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Kip Marshall Rappels into the final narrows of Spry Canyon

Spry Canyon
Zion National Park
Technical Canyoneering


          Spry Canyon is a great slot canyon located in the heart of Zion National Park. This canyon is quickly earning a reputation as one of the better slot canyons with its easy access, numerous rappels and shocking elegance.

          Your approach route will take you high in Pine Creek Canyon to a pass between East Temple and the Twin Brothers. Than down you go heading toward Mount Spry before a narrow slot takes control and deposits you on the valley floor. This is one fun ride.

General Information:
Click Here for Google Earth KMZ file.Click Here for Map           Spry Canyon is a technical canyoneering adventure that will require approximately 5 to 6 hours to complete. Spry Canyon is rated 3B III using the Canyon Rating System. A car shuttle or hitch-hiking is required for this adventure.

          You will need complete technical gear along with two 50 meter (165-foot) ropes, several slings and a minimum of 50 feet of webbing. Spry Canyon requires knee to chest deep wading in several sections depending upon conditions. This canyon has multiple rappels, the longest being 150-feet.

          Once you begin descending this canyon please stay in the watercourse and help eliminate the problem of social trails circumventing obstacles. There is no need to leave the watercourse once you begin descending this canyon. The erosion problem created by social trails is a concern to the National Park Service. The watercourse offers more fun and adventure and helps reduce the erosion problem. Please practice responsible canyoneering.

          A GPS is useful. Good map reading skills and the USGS 7.5' Map titled "Springdale East" is necessary. Navigation for this adventure is moderate. All waypoints and maps for this route use the WGS84 datum.

          A Zion backcountry permit is required for this canyon. Spry Canyon has a moderate flash flood danger, check the weather report before attempting this route.

Hank Moon in the intriguing tunnel. This rappel is often referred to as the "lean to the anchors" rappel.

Trailhead Information:
          Stop at the visitor center and pick up a permit. Than take Highway 9 west from the visitors center towards the Zion-Mt. Carmel Tunnel. The Lower Trailhead is where Highway 9 crosses Pine Creek at the bridge. This is often referred to as the 1st switchback up Highway 9. If you have a shuttle vehicle this is where you want to leave it. If you don't have a shuttle vehicle it is usually easy to hitch a ride to the Upper Trailhead.

          To reach the Upper Trailhead, continue driving east on Highway 9. On your drive to the tunnel it is wise to stop and check out your exit route from Spry Canyon. A few moments memorizing the exit down the dirt cone and through the cliff bands will pay dividends at the completion of the route. Continue driving through the Zion-Mt. Carmel Tunnel. The moment you exit the Zion-Mt. Carmel Tunnel check your mileage. It is 0.4 miles from the tunnel exit to the Upper Trailhead. There are several large pull-outs just below the actual Upper Trailhead. There is no safe parking at the trailhead, please find a safe place to park where your vehicle will not be a nuisance.

Rhett Chambers drops down Your handsome tour guide

Route Information:
          From the trailhead (N37 12' 56", W112 56' 08") begin hiking north up the bottom of Pine Creek. Hike up canyon for 1/2 mile (15 minutes) to where the canyon begins to narrow (N37 13' 25", W112 56' 18"). Exit the canyon to the west and begin climbing up the slickrock taking the path of least resistance. The slickrock is steep in places but should be no problem if you carefully route find.

          Your target is the obvious pass between East Temple and Deertrap Mountain. As you near the pass there is a faded panel of petroglyphs (N37 13' 35", W112 56' 34") that contains a large number of figures. The petroglyphs are located on a 30-foot tall cliff that intersects your route to the pass.

          Once you reach the pass hike north along the ridge approximately one hundred yards until you can find and easy place to walk down into the canyon bottom (N37 13' 42", W112 56' 42"). From here it is all downhill to the Lower Trailhead.

          Follow the canyon downstream. The first section of the canyon requires a small amount of bushwhacking but is quite pretty with lush green vegetation contrasting with the red sandstone. Shortly you will encounter a steep slickrock bowl with an easy to spot bolted rappel anchor near the top. This is the longest rappel you will encounter at 165-feet. The anchor requires a slight bit of downclimbing to reach but it is no problem.

          After the first rappel the canyon begins to get goofy. Most of the remaining obstacles that you encounter will have several options available to deal with them. Attacking the problems directly is probably the most fun but will usually require some wading. It appears that many canyoneers will go to great length's to keep their feet dry so many obstacles have a climb around or a climb around and rappel back in option. This seems like a waste to me but the canyon is often done during cold weather so I can understand wanting to stay dry. My advice is get in the bottom and enjoy the full meal deal.

          The second drop is often walked around, or walked around and rappelled back in off a tree. The fun is in the direct route, which is an easy 10-foot downclimb, followed by a 20-foot slide and than a short rappel from a tree stump that deposits you in an intriguing tunnel.

          Just continue downstream choosing your method of dealing with each obstacle as you encounter it. None of the obstacles are particularly difficult to figure out if you look around a little bit. After about a half dozen rappels and easy downclimbs everyone gets shuffled back into the main watercourse for the finish which is a fun narrow slot that requires a rappel to enter. Next you will encounter a downclimb-slide into a pool which can be anywhere from knee to chest deep followed by a rappel to exit to slot. Once out of the deep slot climb the 10-foot chute to the left (LDC) and locate a tree with a sling that will allow you to rappel the short distance to the bottom of the cliff band.

          For the final section of the route the Zion Park Rangers have placed several signs restricting foot traffic towards the dirt cone to the west. The traill there is causing an erosion problem. Stay in the watercourse and follow the stone cairns down a fun scramble through the boulders. As you reach the end of the boulders you will find yourself at the top of an 85-foot cliff band. The anchor for this rappel is a large tree with webbing. From the bottom of the rappel it is a short hike down to Pine Creek. Follow the trail on the north side of Pine Creek to the Lower Trailhead (N37 12' 59", W112 57' 55").

Hank Moon wades through Rhett Chambers on the exit rappel

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