Tuesday, July 11, 2006


Kolob Canyon Revisited

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Nearly a year after my epic unplanned bivy on the climb out of Kolob Canyon last September, the time had finally come to revisit the canyon we had so many problems getting out of on the last attempt. You can read about that adventure here.

The plan had been set more than a month in advance. Ben, Josh, and I all had been trying to coordinate our schedules to get together a trip where we could hit some of the Zion big hitters, 4th of July weekend was finally a time we could all get off work and school. Ben and I did Heaps Canyon together (a long difficult canyon) last year but neither Ben or Josh had been down Imlay or Kolob, two other big canyons with a reputation for chewing people up and spitting them out. Unfortunately mother nature didn’t cooperate with us very well and due to fire and flash flood warnings we were forced to do some of the more mellow, easier-to-escape-in-case-of-a-flood type canyons. However we were still able to sneak in one of the heavy hitters, the mellowest of the three, Kolob Canyon.

This canyon took the life of two scout leaders about 10 years ago when they entered with extremely high and deadly water flow. It was also the place that I, with a large-ish inexperienced and somewhat out of shape group got stuck in the dark while attempting to exit the canyon and was forced to spend a long cold night before climbing out the next day.

This trip started the same as the previous; we had to get the permit in the morning and ended up starting later than we would have liked. This time however we had about 45 minutes more daylight, a smaller and more fit group, and at least I had done the exit once so maybe that would help the route finding on the way out. I did however think I found an arch and another small slot canyon on the exit last time that no one I’ve talked to had ever noticed. I was anxious to check these out to see if I really saw what I thought I did while wandering around in the dark.

After dropping into the canyon I immediately realized this was going to be a much different experience than last time. Last time was full of stress waiting for people to get on rappel, worrying about how late it was getting, and wondering if we were going to make it back to the car before dark. This time I found an extremely beautiful canyon with water flowing down every drop filling the deep cold potholes with crystal clear water.

Some drops were rappelled, some were rappelled and tested for depth then jumped into, and some were even slid into down natural waterslides. The canyon became natures Water Park, and I was this time able to enjoy every minute of it without worrying about the hike out.

After a few hours of wet and wild pure fun it was time for the exit. A long trudge over slippery rocks through a narrow but extremely beautiful canyon for about 4 or 5 miles brings you to the “fun” part, a scratch and claw fest up STEEP sand, holding on to roots and branches of small plants for dear life hoping you reach the top. While exiting the canyon we stopped and looked at my “camping” spot last year, memories of that long cold night came back as I showed Ben and Josh where we all spent the night.

After finding that spot we decided to take a quick detour to find the small slot canyon I had discovered in the dark, and also see if the arch that I thought I found was actually an arch. I had been down the wash that led to the canyon and arch so many times it didn’t take long for me to track them down. First we went up canyon to the wall where sure enough there was my arch. From the base it looked like it possibly could have an actual hole through it, but after Ben bushwhacked to the bottom of it we found out that there wasn’t a hole poking through, and it only looked like an arch, but wouldn’t actually pass as one. After that we found my shallow slot canyon but didn’t venture into it very far since it was getting late and we had another big day ahead of us tomorrow. I was surprised at all the green moss along the walls, the slot was really quite pretty and I would like to descend it from the top sometime, even though I’m sure it is short and not very exciting.

After humoring me for a bit, we decided it was time finish the hellish climb to the top. It was more of the same, clawing our way up, up, and up some more when thunder started clapping and soon a soft rain, followed by hard rain started pouring down. I had finally gotten dry from the long creek walk out and now was once again drenched by this 30 minute long thunder storm.

Finally we reached the top and started the 4 to 5 miles of road walking back to the car. Fortunately after a few minutes on the road the rain stopped, but it left some spots of the road covered with ugly clay that formed 2 inch thick mud stuck to the bottom of your shoes. We were glad that this was only in certain spots and not a problem the entire walk out.

We finally reached the car late in the evening and drove back to camp. All of us were exhausted and skipped our planned barbeque, opting for a quick snack then off to bed. We were to wake up at 4:30 the next morning to go down Imlay, another long physical day, but the off and on rain during the night, dark clouds in the morning, the fact that we didn’t eat dinner and were worn out from yesterday, and Reed and Pete, the guys we were meeting for Imlay didn’t roll in to camp until 3:30 a.m. we all decided to save Imlay for another day. We opted to go into town for breakfast and then had a crack of noon start for Spry Canyon, but we’ll save that story for another time.

Note: I know you are all thinking Kolob Canyon looks like a blast and you all want to head down to Zion this weekend to do it, let me give a warning, it can be a SERIOUS canyon if conditions are wrong. Make sure you know how much flow is running through the creek and DON’T HESITATE TO BACK OUT IF WATER FLOW IS DANGEROUS WHEN YOU REACH THE FIRST RAPPEL! It’s a long day and if you want time to enjoy it, start EARLY, bring LOTS of cold water protection even on 100 degree days (thick wetsuit or drysuit) and be in good physical condition! Oh yea, and have fun.

Great Blog! Loved the photos of Kolob Canyon. Looks like you did it with a good water flow!


You Guys Rock!!!!
We just finished our trip down Kolob (7/19,20) and it was awsome. Your video helped me to know what to expect and how to gage the water. I took a group of Venture Scouts (17-20 year olds) and we had a blast. The water level was a little lower than when you guys went.
A few days before we left for our trip I did one last search for Kolob to check for more information about the canyon before we left. I was so surprised when I found your excellent video of the trip just 2 weeks before out planned trip.
I would love to get a copy of your video to use some of your footage. My camera was destroyed by the water and I would like to use portions of your footage in my video for my scouts.
Please contact me, I would gladly pay you for your trouble.


its rare that I see photos of someone OBVIOUSLY having waay more fun than I could even imagine (as my imagination, and real life, are pretty cool)

but I think those photos QUALIFY!!!

wetsuits in a hot utah canyon!! dang..

again, wow... thanks for sharing..

Who's the bozo that posted the first blog about their secret shopping website?

Sweet pics... One of the best collections of canyoneering pics on the web.

This is a great blog! I really enjoyed your canyon journey and the pictures are terrific. After over thirty years of adventuring we finally got around to canyoneering...And will certainly keep going back too.....
"Summit-Stones" Blogger.Com

Just visiting here again...
I've been reading a great deal about canyons lately and hope to return next season. I also want to write and muse a bit about them on my own blog...
Do you have any special, favorite quotes about the nature of canyons and the adventure of canyoneering.....?
"Summit-Stones" by DSD

Kolob is amazing. Found this trying to track DSD.
Yes, the Canyons are amazing!
"Trying to track DSD"??
I'm not hard to find!
Just catch up with me at Blogger.com under "Summit-Stones" or "Summit Stones & Adventure Musings".

Great caynoneering reports. I really think somebody should do a book specificaly about tricky canyon exits, like the MIA. I have a friend who had the same overnight experience in Kolob as your first trip. And good call with the letter about permits. I haven't looked over your whole site, but you should encourage everyone to do the same. Are you a part of the ZCC? not that you need to be, letters are more effective. Anyhow, sweet trip report. You should delete these other comments that advertise their own crap.

PS. I did imlay canyon WITHOUT wertsuits once. I think some of us are just a little more stupid.

Hey Eric, good blog and awesome trip info. I look forward to some new footage soon. It would be cool to see some of your winter adventures if you have any.
My winter adventures have mostly involved school assignments and some snowboarding at the tame ski resorts around Salt Lake. I hope to get out this month sometime and come May you should see a flood of updates as I will be taking the summer off and spending LOTS of time outdoors.


btw, you can check out my monthly posts at http://backcountryblog.blogger.com I post under "Eric" and don't always cross post to this blog.
sorry, it was http://backcountryblog.blogspot.com
Josh Rymer single?......H-O-T
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