Tales of an Incompetent Adventurer
Aaron’s Heaps of Fun
by Ram

Last Monday Mike Munger, Steve Levin, Aaron Ram and I started a two–day trip through Heaps Canyon. We caught the early shuttle (5:45 AM) up to the Grotto—nice that they have such an early one. Some pressure to catch it, though, as the next one leaves a whole hour later. With our 30–40 pound packs, it is a bit of a grunt up to Camp 4 on the West Rim. It took a bit under 2.5 hours.

We located the ridge after an awkward and dirty rappel. I had been asked on the forum whether it was possible to avoid or get back up this drop and had said yes. I was able to scope the area better this time. This band, I did downclimb on past trips some 150 further west. That route leads to another short rap into a gully and then a steep descent and a thrash bushwhack to Phantom Valley’s floor. I liked the ridge raps better, but the other is far less exposed. Once down in the valley, we glided down the slickrock, past those amazing hoodoos, to the drainage. We found both forks were flowing as they came together. The flow was about 2 cubic–feet–per–second.

After suiting up (drysuits all), we plunged into the first narrows. Everything was tippy–top full. We swam under the bridge and out the first narrows. I noted the crossover spot from my ‘Escape from Heaps’ epic and we plunged into the second narrows. I have never been a fan of summer canyoneering, preferring the mountains that time of year. I must say, that the high sun and the lighting it casts were a special treat and the whole ‘feel’ of the canyons all week impressed me. Prejudice overcome ... sorta. The straight corridors in this section, moss carpeted walls with pools creating perfect reflections, was quite something. We arrived at Crossroads at 3:30 PM and decided to stop as Steve had quite a hole in his suit that needed repair.

We took over a log and had the wet gear explosion. The afternoon was spent, relaxing and soaking in the ambiance of the area. 11–year–old Aaron, started into building sand castles ... actually, he built canyon systems. With great imagination, he created his own D topo map, covering several square yards. Delightful.

Having Steve Levin and Mike Munger for two days in Heaps is a treat. If you google those fellas, you will see each has quite the climbing resume. They were doing ‘two–a–days’ on grade IV walls in Zion and were looking for a break. Steve had been canyoning with us for a few years, but this was Mike’s first canyon. Steve and I alternate naps with conversation. We do this dancing on the edge of sun and shade, indulging in just the right temperatures.

We are in a cacophony of bullfrog sounds. Actually, it was quite pleasant. Mike decided to clear an area of frogs. With smooth zen–like stealth, he captured frog after frog and carried them gently 40 yards, one way or the other and then let them go. After perhaps 50+ frogs being relocated, our immediate area, maybe 80 yards of silence, was free of the croaking sound. We watched and listened as the frogs slowing refilled the empty niche. A delightful afternoon, dry and comfortable. I remember this part, along with Steve and Mike’s skill on the big wall, more than any other aspect of those two wonderful days. At 5 PM, the frogs started in in chorus. The volume of noise was staggering. It sounded like 3rd Avenue in Manhattan. The sound was both near and far, echoing about and didn’t relent until after midnight.

Slept in the next morning, not starting until 10:30 AM. The lower narrows, with the side canyons feeding their own flow in, were flowing at about 3–4 CFS. My feeling is that much above 5 CFS would make for some minor eddy’s and make challenging moving through certain holes. The water in the lower canyon was startlingly colder than above Crossroads. We were very happy in our drysuits. There were multiple long swims up to 100 yards. At 2:30 PM, we arrived at the big wall. I am a coward when it comes to this spot, but I had our secret weapons—Steve and Mike. They took great care of Aaron and me. And thankfully, neither of us did anything stupid. Four of us in the birds perch was a tad crowded, but I was off and down soon.

The flow out of Heaps, off the big drop, broke up into spray as it was a bit breezy. I did not get a shower, but others would as the wind shifted. I sent up the cached rope and radio and we were all down quickly to the polite ‘golf claps’ of the attending crowd at Emerald Pools. The pull was easy and we made our way out. I would like to thank Steve and Mike who carried a lot of the group gear and facilitated the exit so well. Everyone really enjoyed themselves. The next day we would do a 17.5–mile descent of the full Left Fork. Aaron and I would carry all the group gear as a way of saying thank you to our partners.

Heaps canyon has it all.


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