Hanging with Ward, Wednesday, August 15, 2018

It is now 10:38 am on Wednesday, and I am sitting in one of my favorite coffeeshops, River Rock Roasting Company, in Hurricane, UT. At about 8 am I dropped off my buddy Kerry Winston Ward and three confederates–Sam Edwards, Sam’s son Max, and Kerry Sherman–at Lava Point in the high country north of Zion Canyon.


Kerry Ward in Sam Edward’s well-stocked garage at 5 am

Their mission? To make a descent of Heap’s Canyon. According to Canyoneering USA, Heap’s is …

The Big Kahuna. Heaps is a truly wonderful canyon, but it is also BIG. Deep inside the mountain, it is dark, wet, sinuous and moody. When really wet, it is fast and cold, and such a blast! When the water levels go down, keeper potholes start appearing, and as the level continues descending, more and more potholes require effort to get out of.

Sam had planned to do this expedition last week, but was unable to get it together. Kerry W. had to scramble a bit to get in this rescheduled excursion. He flew into Los Angeles on Tuesday morning for a meeting, and then after the meeting I picked him up at the Morgan Castle in the Hollywood Hills and drove to the St. George area. We didn’t leave until about 6:30, and it was just after 2 am when we got to Sam’s house in Santa Clara, and then we were up before 5 am to prepare for the expedition du jour. As if that were not enough of a challenge, we will be driving back to the Los Angeles area tonight so we can take care of business tomorrow.

Pothole Dave Buckingham

Potholes in the upper reaches of Heap’s Canyon. Photo by Dave Buckingham on CBS

This is a very challenging canyon experience, and requires a great deal of expertise and preparation. In fact, the first descent of the canyon was not even made until 1982. Starting from Lava Point, wannabe canyoneers must hike on the order of 9 miles just to enter the canyon. Once in the canyon there are a number of rappels required, with the last one a 280 foot rappel down to the upper Emerald Pools. That last rappel is actually more on the order of 500 feet, but is broken into first a 200 foot drop to a very small ledge (just large enough for two) and then the final approach.


At the Lava Point trailhead–Kerry Sherman, Max and Sam Edwards, and Kerry Ward

Another challenge is water, and sometimes a lack of water. This canyon has a large number of potholes, deep depressions that fill with water, and when they are full canyoneers need to swim them. When they are not full they can also be problematic–a keeper pothole is one that is deep and difficult to climb out of when it is not full. The upper reaches of the canyon require wet or dry suits, which must be packed in along with ropes, harness, and hardware for the rappels.


View from the top of the final rappel. Photo from T-Dawg Speaks


The guide for the trip indicates a 12-20 hour time commitment required, but this crew is planning on more like 8-10 hours. I just got a text message from Kerry W. (coverage is spotty and unreliable) indicating that they had reached the canyon in just about 2-1/2 hours, well under the 4 hours predicted in the guide, so they appear to be well on schedule. Keep your fingers crossed! I think I am going to find someplace where I can get in a bit of a nap before tonight’s driving.

3 thoughts on “Hanging with Ward, Wednesday, August 15, 2018

  1. domo communications says:

    Damned, that looks like one serious kayaking stream. A 200 ft. rappel requires joining more than two standard-length climbing ropes. That and all the other gear must have been quite a load climbing out of those keeper potholes. Jeez! Glad you decided to drink frozen lattes and write the story while your buddies did all the work, Captain! You are smart!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. captainunivac says:

    After I looked at the videos that Kerry W took during the excursion, I am even happier that I was in a support role instead of going in. They were all pretty beat by the time they got out 12 hours later.


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