Well, I was already on track for making 2009 the finest year in my life…. and things just keep getting better. For those of you who follow my travels and adventure plans you’re likely aware of an up-coming goal called the Zion Trifecta. The Zion Trifecta is a simple goal centered around 3 big Zion National Park technical slot canyons : Imlay, Heaps, and Kolob Creek. And… why not try cramming them all into a single 24 hr period just so we can use the acronym that I’ve come to love, IAD (In A Day). The Zion Trifecta was something that came up several years ago in a discussion I had with Brian Cabe at a climbing gym in Salt Lake City on a typical winter night in SLC. Brian is an encyclopedia of outdoor knowledge and he was intrigued by my recent Zion adventures at the time (an early December 2006 descent of Birch Creek, followed by a December 23rd, 2006 decent of Englestead, and then the subsequent ascent of what we called the “Zicicle” at the head of Englestead on January 20th, 2007). Brian mentioned that Tom Jones and Steve Brezovec had done Imlay AND Heaps IAD, which caught my attention. Brian and I got to talking and jokingly said why not try to do Imlay, Heaps, AND throw on full Kolob. I laughed for a moment, but then quickly started the mental calculations to see if it was possible. Within a few moment I had convinced myself that it was.
Fast forward to June of 2009 after several years of learning the three canyons as well as refining canyoneering skills with my two good friends Ryan and Buzz. This past weekend the three of us were in Zion NP with the goal of getting our systems fine-tuned and trying to have the three canyons fresh on our minds for the big push, which is to happen in the next few weeks (exact date is condition dependent). On Friday June 5th we hoofed it up the West Rim Trail, hit the first rappel for Heaps in ~2 hrs, ran down and suited up at the start of the technical section, made it through the technical section in 2 hrs, and then executed the final 3-rappel sequence in pretty good style, arriving back at the road in about 7 hrs. The pace didn’t feel rushed at all, in fact it was pleasant and allowed time for us to all constructively critique each other on things that we could do better to increase efficiency, but in a safe manner. If Heaps were approached in a “race” mentality (not that it has to be) I feel that it could be done in 5 hrs road to road. During Trifecta we will do it on about a 7 hrs pace. We all felt totally safe, learned more about the nuances of our systems and gained a very high level of confidence in our new gear (Imlay Mystery packs, Bagarino and Baguette rope silos, 4/3 wetsuits, hoodie, free dive gloves and booties, and 8mm BlueWater Canyon-pro static ropes). A big koodos to Tom Jones for his excellent Imlay Canyon gear, it truly is THE way to go.
On Saturday our goal was Imlay. Given that we only had one car we hoofed it back up the West Rim trail to Potato Hollow from the canyon bottom (about 8.5miles and a bunch of vert), which tacks on over 2 extra hours from the “normal” approach. We arrived at the first rappel in about 3 hrs and started the sequence of 5 large entry rappels, which went fine, just slow. Everything about this day was slow and relaxed, which we were all okay with. The middle portion of the canyon took much longer than any of us remembered from our previous times through it. We really excel at moving quickly through technical sections so once we hit the lower part of Imlay we started to fly. Total time from the start (road) to Temple of Sinewava was just under 10 hrs.
Sunday, June 7th, 2009 : The original goal Sunday was to do Kolob and exit MIA, however, given the large amount of skepticism from the canyoneering community regarding large and dangerous ice build-up in the canyon we decided to forgo it given that Ryan and I know the canyon well already and we felt that going through it again wouldn’t do anything for our speed. We thought it best to let it melt for several more weeks and watch the Internet for signs fof someone else going down it first. So, instead, we decided to do something new, “how about the Icebox Canyon Loop” Buzz proposed. Sounded good to all of us so we went for it. Wow! is all I can say. Everything about this loop was perfect. The approach is difficult enough that it will keep most folks from attempting it. The entry rappels and views are spectacular, the canyon itself is perhaps my favorite I’ve ever done, seeing Kolob Arch at the end is real treat, and and the run back to the car is awesome, especially in the not-too-brutally-hot conditions that we were lucky enough to have. We were back at the car in less than 7 hrs from the time we left.
We’re kicking ourselves a little bit for not checking out Kolob, but Icebox was so good that it was worth it.
After this trip all 3 of us are highly confident in the Trifecta and we’re all itching to get back down for 24 hrs of fun.