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.
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.
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.
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.
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.