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  1. #1
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    Self-guided Beginner Canyoneering in Utah?

    Hello all. I've got a family trip to Utah in early October planned. We'll be in Moab for a night or two, 3-4 days backpacking in the Needles District of Canyonlands, a night in either Monument Valley (currently closed) or Torrey, and a couple days around Zion. I was initially planning on making it a hiking/walking trip. But in researching certain day hikes, I came across a few canyoneering routes. Canyoneering isn't something I've given much thought to in the past, but it seems more fun than just hiking and a pretty cool way to experience Utah. I'm pretty sure the kids would have a blast. And the wife would probably enjoy it just enough not to divorce me.

    So . . . I was thinking of bringing some of my climbing gear (harnesses, rappel devices, ropes, lots of webbing, etc.) for some mild, dry canyoneering on some of the more popular routes (3A type stuff). Specifically, (a) U-Turn in Arches, (b) Birch Hollow in Zion, and maybe (c) Cassidy Arch in Capital Reef, or similar routes. These seem like good, beginner friendly routes that appear to mostly have anchors already set up. (roadtripryan.com has been an excellent resource for my research.)

    I've never canyoneered before. But I have trad climbed maybe 40-50 pitches around Tahoe and Yosemite, occasionally leading some easy stuff. I am competent in rigging anchors and rappelling. My kids are tough little shits, who've climbed and rappelled before. The wife . . . well, I can practice with her over the next few weeks. Taking a course, hiring a guide, or buying proper, static canyoneering ropes aren't really feasible for this trip.

    So my question is: We're all gonna die, right?

    Also: Assuming the forecast is good, the routes above should be fairly manageable, correct?

    Further: Tips? Advice?

  2. #2
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    Watch the forecasts. Other than that there are a tone of fun canyons that arenít overly technical.


    Sent from my iPhone using TGR Forums
    I rip the groomed on tele gear

  3. #3
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    Bumping this because Zion just reopened the technical canyoneering routes in the park itself. I just nabbed permits for Keystone and Pine Creek, which are beginner-level wet canyons. I'm not 100% committed to both and we'd rent wetsuits.


    My question is this: Would it be a terrible idea to use dry-treated climbing ropes for such wet canyons? I've got a 70m 9.6 dry-treated rope and a 30m 8.0 dry-treated mountaineering/ski rope.

  4. #4
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    FWIW, canyoneering is a great way to get off the beaten path in an otherwise crowded place like Arches. Did U-Turn there a few days ago and it was fantastic and technically straightforward. The kids also really enjoyed it. There were maybe 50 people already at Delicate Arch at sunrise, and yet we had this entire gorgeous canyon (looking directly at Park Avenue) to ourselves for a few hours at mid-morning.

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  5. #5
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    Sweet pics Frank. Kids look like they had a great time. I have been to Arches a few times, buy not since canyoneering really got going. I might just have to go back again, it has been way too long.

    I agree it is a constitutional right for Americans to be assholes...its just too bad that so many take the opportunity...
    iscariot

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by AKbruin View Post
    FWIW, canyoneering is a great way to get off the beaten path in an otherwise crowded place like Arches. Did U-Turn there a few days ago and it was fantastic and technically straightforward. The kids also really enjoyed it. There were maybe 50 people already at Delicate Arch at sunrise, and yet we had this entire gorgeous canyon (looking directly at Park Avenue) to ourselves for a few hours at mid-morning.
    Nice micro-TR.

    Great pics, makes me miss the desert.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by AKbruin View Post
    Bumping this because Zion just reopened the technical canyoneering routes in the park itself. I just nabbed permits for Keystone and Pine Creek, which are beginner-level wet canyons. I'm not 100% committed to both and we'd rent wetsuits.


    My question is this: Would it be a terrible idea to use dry-treated climbing ropes for such wet canyons? I've got a 70m 9.6 dry-treated rope and a 30m 8.0 dry-treated mountaineering/ski rope.
    To answer your question:

    While you can canyoneer on dry treated climbing ropes, I think it's a painful process (for both you and the rope). Wet canyons are notoriously hard on gear; the combination of water and sand is not good for dynamic ropes - you'll ruin your dry treatment completely in just a few canyons. Let me know if you'd like to borrow a canyoneering rope and rope bag (or other kit like a dry keg). I'm in SLC and happy to help

    You'll have a great time in either canyon. Like others said, check the forecast obsessively, and don't enter canyons when chance of rain is >20%.

    Sent from my Pixel 4 using Tapatalk

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by tgapp View Post
    To answer your question:

    While you can canyoneer on dry treated climbing ropes, I think it's a painful process (for both you and the rope). Wet canyons are notoriously hard on gear; the combination of water and sand is not good for dynamic ropes - you'll ruin your dry treatment completely in just a few canyons. Let me know if you'd like to borrow a canyoneering rope and rope bag (or other kit like a dry keg). I'm in SLC and happy to help

    You'll have a great time in either canyon. Like others said, check the forecast obsessively, and don't enter canyons when chance of rain is >20%.

    Sent from my Pixel 4 using Tapatalk
    Oh fuck I'm so sorry op I didn't see you were responding with a TR to your own thread!! I'm a jong, seems like y'all had a great trip. Beautiful pictures!!

    Hit me up if you return for more canyons and want to borrow some gear ).

    Sent from my Pixel 4 using Tapatalk

  9. #9
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    I've heard that the educational canyoneering film "127 Hours" is great tool for getting your boots muddy.
    you don't want no smoke.

  10. #10
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    Buy an old Kelsey guidebook. What could go wrong?

    He got us in trouble more than once back in the day.

    Originally written in 1999. https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.bac...-wore-sneakers


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  11. #11
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    So . . . I highly recommend canyoneering as a family-friendly way to explore southern Utah. My kids really liked it. I think we all would have gotten a little jaded if we had just hiked, as I had originally planned. So it was a good way to mix it up. And, as mentioned before, it was a great way to get away from the crowds, particularly in places like Arches and Zion. My climbing gear worked fine. I used my 70m rope and both my 70m and 60m together on a couple rappels. My 30m glacier rope got the most use thoughóitís now seen a lot more desert and sand than glacier and ice.

    Anyhow, here are some cool non-technical canyons while backpacking in the aptly named Canyonlands (since someone mentioned 127 Hours):

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    And hereís Cassidy Arch, in Capitol Reef. (Is Capitol Reef the low-key best park in Utah?):

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    We also did some canyoneering in and near Zion. Iíll post photos later.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by tgapp View Post
    Oh fuck I'm so sorry op I didn't see you were responding with a TR to your own thread!! I'm a jong, seems like y'all had a great trip. Beautiful pictures!!

    Hit me up if you return for more canyons and want to borrow some gear ).

    Sent from my Pixel 4 using Tapatalk
    Thanks, man! I felt a little bad using my newish 70m climbing rope, but it was worth it. My ski mountaineering rope worked pretty well though. Anyhow, it's definitely something I wouldn't mind doing again.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by AKbruin View Post
    Thanks, man! I felt a little bad using my newish 70m climbing rope, but it was worth it. My ski mountaineering rope worked pretty well though. Anyhow, it's definitely something I wouldn't mind doing again.
    WOW, really cool pics!! i hope your kids had fun - i've always felt like canyoneering is the perfect family/group activity, because it ends up being like this awesome adventure/obstacle course. you solve problems together, keep each other safe, and work as a team to figure out the canyon. for somebody with climbing experience, i would recommend trying a few more technical canyons as well - with the right preparations, they can be a blast.

    and re: ropes, i got away with using my dynamic rope for a number of canyons before i broke down and got dedicated canyon gear. dry canyons are pretty okay on a dynamic line, but wet canyons can be super destructive...your dry coating will get wrecked! the other thing is - don't use your favorite belay device, and ideally, use a steel carabiner or one with a steel insert (like what edelrid makes).

    thanks for sharing those pics, they're rad!

  14. #14
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    Thanks again Frank for a great TR.

    I need to get back there for some canyon action. At least I just rafted the lower GC with the family, so there is that.

    I agree it is a constitutional right for Americans to be assholes...its just too bad that so many take the opportunity...
    iscariot

  15. #15
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    Yeah, sweet TR. That looks super fun. Planning on road tripping to southern Utah to in a few weeks to hike some slot canyons which I can never do in normal years in October. Too bad Iím the jongiest jong when it comes to ropes. Kinda of ridiculous since they seem like literally the simplest devices possible, but I would have no idea how to belay myself down those canyons pictured.

  16. #16
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    tgapp: Totally agree about it being family friendly. If I had ready access to Southern Utah, I'd definitely invest in some canyoneering gear. It's a great way to explore cool areas and get away from the masses. As it is, it made more sense to just use climbing gear. And the next time we return to Utah, we're likely to do a bit of climbing as well, since my kids will be able to belay me by then.

    hutash: I'd highly recommend doing some moderate canyoneering next time you're in the area. I think you've already got the gear and knowledge. But doing a multiday rafting trip in the GC sounds amazing. It's on my bucket list.

    jorion: You could consider doing a day trip/class with a local company while you're in the area. The beginner canyoneering is pretty straightforward and would take only an hour or two to learn. Building anchors can be a bit more complicated, but there are routes that are completely bolted and easy and all you really need are a harness, rappel/belay device, and a 30m rope, like the two Zion canyons below. (We rented wetsuits for Keyhole, but would have survived without them.)

  17. #17
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    Diana’s Throne/Huntress (near Mt. Carmel Junction): This was an audible when Zion closed Pine Creek and cancelled our permit the day before. That was a bummer, but this canyon was not. It far exceeded our low expectations. It's the perfect beginner/family canyon.

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    Keyhole (Zion): Deep and very slotty, Keyhole had more scrambling than rappelling, but was pretty rad. We also had it completely to ourselves, which was nice given the masses in the park. Next time I'm in Zion, I'd aim for Behuin, Pine Creek, Mystery, and Subway. Zion reminds me of Yosemite. In terms of natural beauty and activities, they are the cream of the crop among national parks. But they are also utter shitshows in terms of traffic, parking, permits, etc. Except that I know how to easily avoid the crowds in Yosemite. We thought about the Narrows, but after doing Angels Landing, it seemed like it would be very hard to avoid the crowds there.

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  18. #18
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    Please tell me there is a knot at the end of that rope in pic. 2.

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by MakersTeleMark View Post
    Please tell me there is a knot at the end of that rope in pic. 2.
    I suppose that's a rhetorical question, but I'll answer anyway: No. The exclusion was conscious and discussed. With rope stretch and rappel extensions, everybody got to the ground easily and were well aware of the rope's end. (The photo makes it look like there's a larger gap than there really was.) Stopper knots, which I use liberally, would have fucked that up. Also, the last six feet or so weren't that steep, could be comfortably walked off, and led to a sandy floor, so the consequence of inadvertently going off the the end of the rope was minimal. If you think this approach was dangerous, I honestly would like to know why because it seemed pretty safe in practice.

    Did that sound defense? It felt defensive. I often can't tell if people's comments are genuine or whether they're just leaning into a certain Internet ethos on this forum anymore.

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by AKbruin View Post
    If you think this approach was dangerous, I honestly would like to know why because it seemed pretty safe in practice.

    Did that sound defense? It felt defensive. I often can't tell if people's comments are genuine or whether they're just leaning into a certain Internet ethos on this forum anymore.
    I do think your approach is dangerous, because shit happens, and it sets a poor example. I've witnessed someone rap off the end of their rope in Zion. It wasn't pretty to watch, or hear, or see the consequences of. There are countless examples of people rationalizing their decision to not knot their rope on rappel which have led to many tragedies.

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by MakersTeleMark View Post
    I do think your approach is dangerous, because shit happens, and it sets a poor example. I've witnessed someone rap off the end of their rope in Zion. It wasn't pretty to watch, or hear, or see the consequences of. There are countless examples of people rationalizing their decision to not knot their rope on rappel which have led to many tragedies.
    I (respectfully) disagree. I think that OP AKBruin was rationalizing his choices; he and his crew made a conscious decision to not tie a knot in the end of the rope, and they understood the consequences thereof. Every crew member knew that there would not be nots in the end of the rope, and it's not some sort of dogma that every rappel ever always needs a knotted rope. You may well have made a different decision in that context, and that's okay.

    Times when I always, always knot rappel ropes:

    - long multipitch descents
    - descents that are not going down the line of ascent originally
    - high consequence rappels
    - rappels where the rope may not reach

    Times when i use my best judgement and come up with a strategy that may or may not involve tying knots in the end of the rope:

    - all other times

    IMO, OP's choice falls firmly in the second category of things.

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by tgapp View Post
    I (respectfully) disagree. I think that OP AKBruin was rationalizing his choices; he and his crew made a conscious decision to not tie a knot in the end of the rope, and they understood the consequences thereof. Every crew member knew that there would not be nots in the end of the rope, and it's not some sort of dogma that every rappel ever always needs a knotted rope. You may well have made a different decision in that context, and that's okay.

    Times when I always, always knot rappel ropes:

    - long multipitch descents
    - descents that are not going down the line of ascent originally
    - high consequence rappels
    - rappels where the rope may not reach

    Times when i use my best judgement and come up with a strategy that may or may not involve tying knots in the end of the rope:

    - all other times

    IMO, OP's choice falls firmly in the second category of things.
    We respectfully disagree. And by your own description, this case falls in the first category.

  23. #23
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    I'm well aware of the dangers of rappelling. Again, my default is to liberally use stoppers. So, if you think my approach is not to generally not use them, let me disabuse you of that belief. But I disagree that stopper knots should always be used in all circumstances, which is what I gather you're preaching here.

  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by AKbruin View Post
    Again, my default is to liberally use stoppers.
    i hope this means that you use like, 6 stoppers for one rappel. that would be cool. or maybe OP's strategy is just to send his least favorite kid down first. should something happen, he can always make more. right??

    in all seriousness - stoppers on rappel do little for someone who isn't proficient jugging a fixed line, building (or finding) an anchor, etc. all it's gonna do is get them stuck on the line when the knot feeds into their device, and then what?

    walking off the 5 feet in the easily-stemmable chimney to the sandy bottomed floor seems like a billion times more preferable than a grom getting stuck on rappel without someone to assist them.

  25. #25
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    Tgapp or someone else who might know: do you know of a guide you would recommend or at least a good canyoneering spot that would be guided and I could research companies that way? Iíd probably we willing to throw down some money since itís doubtful Iíll learn any other way. For my mountaineering goals I need to start learning this type of stuff anyway.

    Iím planning on hiking the little death hollow/wolverine canyon loop so generally around there would be good, but Iím driving from the Bay Area and to telluride afterwards, so it could kind of be wherever in southern Utah.

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