Posted by: runuphill | June 29, 2008

Imlay Canyon Fast!

Ryan, Buzz and I all met up in Zion for a weekend of high-speed fun.  The initial goal was to do what we called a “double-double”.  This was going to consisted of doing full Imlay followed by Heaps Canyon in record time (we were shooting for ~14 hrs from start to finish) on Friday June 27th, 2008 and Saturday doing East Temple and West Temple quickly.  Ultimately the plans had to change, but we still had a fantastic weekend, despite the extreme heat.

Friday June 27th, 2008

We left the West Rim Trailhead just before 6 AM and moved at a good pace in-route to Potato Hollow, the start of Imlay.  We arrived there in about an hour, found the rappel tree and began the descent.  We were not rapelling all that quickly or efficiently, which was bugging us a bit.  This is mainly because the first 5 rappels in the canyon are big (140′, 120′, 120′, 120′, 160′) so the amount of rope to deal with is more than you have when you’re in the tighter portions of the canyons.  We didn’t quite read the rappels down the biggest face quite right.  We had a 220′ cord and a 100′ cord joined together that we midpoint blocked, giving us 160′ of rappeling capability.  The beta here is to rap from the small high tree, down past the next BIG tree with slings all over it, down to the anchor on the face.  From here it’s almost exactly 160′ so our rope setup was perfect.  We messed up because we did it in 3 raps, the first 2 being very small and thus cost us some time. 

Once on the ground we accelerated quickly and made good time on foot.  There are a couple pools and one (?) rap before you meet up with the sneak route and then the nice campsite.  We suited up at the campsite and moved quickly to the entrance of the technical section.  With every rappel we all learned something, which contributed to us moving very efficiently.  It was so much fun for us to be fast, it made me realize that Canyoneering is so much more fun in this style rather than farting around with tons of gear, huge packs, and whatever else folks are doing when they take 24 hrs to do Imlay.  After doing canyons quickly, the thought of taking enough gear for multiple days seems quite unpleasant.  On the other hand camping in the middle of such a canyon would be incredible so perhaps a more relaxed pace wouldn’t be so bad……

We had 2 rope silos, a larger one for our 100′ 9mm cord, and a small baguette for a 50′ 10mm cord.  This worked incredibly well.  We would all strongly suggest that you pick up a rope silo from Zion Adventure Company.  Ton Jones has designed a fantastic product and this trip truly showed me the value of his gear.   Biner-blocking with the rope silos is incredibly efficient.

We got to the final rappell into the Narrows in roughly 6 hrs 45 minutes from the car, were all on the ground in about 5 minutes and quickly stipped down and started packing up for a quick Narrows exit.  Upon coiling the rope, I noticed that our skinny (too skinny at 7mm!) rope had suffered a significant core-shot when we pulled it on the final rappell.  What would we do, since we still had Heaps ahead of us?

With efficiency adrenaline still in my system, I quickly packed up the now unusable rope and told my comrades, who were still packing up, that I’d run out shuttle down the the Grotto, run up to Emrald Pools to retrieve our stashed 300′ cord and then catch up with them on the hike up to the start of Heaps.  They agreed and I took off.  (we should have paused and thought this through a bit more….)  I reached the Temple of Sinewava in about 40 minutes, for a total from the West Rim Trailhead of 7 hrs 43 minutes. 

I shuttled down to the Grotto, stashed my pack and ran up to Emrald Pools.  It took me 30 minutes to find the rope.  Buzz had given me a 20 second description of where he had stashed it and I searched everywhere except the obvious location that he actually had put it.  Once I had it I ran back to the Grotto, strapped it on my pack and began hoofing it up the Angel’s Landing trail.  I tried to run to catch up with Buzz and Ryan, but there were a couple problems: 1) it was hot as hell, probably 105-degress, and 2) I had 520′ of rope on my back, 220′ of which was soaking wet.  Along with this weight I had 2 liters of water, a wet drysuit, and wet cloths.  I wouldn’t catch up with Ryan and Buzz until campsite 4, the head of Heaps.  Once there we all had to make a decision on whether to proceed or not.  Proceeding would most likely have meant the exit rappells of Heaps would be in the dark.  We decided against it and began back down the trail all laughing at the fact that we had hike all the way up there with a bunch of weight on our back that we never ended up using.  We were still in good spirits….

We were pleased with our time and efficiency on Imlay and it helped us get a better grasp on our ultimate canyoneering goal, the “Trifecta” (Imlay, Heaps, and Kolob in under 24 hrs).  I now know that the Trifecta is possible, but will require having all three canyons dialed, gear and shuttle logistics perfected, and no mistakes.  It will happen.

Pictures from Imlay here.

Tomorrow Buzz and I bust out a very quick time on East Temple, story here.


  1. […] with Bill Wright (author of “Speed Climbing”) as your partner, again no worries. JUNE Canyon Trifecta – Last June Jared, Ryan McDermott and I attempted to do the two biggest canyons in Zion NP IAD – […]

  2. […] an excellent day involving a fast descent of Imlay Canyon, Buzz and I decided to follow-up it up with a quick ascent of East Temple, one of the more iconic […]

  3. […] an excellent day involving a fast descent of Imlay Canyon, we decided to follow-up it up with a quick ascent of East Temple, one of the more iconic peaks in […]

  4. […] an excellent day involving a fast descent of Imlay Canyon, we decided to follow-up it up with a quick ascent of East Temple, one of the more iconic peaks in […]

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