Thursday, October 02, 2014

Epic Canyon

Yesterday I attempted to do a canyon in Zion that is more obscure than most.  I had heard about Checkerboard Canyon from a few sources and got some information off of an account of a descent on the internet. I also reviewed the route on Google Earth with Bo at the climbing shop.  I knew it would be a long day since the start of the canyon is several miles from the nearest dirt road.  The canyon also drops into the Narrows a considerable distance up from the Temple of Sinawava where the paved trail ends.  My partner for the day was Wil Reeves, a friend from the hospital.  We got a good start and convinced Fitzgerald to drop us off and shuttle my truck back down to Zion Canyon.  There was no trail and we had to negotiate lots of ridges and plateaus to find the head of the canyon.  We encountered serious bushwhacking and rugged terrain that required much effort to push forward.  We studied the maps and spent over an hour trying to decide which drainage led to the canyon.  Finally I chose one and off we went down it.  We found some old webbing at a tree over the first big rappel.  Seems like we where in the right place.  But no.  We ended up descending a very obscure drainage that dropped us high up in the Narrows with many miles to go to get out.  Most of the anchors where rotten and had to be replaced.  I don't think anyone has gone down that canyon in many years.  The first rappel was awesome.  A 175 foot drop off a dry grotto mostly free hanging.   It was difficult and physically demanding to get down through the rest of the canyon.  We finally made it to the Narrows at 4:30 pm.  Now we were looking at 11-12 miles of hiking to get out before dark. Filling our water bottles at Big Springs was refreshing and much needed and shortly after that we had to break out our headlamps to continue on down through the Narrows.  We arrived at the road and bus stop at 10 pm sharp.  Dark, windy and quiet.  Not a person there.  We waited for an hour hoping that a ranger might be doing a patrol or that Andrew might check on us one more time but to no avail.  At the eleventh hour we decided to begin hiking the road down to the Lodge.  An hour later and 3 or so miles down canyon we arrived at the Zion Lodge.  There we convinced a night security worker to drive us down to my truck at the ranger residents.  Getting home at 1:30 am was exhausting but better than the alternative to spending a sleepless night in the canyon.  All in all I believe that we hiked over twenty miles that day beginning at eight thirty in the morning and ending at midnight with only a few short rests to nibble on a snack or sip on some water.  I called it an "Epic" day.