Zion NP Slot Canyons - June 19-22, 2009

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Introduction note: I (Joe) was first introduced to the slot canyons of southern Utah by my old Dayton, Ohio neighbor Dave Lewis back in August of 2006. I have made many trips back to the mostly dry slot canyons of the Escalante region since then. With my recent interest in climbing, Dave invited me to join his climbing friends for some more technical and wetter slots within Zion National Park. I brought along my climbing mentor, Marco Cortes, from Green River, and we joined Dave Lewis and his friends David Reuille, Liem Lu, and Jesse Stockwell in Zion National Park for a great weekend exploring the more remote treasures of the park. Note that many of the photos shown on this page were taken in very deep and dark locations, a photographers nightmare--not to mention all the sand and water waiting to destroy cameras. I have tried to brighten and sharpen photographs to make them easier to view, often resulting in grainy side effects. Flash photography worked on occasion, but it often over exposed the rock walls closest to the camera. The bright sun would occasionally wash out rock walls or distant backgrounds. All in all, the following photos were surprisingly satisfying.

Liem, Joe, Jesse, Marco, Dave, & David at the last rappel in Pine Creek Canyon.

Saturday, June 20 - The guys got in line early this morning to get a permit for Englestead Canyon. This canyon begins with a 300' rappel down into the slot, followed by a 9-hour wet adventure. We were all set to drop into the canyon when the cloudy skies alerted us with some thunder. The flash-flood hazard in slot canyons in severe, so we all tapped into our cautious wisdom and decided NOT to do this canyon this day. We hiked back out, returned to the permit counter and picked up a permit for much shorter Keyhole Canyon. It never did storm this day, but none of us regretted our decision to retreat from Englestead. Notice that we are all wearing wetsuits. The water in these slot canyons is often only 40-50 degrees F, truly a threat for hypothermia. Even with the wesuits on, the cold water takes your breath away when plunging into sections that require swimming.

Click on thumbprint photos to see them enlarged.

Keyhole Canyon:    
David, Dave, & Jesse begin Keyhole slot.
Marco & Joe at a gap in the slot.
Dave, Liem, Jesse, & Joe.
Jesse drops into a murky sludge.
Liem follows.
David about to step into the sludge.
Not so deep . . .
. . . actually, very deep.
Jesse watches David lower himself into the muck.
Jesse, Liem, & Marco swim through a deep tight section.
Marco & Joe getting ready to drop over a chockstone.
Dave climbs over the chockstone.
Dave & Jesse in murky water.
Joe struggles to get through a 3-foot thick jam of organic detritus--half wading, half crawling.


Sunday, June 21 - The group originally planned to do one of the most challenging canyons in the Park today, Imlay Canyon, but the concern for how many hours we would have to slog through very cold deep water, and the fact that Marco and I are both novices at this resulted in a change of plans. We opted instead to do the Subway with the Das Boot start. This was a full day outing with a 5 mile hike across slick rock just to get to the start of Das Boot, and then another 5 mile hike to get to one of our cars after finishing the Subway. We carried our wetsuits in backpacks to the start of Das Boot. Unlike the murky water in Keyhole yesterday, Das Boot had very clear water, but it was equally chilling. Once we got through Das Boot and Subway, we stripped back out of our wetsuits for the hot hike up and out of the canyon.

Das Boot:      
Liem, Jesse, Dave, & Joe at the start.
Dave, Marco, Jesse, & Liem. The log jam above was left by a flash flood.
Super Marco!
Super Liem!
Marco, Dave, & Jesse.
Joe in position to take a photo . . .
. . . of Marco rappelling . . .
. . . down to the water below.
Joe getting ready to make the same rappel.
Jesse spotting Marco as he down-climbs a log jam.
Liem & Dave.
Liem & Jesse negotiate an obstacle (tree trunk).
Dave, Marco, Jesse, & Liem in a hallway.
Dave enjoying a VERY cold swim.
Jesse down-climbing.
Marco & Dave.
Group swim.
Marco swimming.
Dave down-climbing a fixed rope with knots in it.
Marco, about to down-climb . . .
. . . into deep water.
Jesse & Dave swim under an igneous chockstone.
Joe, always trying to keep his camera out of the water.
The Subway:        
This is a cliche shot of The Subway.
Joe & others leave Das Boot behind.
Still in some tight slots at times.
Jesse & Marco.
Marco & Dave.
Dave & Jesse.
Where others swim, Joe wades.
Marco through the window.
Marco rappelling past the waterfall.
Dave follows.
Dave taking a much needed cold shower under the falls.
Jesse, Liem, & Dave take a COLD soak.
Marco in classic Subway photo.
The Subway -- what else could it be called?


Monday, June 22 - Marco & I had a long drive back to Wyoming today, so we chose a short enough slot canyon that we could get on the road by 2:00. We opted for Pine Creek Canyon. This slot is easy to get to, and a classic.

Pine Creek Canyon:      
Getting into our wetsuits.
Marco takes the first plunge.
Marco rappels, unropes, & swims.
Marco descends into the cathedral.
Joe follows.
Setting up another rappel.
David Reuille.
Dave Lewis.
Dave, Liem, & Marco.
Another rappel.
Marco down.
The gang of misfits.
Changing out of our wetsuits.
Joe descending the final rappel (85').
Joe silhouetted.
Joe hanging.


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If you have any questions about this website or want to contact Christine or Joe for any reason, please email us at christine@lustik.com or joe@lustik.com.