Our second canyon we had picked out for our time in Zion was Boundary Canyon, which is significantly less travelled than Pine Creek despite the guide books saying it might be the most scenic canyon in the park. Before starting out we called the Kolob Reservoir Damn to check the release schedule, and looked at the flow rate ourselves. It looked very reasonable… all checks in place, we started out on our adventure, a little on the late side, but with big smiles on our faces. After an hour of route-finding and bushwhacking we finally came to the head of the canyon. Within the first 30 feet or so the canyon drops nearly 200 feet! We clipped into the anchor and started feeding our rope through the rap rings. A 170 foot rappel means you need over 300 feet of rope – that’s a lot of rope! I went down first, taking my time to enjoy the view.
After Aubrey was down came the terrifying part: pulling the rope. Once the rope is down, the only way out is to keep going down canyon. You can’t just decide to turn around. And all this of course relies on the rope falling cleanly. If it gets stuck, there may be no way out. Perhaps we could prussik up the rope and improvise a new rap station.. but I push those thoughts out of my head. It’s a clean line. There’s no obstacles, aside from that half fallen tree we passed, but it’s too far to the right to be a problem. We start pulling and coiling. Everything goes smoothly and soon we have about half our rope down. I breath a sigh of relief. Worst case scenario, we cut the rope now and we’ll have enough for the rest of the canyon, since all the rappels from here on down are 100 feet or less. A few more tugs and the rope slithers down without a hitch. Now we’re committed. I sure hope the rest of the anchors are in good shape. After another short rap we get to a scenic bend in the canyon. The walls are already about 300 feet tall and the canyon is only 5 feet wide or so at the bottom. After Aubrey fixes an old anchor she raps down in the waterfall – oops, should have put our wetsuits on a little earlier!
Even with the wetsuits it’s getting cold in the sun-deprived canyon. Some of the anchors aren’t in tip top condition thanks to how infrequently this cleft in the Earth gets explored. Given our slightly late start and delay in finding the canyon we start feeling a little pressed for time. If we keep moving at our current pace we’ll be able to make it out before dark, but only barely, so we try to pick up the pace as much as we can. For me that means being very selective with photography. But I’m not going to leave this canyon having dragged 10 pounds of camera gear and a tripod without getting something out of it! The next rappel takes me past 100 feet of beautifully sculpted sandstone, stained green with algae that thrives here thanks to the running water. At the bottom is a little pool and I immediately know that this is my spot. After giving Aubrey a fireman’s belay so she can safely rap down quickly I set up my gear and shoot as quickly as I can.
After this point my camera didn’t come out of the bag again. Too much ground to cover in too little time. I don’t believe I missed much, however. Soon we get to the last rappel. Below is a tantalizing glimmer of sunshine. Just one more 80 foot waterfall to slide down and we’ll be done with the rope work. After an all too brief rest we pack up and start the arduous task of getting out of this sandstone trap. First there’s 3-4 miles of canyon to hike down. The slippery rocks require careful walking, which is more important than racing the sun. Our hike takes us through some beautiful narrows, and we see the first other canyoneer of our trip: a wild turkey! It looks a little disheveled, and I wonder how long it’s been down here. Well, if we do end up needing to bivy in the canyon, maybe dinner won’t have to be our emergency rations. Two hours before sunset we get to the exit point: a break in the narrow canyon walls of Kolob Creek that will, according to the route description at least, let us escape. It’s supposed to take about 2 hours, so we feel a little boost in moral: we might get out in time after all!
No strangers to steep climbs, the “dreaded” MIA exit was actually not so bad. The route finding was very easy thanks to the (surprisingly) well worn trail. We scramble up the 2,000 feet on our hands and feet and finally make it to a most welcome sight: the logging road! After feasting on Goo Packs we trudge along the road to finally get to our car just as the first stars start to twinkle.
That concludes my images from Zion. Thanks to a fantastic new feature on my website you can now view all my galleries as slideshows (even on your iPad, as it is not flash based). Here’s a link to the Zion slideshow: Zion National Park.