Spry Canyon

Rating:

3B III

Season:

Spring or fall. This route is exposed to the sun and could be unpleasant in summer.

Length:

About 6 hours.

Longest Rappel:

165 feet (50 meters)

Equipment:

Map, helmet, drybag, extra slings.

Drinking Water:

None available, bring plenty.

Map:

Temple of Sinawava . Spry Canyon is the canyon running west between Twin Brothers and East Temple , and exiting to Pine Creek between East Temple and Mt. Spry .

Difficulties:

Substantial 4th class slickrock climbing to ascend to the pass. Multiple rappels in a wilderness setting. A little exposed downclimbing.

Logistics:

Starts at the east end of the Tunnel, and ends at the bridge across Pine Creek. Spot a car or hitch.

Permit:

Required.

Flash Flood Danger:

Low. Weather Report available at Visitor Center

A splendid canyon in the heart of Zion Spry is a hidden gem best saved for cooler days in the fall or spring.

Spry Canyon is not named on the map, but is the canyon between Twin Brothers and The East Temple, dropping into Pine Creek below Mount Spry . Mt. Spry is named for William Spry, third governor of Utah (1909-1917), and an early supporter of Zion National Park . He is most famous for executing labor organizer Joe Hill, despite pleas from Helen Keller, President Roosevelt and the Swedish ambassador for a new trial, maybe one where the evidence actually mattered.


Driving

Spry starts where Pine Creek crosses Highway 9 one third of a mile (500 meters) east of the main tunnel. There is poor parking at this spot – park closer to the tunnel at a real parking spot and walk the side of the road to the crossing of Pine Creek.

Spry ends in lower Pine Creek, where the highway crosses the creek on a beautiful masonry bridge and starts climbing toward the tunnel. This is 1/2 mile (800 meters) east of Canyon Junction. Spot a car here.


Approach

The approach to the bowl of upper Spry is shared with Employee Canyon . From Highway 9, follow social trails north to the bed of Pine Creek. Walk this wide and sandy wash about 15 minutes (1/2 mile, 800 meters) to where the canyon starts to narrow. Exit the bed of the canyon left up a 4th-class slickrock watercourse and climb up several hundred feet to a bench. Follow the bench north then west into a slickrock bowl below the impressive south buttress of Deertrap Mountain . Climb the center of the bowl (4th class), then up and right to the top of the pass.

From the top of the pass: on the left is East Temple; then the upper bowl of Spry Canyon; the Twin Brothers; a notch pass next to Twin Brothers; then a ridge leading up to Deertrap Mountain. From the top of the pass, traverse right and slightly down toward the slot pass and find a narrow slot. Downclimb into the head of the slot and, pushing through some brush, follow the slot most of the way down to the canyon floor. When convenient, exit to the right and descend steep broken slabs to easier terrain. You are now in the upper bowl.


Canyon

Descend the watercourse between huge, colorful walls. The canyon winds its way through trees and brush, soon arriving at a lovely slickrock bowl. Downclimb to a bolt anchor, then rappel 165 feet (50m) past a swampy pothole to the ground.

The canyon again winds its way through a delightful forest. A couple of small potholes lead to three short drops in the canyon bottom, usually downclimbed. The second drop is tall, but yields easily to the “elevator” technique. The last drop requires a rappel off the most solid of the abundant debris. The dark slot may require some wading to get through.

After another mellow section, the canyon cowboys up. Downclimbing is interspersed with about 10 rappels. In one spot, a narrow slot is down-slid elevator-style. Soon after, a block allows rappelling into a mysterious pool in a slot. This is not to be missed. Swim the pool, then continue the rappel (total 30 m or 100 feet) down a second drop. (Var: those wishing to avoid swimming can rappel off a large tree directly to the large sandy area below. A trail leads past the large tree to a really ugly rappel down a dirty slot.)

Toward the end, a diagonal rappel is made to gain the top of a flute, thus avoiding dropping into a skanky pool. Most of the anchors are bolted – certainly no more bolts are required.

Finally, the canyoneer downclimbs a scary-looking, steep, narrow slot (easier with pack off) into a pool (ankle to nose deep, depending) and to a 100 foot (30m) rappel to a ledge. The final rappel is made by climbing up and left, and rapping off a tree to the top of the talus.


Exit

Work your way directly down the watercourse (large blocks) to a big ledge with an 80-foot drop. Follow the ledge right to a landslide, then descend back into the watercourse and down into Pine Creek. Turn right and walk out the creek to the bridge. Please do not traverse to the landslide and descend there – this causes excessive erosion.


Note:

Because of the large number of rappels and downclimbing, this route is not recommended for groups larger than 4 or 5.