Heaps Canyon – Zion’s Main Canyon

If you have not read the Special Introduction to Imlay and Heaps , you really should. 

 

Rating:

4B R V

Season:

Summer or Fall.

Length:

12 to 24 hours of effort. Often done in 2 days.

Longest Rappel:

The last rappel is 280 feet (90 m). Other than that, the second to last rappel is 165 feet (50 m), and one of the “getting in” rappels is most easily done as a 205 foot (61 m) rappel.

Equipment:

See Introduction. Dry Suits or full 7mm wet suits, hooking kit, etc.

Drinking Water:

Once in the canyon, filterable pothole water is available, but not recommended.

USGS Map:

Temple of Sinawava

Difficulties:

A long, quite technical canyon.

Logistics:

Start: West Rim Trail – either the top or the bottom. Ends at Emerald Pools, near Zion Lodge.

Permit:

Required.

Flash Flood Danger:

High. The long continuous narrows do not allow escape.

Local Ethics:

Heaps has many bolt anchors – please do not add more. Replacing dicey bolts with carefully placed, high quality bolts is appreciated, but putting good bolts in the soft sandstone requires substantial expertise. Remove all trash found in the canyons, including fixed ropes. Replace slings on anchors as needed.

 


 

Heaps Canyon via Phantom Valley

 

 

William Heap, John Rolf and Isaac Behunin were the first European settlers in upper Zion Canyon . In 1863, Isaac Behunin built a cabin near the current location of Zion Lodge and established a farm. The cabin was used to tend fields on a seasonal basis. Heap and Rolf moved in a few years later, Heap establishing his cabin and farm west of the river, north of the Emerald Pool stream.

 

The three settlers agreed on the name Zion – the place of refuge. Isaac Behunin had been with the Mormon pioneers since they had left New York , had helped build the Kirtland Temple , and survived the numerous persecutions of the Saints. At last he had found a place to live his life in peace – Zion .

 

Heaps can be approached either from the Valley Floor via the West Rim Trail, or from Lava Point. Both approaches take about 4 hours, but the Lava Point approach uses considerably less energy than climbing 3000 feet (900m) from the valley floor. First descent October 1982, Norman Harding and Royce D. Trapier.

 


 

 

From Lava Point:

 

This approach uses less energy, but does require a car spot. Follow the West Rim Trail south 6.5 miles (10.4 km) past Potato Hollow to a trail junction. The West Rim Trail splits here – take the right branch that continues along the West Rim. Walk 1.5 miles (2.4 km) to around campsite #4. Leave the trail and follow the edge of the escarpment another 1/8 mile to the top of a ridge between an amphitheater on the left and Phantom Valley on the right.

 


 

 

From the Valley Floor:

 

From the Grotto, skip up the Angels Landing / West Rim trail 4.3 miles (7 km) with 3000 feet (900m) of gain to West Rim Spring. This is a very small spring that does not provide reliable water. Take the left fork of the West Rim Trail 1.3 miles to around campsite #4. Leave the trail and follow the edge of the escarpment another 1/8 mile to the top of a ridge between an amphitheater on the left and Phantom Valley on the right.

The start of the ridge is at UTM: 12S 323930mE 4128070mN

Work your way down the ridge, carefully following small social trails to avoid the worst of the brush. Progress on the ridge is blocked by a short cliffband. A small tree with slings above a dirt and gravel slope provides a possible rappel anchor, but a cleaner rappel can be found by stepping west 10 feet (3m) over a rock ridge and slinging a block (may require a long sling). Rap 60 feet (20m) to the ground. Continue down the ridge, downclimbing on the left side when needed. Delicately climb a crumbling knife-edge ridge to a large tree on the right. Some might want a belay on this traverse. Rap from the tree 205 feet (62m) to the high point of the ground, 20 feet (6m) right of a large Ponderosa Pine. (Alternatively, rap to a tree lower on the face, and do a second rappel to the ground). Bag the ropes and walk down the slope to the slickrock, then follow the ridge all the way to the bottom of the wash. Walk the wash one hour to where it drops into a dark slot. Suit up here.

 


 

 

The Canyon:

 

After a few walking and wading sections, the real fun begins with some rappels into beautiful pools. After a few rap ‘n swims, the canyon opens up briefly, before closing in for another pool drop section. The canyon then opens up and works its way through a complex section with canyons and slots coming in on both sides. This is “The Crossroads”. Good and safe camping can be found by hiking south up one of the side canyons. Hike through this section to the Long Corridor. At the end of the Long Corridor, the canyon turns sharply left and plunges into darkness.

The next section of narrows is long and intense. Work your way through it. Depending on the water level, strenuous climbing, pack tosses and/or drilling and hooking may be required to win your way through. At distant intervals, there are potential bivy spots high enough above the streamcourse for most conditions.

Many hours later, the intense narrows relent and the huge, smooth face of Lady Mountain can be seen on the right. A flat sandy corridor leads to a flat rock and a plunging slot on the left. The flat rock is often used to remove dry suits and prepare for the final rappel sequence.

Take a look down the slot on the left. This is NOT the way. Instead, climb a sandy chimney on the right (50 feet (15m), 5.5) to the crest of a lump. Downclimb a slot on the other side to a small tree. Rap carefully down a slot to an exposed sloped ledge at a large tree. Be careful not to release any of the loose blocks perched in the slot.

From the large tree, rappel 165 feet (50m) to a small ledge in the chimney. There is some loose rock on this rap too. Do NOT underestimate this rappel – it is free the entire length and very exposed. Do NOT wear your pack for the last two rappels, hang it from your harness using a sling.

From the small ledge, rappel 290 feet (90m) free to the talus below. Careful rigging of the final rappel is recommended. Avoid the poison ivy growing amidst the talus.

Stroll down the Emerald Pools trail to the Zion Lodge.