Tag Archives: Canyoneering

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.  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.     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 … Continue reading

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Robber’s Roost Canyoneering Trip Report

So what does someone who canyoneers for a job day in and day out do when they get time off?  Well, they go canyoneering.  I often get asked that question, and I tell people my days off look a lot like my days on, only I really try to seek out somewhere new so it’s more of an adventure. This last ‘weekend’ Jon (another Zion Adventure Company guide), my girlfriend Julie, and I went on an ‘adventure’ to the “Robber’s Roost” area of Southern Utah.  It can be found roughly here:https://www.google.com/maps/@38.2947151,-110.32026,12z on a map.  Don’t see much?  Exactly.  It’s out there.  In fact, it’s about as ‘out there’ as one can get to in Utah by any sort of somewhat conventional transportation.  By ‘conventional’ transportation, one really needs a reliable high clearance four wheel drive vehicle to navigate the 50 something miles of rocky dirt roads. The nice thing about a Toyota Land Cruiser is that they’re rugged yet reliable The other nice thing about Land Cruisers is that they’re pretty easy to fix when they break down… even with whatever you happen to have in your canyoneering backpack.   The day we arrived, we went into a canyon called … Continue reading

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ZAC Canyon Courses: Becoming a Critical Adventurer

When people register for a canyoneering course they expect to learn how to become proficient canyoneers. In their minds, they may imagine a list of knots, equipment, and technical skills. As an instructor, my motives are slightly different… My last Three-Day Basic canyon course was a great success, but not because everyone learned how to tie knots, set up anchors, and rig a variety of rappels. While technical skills are important, they are only a small part of my course goals. We attacked the prescribed technical curriculum early on, and it served as a foundation for the true art of canyoneering. By the second day of our course last week, people had reached at important threshold. There is a point where learning new material complicates the decision making process. It is also challenging to help people feel confident in what they know and to continue introducing rope skills. To simply move through a canyon, doing the same thing at each rappel, seems practical and safe, and can build great confidence, but it is also a pitfall. The breakthrough moment is when people recognize each decision is complicated, but they have many tools they can apply to myriad situations. Canyoneering is … Continue reading

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Birch Hollow and Buckwater Draw in the News

Noticed two recent newspaper stories on canyon descents, one on the Hiking Utah section of the Salt Lake Tribune and another in the Vernal Express. Erin Alberty wrote a short blog piece for the Tribune on her descent of Birch Hollow. Birch is just outside Zion’s eastern boundary, a pretty 3AI canyon draining into Orderville Hollow. Erin hooked up with a couple kind guys from the Wasatch Mountaineering Club to show her the ropes in Birch, which I’m sure she appreciated. Gary Lee Parker reported on his descent of Buckwater Draw in the Vernal Express. I’m not quite sure where Buckwater lies, but from the article it looks like it’s near Vernal, in the central/eastern part of Utah. Always fun to see canyons in the news, especially when they include pictures (both these articles do).

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Free Rappelling

Read enough canyon descriptions and you will eventually come across the term “free rappel”. Read enough discussion in the canyoneering forums, and you will run into all sorts of recommendations for doing “free rappels”. So what, exactly, IS a free rappel? And what do they charge for all the other rappels? (I know, not funny…) A free rappel is one where the rappeller is unable to touch the wall at some point during the descent. Some rappels have short sections of this, while other rappels are completely free, from the anchor all the way to the ground. The last rappel in Pine Creek is a well-known example of a free rappel, going from a perched ledge 85′ or so to the rubble pile below. Free rappels can be really cool or extremely painful, depending on how you approach them. Here, Three-Day Basic student Jeff Swanlund has extended his rappel device to just above his head and has hung his pack below him to reduce the forces yanking on his back and stomach muscles during his descent. Not only do these moves make the rappel a lot more comfortable, but I think they make for better pictures, too. When free rapples … Continue reading

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Canyoneering in Cave Creek

One of the our favorite summertime treats is the chance to get up on the high plateau and descend the gorgeous, deeply plunging, wet and wild canyons there. Cave Creek is a seldom visited but much-loved canyon, our typical descent for an Extreme Adventure Day. Cave Creek is a world of myriad waterfalls: short, tall, chaotic, elegant, simple, and complex. Behind and alongside the taller falls, beautiful green moss grows, dressing the canyon in fabulous emerald green. The sandstone ranges from light browns to deep reds, studded in places with curtains of huecos, small arches, and “drippings” of rock iron-stained rock. In this raw and raucous landscape, it’s always a treat to find a piece of improbable subtlety: a delicate fern or a lone red flower clinging to a sandstone crevice. Adding to the visual beauty, the sound of rushing, pounding, flowing water constantly accompanies us in Cave Creek. The noise raises everyone’s adrenaline a notch, making it very evident we are in a living, breathing, changing canyon. Sometimes you have to yell to the person next to you, just to be heard. If you’re more than 20 feet from them, it’s usually best to use hand signals or a … Continue reading

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