconds or so to have the moment captured photographically for all to see. Within those 10 seconds, the sand solidified around my legs and developed the consistency of concrete. I was unable to move any muscle below my waist, so I started digging and scooping water and sand to attempt to free myself from the sucky obstacle. After 10 minutes of digging, damming up the flow to better remove sand and water from the area, and attempting to lay flat, I was still unable to free myself. Enlisting help from the others, we were still unable to make headway with the extraction, as all attempts to dig out were thwarted by sand filling back into the hole. I also realized that no matter what force was used, there was NO WAY that I would be able to be “pulled free” without separating all of my joints below the waist. Reassessing the dilemma, we began to approach the problem more seriously…

First, we built platforms for people to lie on so they wouldn’t be pulled into the quicksand. We used tools (stones, helmets, sticks) to improve our digging abilities. We had multiple people digging to better stay ahead of the refilling of sand… all this seemed to have little-to-no effect. This went on for 40 minutes before I began to feel some physical pain from the constriction. One of my clients, Adam, and I discussed the fact I was quickly becoming a victim of compression or “crush” syndrome. As the sand kept refilling the cavity around me it becamenoticeably tighter and eventually was hindering blood flow in my legs, causing minor amounts of ischemia;  after 40 minutes, this was creating severe and uncontrollable lower leg cramps that I could not remedy, as it was impossible to move my legs. Yikes.

Adam and I digging frantically to try to make progress

Adam and I dug in again, this time at a faster pace, agitating the sand and then quickly digging it out. Eventually, we freed my right leg. Amber, another client, climbed into the mix to help excavate and extract. She worked VERY quickly digging (not unlike a dog digging a hole) and was able to reach my foot, which made it possible to pull the left leg out. Whew! A close call I never could have imagined from my prior experiences. As we continued down-canyon, I noticed many more areas of the canyon which had potential to hold this sort of quicksand and should be crossed with care.

Quicksand lessons learned:

1. If you sink into quicksand, even a slight amount, work very quickly to pull yourself from it (preferably in a flat or lying position). Don’t stop moving! Immediately start, and don’t stop working your way out.

2. No matter how entertaining it may be, don’t take 5-10 seconds to take a picture, as this is all the time it can take for the sand to solidify.

3. Dig VERY QUICKLY while agitating the sand to better free yourself. Think you’re digging quickly enough? No, you’re not!

4. Ask for help. In certain positions, it is virtually impossible to quickly dig yourself out if the angle is awkward.

5. If the sand continues to fill it could potentially get tighter causing much more severe issues.

6. Maintain good communication with anyone buried in quicksand, as claustrophobia can easily take hold.

Great to learn lessons like this. Painful, but a worthy lesson in an area I thought I had mastered in my past.

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ZAC Makes the Cover of St. George Magazine

May 2012 issue of St. George Magazine

May 2012 issue of St. George Magazine

St. George Magazine did a story on “adventure in Southern Utah” for their May issue, and we made the cover! Well, one of our clients made the cover, and one of our guides was on the other side of the lens (we still aren’t sure who). Writer Lisa Larson interviewed Shelley Buckingham, our outfitting manager, for the piece, and they have a slimmed-down version of the article online. It’s much better to see all the great pictures though, so check out the virtual magazine for the best viewing experience.

5 Local Tours to Enjoy in Our Backyard
By Lisa Larson

Living in the red rock beauty of Southern Utah, it’s easy to take the nearness of these natural wonders for granted. While there are countless tourists from around the world that descend on national parks like Zion, Bryce Canyon and Grand Canyon, recreation spots such as Lake Powell and a variety of slot canyons, it’s remarkable the number of locals who have yet to experience all that Southern Utah has to offer.   For those who are unsure where to begin, there are a variety of guided and self-guided tours available, whether you’re looking for adventure, history or serenity.

Living in the red rock beauty of Southern Utah, it’s easy to take the nearness of these natural wonders for granted. While there are countless tourists from around the world that descend on national parks like Zion, Bryce Canyon and Grand Canyon, recreation spots such as Lake Powell and a variety of slot canyons, it’s remarkable the number of locals who have yet to experience all that Southern Utah has to offer. Read the Entire Article

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Pa’ Rus Trail: Zion’s Most Accessible & Underrated Hike

As I jogged along the Pa’rus Trail this week I thought to myself, “Wow, Pa’rus sure isn’t like Angel’s Landing or Observation Point, but I really like this trail.” Here are my favorite things about the under-rated and under-appreciated Pa’rus Trail:

1. At 3.5 miles round-trip, it is the perfect running distance for anyone who wants to get a quick jog in before they start the day, or maybe just before dinner.

2. Minimal elevation change on this trail (50ft) means that walking, running, or biking here will not need maximal physical exertion, unlike many of Zion’s steep, craggy trails. In fact, the Pa’rus is a great place for a causal sunset or moonlit stroll with a loved one, where conversation is more important than accomplishment.

3. This is the only trail in the park that is puppy and bicycle friendly, so if your little furry friend is getting tired of being cooped up at your campsite, help him get some energy out by walking him on the Pa’rus.

4. The wide paved trail allows for many people to share the trail all at once without any bottle-necking like you might find on top of Angel’s Landing. Great for families who want to walk two or three-abreast, or folks who want to stop along the trail to look at birds or flowers for a while.

5. The Pa’ Rus Trail is easily accessible from the Park’s Visitors Center and via the South Campground. When we’re traveling with family and friends, it can really help to steal away for an hour for some personal time, and the length and proximity of the Pa’ Rus is just right.

6. Beautiful water, graceful bridges, and soaring cliff scenery provides perfect photo opportunities for the budding or seasoned photographer, with no jockeying for position or crowds to get in your way.

7. There are many access points for taking a dip in the Virgin River, which makes this a great place to cool off in the middle of a scorching summer day.

8. Kids and adults alike will be interested in the many trail-side exhibits which offer insightful facts on the surrounding area.

So, go lace up your walking/running shoes or grab your bike, bring the puppy, your swimsuit, sunscreen and water, and head to the Pa’rus Trail. It may not be glamorous or famous, but Pa’ Rus provides a great every-day walk that has something for everybody and is every bit as beautiful as the hikes that make you huff and puff.

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ZAC Guide Bill Westerhoff Featured on “Eye on LA”

Bill Westerhoff featured on ABC7's "Eye on LA"

Bill Westerhoff explains why Zion is so awesome

ABC’s Los Angeles affiliate Channel 7 recently visited Southern Utah for their “Eye on LA” show. Host Tina Malave joined ZAC guide Bill Westerhoff for a rappelling excursion up in Cave Valley, one of the gorgeous plateau valleys you’ll find on the way up the Kolob Terrace Road. I wasn’t able to post the video here, but you can check it out on the ABC 7 site.


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