Lodge (Employee) Canyon

>> Sunday, October 18, 2009

Grade A
Equipment: two 60 meter ropes, helmets for everyone, extra webbing, ascenders (just in case)
Time: 5 hours (for a group of 4 experienced canyoneerers)
Date: 10-17-09
Conditions: Dry and warm
Experience Level: Experienced
Tom's Canyoneering Advice

Our latest adventure sounded a bit risky at the beginning. We consulted our trusty reconnaissance man, Tom, and learned that this canyon has a reputation for getting the rope stuck, deaths from falling rocks, and a tricky spot on rappel 4 where a wrong turn could lead to being suspended 100' in the air with no more rope from which to rappel. In addition, Tom gave this a low ranking and suggested doing other canyons in lieu of this canyon for "experienced" canyoneerers. Now, I'm no Tom, but I consider myself an experienced canyoneerer. The true selling point for our motley crew? It is October. Most of the canyons in Zion involve water. Water in October, even in southern Utah, can be exceptionally chilly. The wet Pinecreek Canyon or the dry Lodge Canyon? We went with Lodge, but we were extra careful in our preparations to prevent the possible tragedies Tom warned us of...

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With extra webbing in tow, our trusty helmet, 2 60 meter ropes, and travel-size Tom we started our ascent up the slick rock to the upper bowl of Spry Canyon where Spry and Lodge diverge. Nothing new so far. We've done Spry Canyon before and our familiarity with the beginning mile made this part of the hike much faster than our first attempt at navigating the unmarked slick rock. When we reached the upper bowl, we consulted Tom's topo and turned north (even checking Dave's compass) into Lodge Canyon. We walked in the sandy wash (I almost stepped on a tarantula) and then started the steep descent through one of the most beautiful places I've seen in Zion. The fall colors were incredible, and the sheer cliffs breathtaking. It was a pleasant surprise given Tom's rating. Now, this isn't your typical slot canyon, more like Spry Canyon, but it was breathtaking none the less and definitely a must do in Zion.

After hiking another 2 miles we came to the rappel section of the canyon--6 rappels right after each other:

Rap 1: Tom warned us about the scary tree. We took his advice. I "evaluated carefully" and then we found another anchor. We didn't even have to look to far. Some nice soul has left a rope around a much bigger, sturdier tree from which to rappel. Just go up on the east side of the slot, rather than down on the west to the small, "scary" tree. This is over 100'. We tied our 2 ropes together.

Rap 2: Another breathtaking rappel over 100 feet. Pretty straight forward, though somebody else took Tom's advice and extended the anchor about 6 feet. As long as you are comfortable with that, it's not a problem. Again, we used both ropes.

Rap 3: Short rappel from bolts. Easy. One rope.

Rap 4: This is the one Tom warned us about. As we were setting this rappel up, a rock fell (undisturbed as far as we can tell) and smashed to pieces exactly where we had been rappelling from #3. Tom didn't lie about the falling rocks. We religiously wore the one helmet we brought from this point forward. My advice--have a helmet for everyone. We will next time. Back to 4, travel Tom told us to rap 40 feet and get off at the buttress on the right where we would find more bolts for rap 5. If we continued straight down the water course we would instead meet a 300 foot drop and run out of rope. Sounded simple, but as we examined this upcoming rappel, we noticed that there were 2 bolts with webbing about 40 feet straight down. The distance was right, but not the direction. Slightly unnerved, with a promise that Dave and Monte would pull me up if I went the wrong way, I headed down to check out the situation. I took Tom's advice, went right at the buttress and found the next anchors. WARNING: don't fall for the bolts that are straight down. Unless you have an incredibly long rope, you will get stuck. It's very vexing that somebody put these bolts here. In fact, as we picked up our permit, the ranger told us that somebody had gotten stuck in Lodge Canyon earlier in the summer because they ran out of rope. My bet--they didn't follow Tom's advice and tried to use those bolts. We actually went back to the ranger and told her about the misleading bolts, suggesting they be removed.

Rap 5: Now I'm a climber and love canyoneering, but I have to admit the sheer height of this rappel made me a little apprehensive. This is a 200' rappel and used the full length of our two ropes tied together. Again, Tom's advice has been followed and the anchor is extended to prevent the rope getting stuck. Once my stomach settled down, it was a fun, long rappel. Be careful of the loose rock, especially once you are at the bottom, waiting for your comrades. We sat up against the wall for extra protection.

Rap 6: This is by far the highlight of the canyon. Another big rappel requiring both ropes, this rappel was breathtaking. When you drop over the edge, the free rappel reveals a small waterfall spouting from the rock wall itself and beautiful green hanging gardens that provide a nice juxtaposition to the rugged red cliffs.

From here, you make your way down to the road behind the Lodge and take the shuttle back to the Visitor's Center. This last little jaunt is also fun, following the small creek with a few quaint waterfalls providing some Kodak moments for the explorers. Overall, we had a great time. This is a more technical canyon than Spry or Keyhole, with some added risks, but we never had a problem with the rope getting stuck and easily navigated the tricky rap 4. Do be weary of falling rocks. They can be deadly.

April

1 comments:

Coach Rockwood October 23, 2009 at 11:01 AM  

I love that you used the words "vex" and "juxtaposition"

About This Blog

WE THE PEOPLE of the Outdoor Lovers of Utah . . . okay, that is just silly. But we really do love the outdoors, especially the many scenic wonders of Utah. We decided to start this blog to document our adventures around the beautiful Zion's National Park and the other amazing places that Utah has to offer. You can follow our exploits for fun or to get ideas for your own adventures. Because we're all connected to education we'll use grades to evaluate the spectacular locations we visit. Happy recreating, and try not to go SPLAT at the bottom.

April

Brains... started it all; outfitter and guide of our many adventures.

Danielle

Scout...the first one in and the last one out.

Dave

Brawn...master rope coiler and pack mule extraordinaire.

Jill

Mama Bear...always prepared with whatever the rest of us forget.

Monte

Wheel Man...provider of accommodations and transportation.

Tom

Reconnaissance...author of Tom's Canyoneering, our trusted source of information (present only in paperback and spirit).

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