Dan: "Just get your video ready; you only have one take."
Another canyon, another adventure in Zion National Park. I've blogged before about adventuring in ZNP, and Englestead has been on my radar since we hiked Orderville. At the time, my buddy Dan pointed up one tributary and said "Englestead is that way. It's known for its first rappel, 300 feet straight down, a rappel you need to experience."
A year later, Dan called to share good news: he had an Englestead permit, so I needed to clear my schedule. Just like that we were off. Our National Parks are experiencing record visitation, and Zion National Park is no exception. Zion is one of the most visited parks in the United States, and if you don't time your visit just right, you'll spend the majority of your time at shuttle stops packed with tourists. It's not my idea of experiencing the untamed wilderness of Zion. so when we have the chance, we head into Zion's remote areas.
Englestead Canyon greets you like no other canyon approach. Seeing the canyon from high above is like a scene out of mythology; it's like Thor threw down his hammer to crack the earth wide open. The trail leading to Englestead winds through Ponderosa pines before it ends abruptly at the 300-foot drop off. Your next step is the first rappel of Englestead.
Permitting: Let's clear up any confusion. Englestead exits Orderville Canyon, just inside Zion National Park so you need a permit for Englestead. When you exit into Orderville Canyon, you have two choices: left or right. If you turn right and exit up Orderville canyon, there is no need for an additional Orderville permit. However, if you turn left and continue down Ordervillet to exit through the Narrows, you also need a permit for Orderville. Obtaining an Orderville permit on the same date as your Englestead permit can be difficult. Unable to secure an Orderville permit on the day of our Englestead permit, we took the exit right, up Orderville Canyon.
As we prepared for the initial rappel, Dan carefully coiled his rope for the Texas rope toss. He looked over the massive canyon opening, yelled "ROPE," and then tossed the end of the rope over the canyon wall. The sound of the rope leaving the coil made a wispy-whipping sound. The coil quickly shrank smaller as the rope descended the canyon to the bottom of the first rappel. When all the rope reached the canyon floor, the the slack tightened and a whip-crack echoed down the canyon. Our 300 foot rappel had begun. I don’t care how experienced you are and how many canyons you have under your belt, even the steeliest resolve rattles as you take that first step off a 300-foot cliff face.
Gear Check: To navigate Englestead, you need full climbing gear, enough rope for the 300 feet rappel, and plenty of webbing (Englestead is a bolt free canyon). Wetsuit is optional, but there are water obstacles in the canyon.
After the 300-foot rappel, a series of rappels continued lowering us to Englestead's floor. In a short 1.5 miles, there are about 10 rappels to reach the bottom of this deep canyon. Englestead is a beautiful canyoneering experience with tight turns, high canyon walls, water obstacles and plenty of down climbing.
KÜHL Gear: Rappel starts can be undercut, awkward, and just plain tricky. Flexible and strong clothing is key. Look for abrasion resistant and quick drying material. My canyoneering go-to active shorts are the KÜHL Renegade Cargo shorts.
As we made our way down the canyon, we encountered many obstacles as a result of flash flooding. Logs and boulders had wedged tight throughout the narrow canyon.
Field Note: At one time Englestead was a bolted canyon, but during our trip we noticed bolts had been removed. There's a movement in the climbing community to use webbing and turn canyons back to natural anchors. On any canyoneering experience, be prepared and don't assume there will be bolted anchors for your rappels.
Like the best roller coasters, the ride was over before we knew it. We reached the Orderville junction, and turned right to exit out Orderville Canyon. As we hiked towards our vehicle, my thoughts took me back to the initial 300-foot rappel and the whip-cracking Texas rope toss. Another epic canyon, Englestead, was in the books.