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Thread: To Slot Canyon or not To Slot Canyon?? need some advice

  1. #1

    To Slot Canyon or not To Slot Canyon?? need some advice

    First off, yes I'm a newbie to this forum and as a long time member of a snowmobile forum I know how annoying newbies can be, so I hope my question is not a laughable one, it is very serious to me.

    I'm graduating high school and me and 3 other buddies, all 18 yrs old, are heading to Zion at the end of this month. One guy in our group has extensive knowledge in rock climbing and repelling, me and another guy have moderate experience (understand the basics, have been on local repelling trips) and the last of our group has very limited experience. All of us have lots of backpacking/camping/basic outdoor skills. NONE of us have done slot canyons. A neighbor of mine has been through Zion quite a bit and has been giving us ideas of day trips to go on, he insists with the knowledge and common sense that our group has we will be able to safely maneuver 3A/B canyons. He is a very knowledgeable guy but I would like a second opinion...

    Based on the experience in our group would you think we would be safe in a 3A/B canyon??

    I really appreciate all the help I'm doin my best to be as prepared as possible, and please be as honest. we want to be pretty safe but are open to a little risk.

    Thanks,

    CookieCutter

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  3. #2

    Re: To Slot Canyon or not To Slot Canyon?? need some advice

    Quote Originally Posted by cookiecutter
    One guy in our group has extensive knowledge in rock climbing and repelling, me and another guy have moderate experience (understand the basics, have been on local repelling trips) and the last of our group has very limited experience. All of us have lots of backpacking/camping/basic outdoor skills. NONE of us have done slot canyons. A neighbor of mine has been through Zion quite a bit and has been giving us ideas of day trips to go on, he insists with the knowledge and common sense that our group has we will be able to safely maneuver 3A/B canyons. He is a very knowledgeable guy but I would like a second opinion...

    Based on the experience in our group would you think we would be safe in a 3A/B canyon??
    Cookie, Welcome to the Canyoneering Forum.

    Since I am awake I'll answer first before others chime in. For me I will tell you that your question poses a lot of difficulty and I am not going to give you a direct answer and I think anyone who does should have their advice seriously scrutinized.

    The reason I say this is because for me to tell you to go for it and have a great trip based on what you have described over an Internet forum is practically impossible. You have certainly described some good qualities in your group, but the fact that you have not been in slot canyons with this group begs the question of how your group dynamics will actually play out in a canyon. Certainly a knowledge of climbing techniques will come in very handy as many techniques in rope work are taken from climbing, but have been modified. Simply knowing how to rappel (not reppel) is not the same as rappelling in a canyon, with wetsuits, backpacks etc. The fact that your group is competent in the outdoors does not mean you will be able to stem potholes or swim with all your gear on. If canyoneering is something that you are really going to be interested in there are several companies, some of which are right in the Zion area, that offer courses and intros to the sport.

    Now before I rain on your parade too much. There are many canyons that can be tamed by the beginner and it varies on which canyons you do or are interested in. There are people (Tom) on this forum which can give you a better idea of which canyons in Zions those are than I. I simply want to let you know that the dynamics need to be considered before asking if we think you will survive a canyon or not. Make sure you are understanding the canyon ratings and what may be in those canyons.
    Jared Hillhouse
    North Wash Outfitters LLP.
    Twitter: @North_Wash
    N.W.O. on Facebook
    "Great Adventure Buddies Make It Happen"

  4. #3
    CookieCutter,

    Welcome to the forum, just out of curiosty what canyons is your neighbor recomending you do?

    Mark

  5. #4
    Canyonbug, I appreciate for help! and thanks for the spelling correction rappeling..

    Your info is the kind I am looking for, I've scavenged the internet for the past months getting all the info I can before I stumbled onto this website last night, I love the person to person help!

    We understand, though probably not to the extent of it, that slot canyons are a different world then say climbing the Grand Teton. The neighbor of mine has been going over the basics of slot canyons and the gear necessary but we understand it is no substitute for professional help.

    I will talk with Tom as you suggested, is that his profile name?

    Thanks!

    CookieCutter
    better off outdoors

  6. #5
    Mark,

    He told us with our skill set we have that mystery canyon would be doable (though current water flow rates I believe have closed this canyon??) also behunin canyon, and possibly ice box. He also suggested a day or two set aside for mountain biking at gooseberry mesa, but we all love mountain biking and are proficient at it so I think we'll be okay there.

    Our plan was to do, if permits granted, 2-3 canyons (hopefully 3!), then mountain bike inbetween canyno trips.

    CookieCutter
    better off outdoors

  7. #6
    I think you are ready for Heaps. No I am just kidding do not do Heaps, you will die.

    Zion has a lot of great canyons with a lot of varying difficulty. You should start out with some tamer ones to get you into the "feel" of canyoneering. I would suggest getting a couple under your belt that are more hiking and scrambling then rope-work. Canyons like Orderville and Subway. Then do some of the ones with more rope work like Keyhole, Echo and Pine Creek.

    Once you have mastered those, then I would suggest doing intermediate ones like Mystery, Behunin or Spry.

    This is just my limited opinion, I am no expert. I defer to the masters...




    James

  8. #7
    Zions the "s" is silent trackrunner's Avatar
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    I like and agree 100% with canyonbug's (Jared) advice. It is hard to tell over the internet.

    3A/B is a wide range of canyons. There can be easy class 3 and difficult class 3 (even without the R or X rating).

    I've seen some groups mess up the last rappel in Behunin. 150ft most of it free hanging and you can't see the bottom from the top. A friend messed up the throw. When he got to the free fall his rope was all tangled up and in the hanging trees on the cliff wall. He was skilled enough to lock off rappel, untangle and ropes, re lower the ropes correctly, and then continue on. This canyon could be OK for you with experienced leadership.

    Some things to consider do you know: KISS (keep it simple stupid), advantages and disadvantages of double rope technique (DRT) and single rope technique (SRT), appropriate uses of a biner block, rig a contingency anchor, use a throw bag, when to throw your pull cord, how not to twist your rope (how not to twist the rope with a twisting descender like a figure 8 device), how to rig an anchor and have redundancy, how to rig a natural anchor, what the death triangle is and how not to set it up, advantages/disadvantages different ways to join two ropes, fireman belay, belay from the top, advantages/disadvantages and when not to use a self belay, test rope pull, how to free a stuck rope, when not to climb back up for a stuck rope, how to ascend (jumar) in emergancies.

    I started out easy and simple, learned new skills as I went a long, learned from my mistakes, and learned for true experienced canyoneers.

    In my opinion the easiest canyons to virgin noobs in Zion are the subway & orderville. Also Keyhole with wetsuits. Never jump, KISS by using the DRT & fireman belays. As you get more experienced and gain skills you can gradually branch out progressively to more difficult canyons and/or be lead in the difficult canyons by experienced canyoneers.

    I would disagree with Icebox (aka waterfalls) as beeing virgin noob friendly. Also right now there are dangerous snow bridges in that canyon that need to melt out as reported on canyons groups site and cross posted on bogley.

    Remeber to Have Fun!

  9. #8
    Yep, I'd have to agree that in order to get started in Zion, Orderville and Keyhole are good ideas (I've never done the Subway... yet.) I think that it would be a good idea to work up to the technical difficulties.

    Orderville is a long day of hiking with a couple of downclimbs and a rap or two. Keyhole is a great, short slot. Wear a wetsuit, do a couple of downclimbs and raps in a beautiful setting. Doesn't get much nicer - or much easier.

    Going from these things into the more serious canyons in Zion - Mystery, Behunin, etc - is quite a leap in difficulty - or at least in consequence/exposure/length of rappels.

    It would be an excellent idea to either go somewhere with a guide, or see if you can hook up with some (one or more) more experienced folks for a couple or few trips. I'm a firm believer in the concept of mentorship. (This is ironic coming from someone who does so many solo trips!)

  10. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by cookiecutter

    I will talk with Tom as you suggested, is that his profile name?
    Tom Jones- Profile name is ratagonia. He is sure to chime in here sometime, he's like that lurking garden knome always ready to speak up with an honest word of advice

    Some great suggestions from others, more in depth than I gave. Just be cognoscente that although Canyoneering is often closely associated by the public as part of the climbing industry, it is an animal of a different sort and needs to be understood. Once the full scope of it is realized and skill sets are in order it can be a wonderful journey that you won't want to get off of.

    Find some experienced canyoneers (not just weekend warriors) and glean as much knowledge from them as you can. Good luck and have fun.
    Jared Hillhouse
    North Wash Outfitters LLP.
    Twitter: @North_Wash
    N.W.O. on Facebook
    "Great Adventure Buddies Make It Happen"

  11. #10
    You could look at the Bogley noobfest. No better time to get free instruction from some very knowledgeable peeps.

    http://bogley.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=15843
    The man thong is wrong.

  12. #11
    Man everyone, thanks so much!

    If you haven't guessed already this will be our senior trip, our "last hoorah" if you will, before most of our core group of friends heads to college, jobs, etc..

    From what I have gathered here is a possible updated plan while we are down there:

    I do NOT want to rappel into a canyon where I will not see the bottom such as behunin, so cross that off the list.

    Mystery canyon is closed due to flow rate, even if it is opened by the time I'm there I do NOT want to risk dangerous water conditions, so cross it off the list.

    Monday, depending on which permit I can obtain, do orderville or subway, (or both as a monday tuesday thing) and after doing them take a serious look at our skill and performance in the canyons and see if we are up to something like a keyhole, echo, or pine creek (we have plenty of full body wet suits and one dry suit) and if we decide we are not ready then spend the rest of the week on hikes and mountain biking.

    Sound Possible??

    again, I appreciate the honest and upfront responses! This is a big deal for us, and possibly a once in a life time thing for all of us to be together before real life begins.

    CookieCutter
    better off outdoors

  13. #12
    Quote Originally Posted by cookiecutter
    If you haven't guessed already this will be our senior trip, our "last hoorah" if you will, before most of our core group of friends heads to college, jobs, etc..
    And to think.... I wasted my senior trip laying on a secluded Lake Powell beach surrounded by young topless women with low self esteem issues who were suffering the effects of alcohol.....

    AAhhhh.... the good ol' days.....

    Maybe start with the Subway... healthy 18 y/o males should not have any problems in that canyon provided they use a little commonsense.....

    I know... I know.... 18 y/o male and commonsense is an oxymoron.


  14. #13
    Content Provider Emeritus ratagonia's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cookiecutter
    Mark,

    He told us with our skill set we have that mystery canyon would be doable (though current water flow rates I believe have closed this canyon??) also behunin canyon, and possibly ice box. He also suggested a day or two set aside for mountain biking at gooseberry mesa, but we all love mountain biking and are proficient at it so I think we'll be okay there.

    Our plan was to do, if permits granted, 2-3 canyons (hopefully 3!), then mountain bike inbetween canyno trips.

    CookieCutter
    Yeah, what he said. Icebox is 'pretty backcountry', meaning if you mess up in there, it could be quite a while before anyone shows up.

    The starter canyons are the ones in the front of The Book, page 135 to 161, although as mentioned, people get messed up in Behunin quite often.

    Rope Bags!

    Helmets!

    etc. Tom

  15. #14
    Thanks Tom! I have quite enjoyed myself looking through all the info on your website as well. We will be having good helmets too.

    We will be down there from the 25th to 30th, I'm wondering how cold the water will be in keyhole. I understand its very cold requiring wet suits, but this early in the year is it a, "oh this is chilly, press on!" or a, "this is dead cold, but man up and push on" or a "this is tooo cold"...??

    Thanks!

    CookieCutter
    better off outdoors

  16. #15
    Content Provider Emeritus ratagonia's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cookiecutter
    Thanks Tom! I have quite enjoyed myself looking through all the info on your website as well. We will be having good helmets too.

    We will be down there from the 25th to 30th, I'm wondering how cold the water will be in keyhole. I understand its very cold requiring wet suits, but this early in the year is it a, "oh this is chilly, press on!" or a, "this is dead cold, but man up and push on" or a "this is tooo cold"...??

    Thanks!

    CookieCutter
    It is really not much fun without wetsuits. Word is it is a bit less swimming than usual, but still...

    Tom

  17. #16
    Ok, we'll definitely bring wet suits with us. I really appreciate your knowledgeable help.
    better off outdoors

  18. #17
    I called Tom at his shop, as I needed my neoprene socks and his book shipped to me as quick as possible, and he went out of his way to make sure they would get here on wend. Well today is wend. and everything showed up as promised. Tom we really appreciate it!! If our canyoneering adventures continue beyond this next week (I'm sure they will) we will always be doing business with you.
    better off outdoors

  19. #18
    Quote Originally Posted by cookiecutter
    I called Tom at his shop, as I needed my neoprene socks and his book shipped to me as quick as possible, and he went out of his way to make sure they would get here on wend. Well today is wend. and everything showed up as promised. Tom we really appreciate it!! If our canyoneering adventures continue beyond this next week (I'm sure they will) we will always be doing business with you.


    I've always been more than happy in my dealings with Tom. Prince of a guy, for an emperor...

  20. #19

    Re: To Slot Canyon or not To Slot Canyon?? need some advice

    Quote Originally Posted by cookiecutter
    A neighbor of mine has been through Zion quite a bit and has been giving us ideas of day trips to go on, he insists with the knowledge and common sense that our group has we will be able to safely maneuver 3A/B canyons. He is a very knowledgeable guy but I would like a second opinion...

    Based on the experience in our group would you think we would be safe in a 3A/B canyon??

    I really appreciate all the help I'm doin my best to be as prepared as possible, and please be as honest. we want to be pretty safe but are open to a little risk.

    Thanks,

    CookieCutter
    Hi CookieCutter. I'm in a similar situation to you, being a relative newbie in a group of people who are relatively comfortable around rope and climbing harnesses. A bunch of us will be in Zion just after you this year. I and some others in our group have descended the Subway previously, after getting some basic instruction in a nearby slot canyon (from Zion Rock and Mountain, Zion Adventure Company offer instruction too, I believe). Since then we've been getting lots of practice at rigging rappels and suchlike, and this year are planning to do the Subway again, followed by Echo Canyon, Keyhole Canyon and Pine Creek. I think they're about our skill level, and have been told by many that they're a good introduction to technical stuff.

    You mention Mystery - I can only speak for myself, but as someone with not much experience of technical slots, I think I'm happier to leave Mystery for another trip. I think that would be pushing my comfort zone a bit.

  21. #20

    Re: To Slot Canyon or not To Slot Canyon?? need some advice

    Quote Originally Posted by sarahlizzy
    You mention Mystery - I can only speak for myself, but as someone with not much experience of technical slots, I think I'm happier to leave Mystery for another trip. I think that would be pushing my comfort zone a bit.
    Technically I think Mystery is easier than Pine Creek. None of the rappels in Mystery are free hanging and there is no swimming in Mystery (Pine Creek can have a lot of swimming). The final rappel in Pine Creek can be a little intimidating. I know I've backed off of it before to calm myself before taking the the "final step". But than again, I'm a pussy when it comes to rappels....




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