Canyon Tales
Two–way Imlay
by Scott Card

• Imlay Sneak Route •

Friday, August 18 really began the adventure. Spiderman Steve and John, our dutch oven wizard, got up and left Mapleton, Utah at 3:30 AM to make it to the permit line just before 7:00 AM. Yes, 3:30 in the AM (stupid permit system). About 30 seconds to one minute after they arrived in line, another two folks arrived in line behind Steve and John seeking Imlay permits. They wanted only three, but John and Steve informed them they were going to take the remaining six. Imlay could have handled them but, instead, they left disappointed. After about an hour of tense waiting in line, Steve and John secured the permit. Fate was with us this time—permit in hand, red tag in hand, and the weather looked perfect to boot.

The rest of us—me, Al, Kevin, and Larry—arrived in Hurcun (Hurricane) Friday night to plan, pack, and get some rest. We agreed upon a 4:00 AM get–up–and–go time. My overly anxious brother set his alarm for 4:00 AM, but at 3:40 AM his alarm goes off. He set his clock twenty minutes fast. So much for that lost 20 minutes of sleep. Up and at ‘em! We eat and drive into a very dark, very quiet Zion Park. We donned our headlamps and packs and off we went. What an absolute serene, beautiful hike it was up to the scout look–out, peering up Refrigerator Canyon at a sliver of a silver crescent moon and the stars in the ever brightening sky. By the time we hit Scout’s Lookout, it was light enough to put the headlamps away and enjoy the forthcoming sunrise. What an incredible experience to feel like we were the only people awake and enjoying the park at that time of day. I was surprised no one else was on the trail to enjoy the sunrise from Angels Landing.

We made our way to the turn–off point and started the nasty slog to Imlay. I didn’t mind the bushwhacking but the saddle climbs were not too fun. The descent into the crossroads reminded me of the MIA exit in reverse. We arrived just in time to see the Nelson group getting ready to head out. We sat down, ate brunch, and relaxed for about 45 minutes. We then did the ever popular neoprene dance, tugging our wetsuits on, screaming as little hairs would get caught in the back zipper. We all laughed at each other. After working up a sweat to get our suits on, we were glad to see water just a few hundred feet away to cool off in.

The adventure began ... we were a little disappointed to find a lot of water. I was looking forward to some pothole–escape ropework and guided raps, but no dice because there was no need. The second pool was a real stinker with thick log soup. That was my first experience with thick log soup—not fun. We then started the rap, downclimb, and pothole swimming fun. We had a blast. 5 of us had 7/5 Neosport full suits on. They were plenty warm but not too bad. With our packs and wetsuits, we floated very well. I found myself lying on my back many, many times enjoying the canyon view.

We zipped through the canyon with partner–assists and beached–whale moves. I only got stuck in that little hole you have to climb through. My feet kept wedging in the crack. The second to the last pothole that Mr. Nelson speaks of was solved quickly by Spiderman who, in true eagle scout form, grabbed an available floating stick and used a strong kick to propel himself out of the pothole water high enough to wedge the stick in the ‘V’ slot and pull himself out—impressive and fun to watch him in action. Most of us tried the same trick, but I couldn’t get the stick wedged; others could but couldn’t get out. So Steve extended a hand and out we popped. We did catch the other group at this hole also. They were just leaving when we arrived so we didn’t bunch up at the last rap. All potholes were down about 1–3 feet from the lip. I can see how those things would be difficult when empty. We only saw at most 3 to 4 hooking holes that were exposed. We also pulled out the hooks just to test different hooks. The talon was by far the preferred type of hook.

We rapped into the Narrows to a few cameras and videotapes rolling as well as quite a few tourists. In my world at that moment, I looked cool. That may be the only time I looked cool but I did look cool when dropping into the Narrows from Imlay—at least, I felt cool. Hope my paunch was sucked in when they were filming.

From there, some of us kept our wetsuits on, lay back, and floated most of the Narrows. I must say, the Narrows are beautiful lying back and floating. I did notice that several people tried the same ‘technique’ of hiking the Narrows after they saw us a–floatin’ by—slower yes, but oh so beautiful and relaxing. Spiderman lugged an air mattress through Imlay and inflated it for the Narrows. He saw the Narrows on his stomach and kicking. When he is my age, he will flip over on the back and relax. Way too much energy these young bucks have. Start–to–finish (truck–to–truck including shuttle ride) with all our goofing off was about 12 hours. If you can’t tell, we had a great time.

Gear we used: We had a 200’ 8mm Imlay rope, 100’ 8mm Canyon Pro, 40’ 8mm Canyon pro, and a 50’ foot Canyon Pro rope. I loved my new wetsuit—I am ready for the real cold stuff—and I used an Imlay Mystery pack. Tom, kudos for a well–designed, comfortable, and well–draining pack. I simply loved my new pack. Can’t wait to test the Heaps ... in Heaps. People, Imlay packs are great canyoneering packs. Also, the Pacific Outdoor pneumo drybags are simply the best drybag out there. Those of us that used them had no water in our drybag. The vinyl type all leaked. The worst were the clear plastic kind with yellow velcro at the top—bad bag. Believe me: the POE pneumo bags were thoroughly tested by us. They were in water a long time and under water a long time while I goofed off floating in potholes and while floating the Narrows. Tom’s kegs also did very well, i.e., no leaking at all.

Scott Card
August 23, 2006

• Full Imlay •

A not–so–quick trip report for one of my top five canyons! I finally notched the full Imlay on my belt. I did the Sneak Route before and won’t do it again—the full Imlay is the way to go.

On Friday, September 26, 2008, Clark, Steve, Landon, John, Larry, and I drove to Springdale to drop Steve’s car off for our spot car. Before leaving, however, I got nervous about wearing a 4/3 in Imlay and I called Tom for a vest. He called me back when we were on the road, and we were able to stop by the place where all the Imlay gear magic happens. We picked up a couple of other items, had a short chat for a bit, and off we went to meet up with the other car. Thanks, Tom! We met at the Whiptail Grill for dinner. That place is now one of my favorites in Springdale. Great food!

We dropped the car and drove up to the West Rim trailhead. We noticed another truck up there. We sacked out for a few hours and got up at 5:15 AM to pack and be on the trail at a little after 6:00 AM. I will never tire of watching a sunrise over east Zion. Spectacular! At the Potato Hollow turnoff, we briefly chatted with some campers who were just getting up having hiked from the trailhead the day before and who would finish the West Rim Trail that day. They wondered what we were doing and how long we had been hiking. We told them we had been hiking for just over an hour and we were off to Imlay. We also mentioned that they were in store for a treat when hiking the rest of the West Rim Trail—what a view.

But I digress. We quickly found the first rap and off we went. We were a little off our game at first as it took us a few minutes to coordinate our ropes, send the right ropes forward, etc. We came off the big wall and, holy cow, what an impressive view, particularly looking up and to the left. We bushwhacked, downclimbed, and rapped. Just prior to the Crossroads, I think, we came upon our first significant water. Of course, the skinny young guys sent me and John—the, shall we say, bit more nourished of the group—ahead to check the depth and temperature. Sure enough, a full swim, in fact two in a row. After gasping for breath, I yelled up that it was a swim. So they suited up. We froze waiting for one more rope and then rapped and raced to the sunlight to suit up. I wrung out my wet clothes and packed them in a Pot Shot inside of my drybag. Note to self: double–check the valve on the drybag next time. Anyway, we were at the crossroads at about noon; we refueled and off we went.

By now, we were all on our game, ropes were being passed efficiently, we were downclimbing well, and so on. Then, boom—the first true keeper. Larry had a go at the hooking thing and did a great job. The holes were mostly blown out. It seemed that only one hole on the left was any good, and one up high on the right was good; the rest seemed to be junk. Spidey conquered it in record speed. By the way, that hole seems to be a treasure trove of stuff that was dropped by prior attemptees. We know: We dropped one piece of gear and came up with another, and, apparently, Bruce from Bryce also came up with stuff from that hole. Anyway, a couple of other potholes required hooking; most were escaped with partner–assists. We set two guided raps on meat, and we were at the final rap somewhere between 3:30 PM and 4:00 PM where we met up with Bruce from Bryce’s group. I was hanging back at the last guided rap since we sort of screwed up and pulled the rope prior to untying a figure 8 I was using as back–up meat. Yes, my function is meat anchor, back–up meat, and water tester. I get all the good jobs!!!!

Anyway, by the time I meandered to the last rap, Bruce was at the bottom and all I could do was wave. Nancy was there too but I didn’t know that till later. (I still owe you a helmet Nancy.) Bruce was kind enough to let Spidey and Clark play through so as to sprint the Narrows to get the car from the trailhead. We moseyed our way down the Narrows, and the whole time I was wondering why my pack seemed to be getting heavier when I would float the deep parts (open drybag valve, dummy! Did I mention that the really good 2–ply toilet paper swells to like 100 times its size in a drybag when water is added?) We didn’t go particularly fast but also did not let people pass us so as to have the maximum ‘coolness’ effect on the tourists. We really entertained them when we would go for the deep parts and float on by. Please don’t anyone tell me I didn’t look cool. We met Clark and Spidey for yet another dinner at the Whiptail Grill. With much Mountain Dew and cinnamon bears later, we arrived safely in Mapleton and no ranger contact at all this trip for the Mapleton boys.

What you really want to know: I was in a 4/3 wet suit and baked. I put the vest on that I got from Tom and really baked. I took it off and didn’t put it back on the rest of the day. That vest will be great for winter stuff. The weather was great and conditions were normal (half full is normal I understand, right, Tom?), and the tourists were plentiful in the Narrows. I trashed one seat on the bus with my never–ending draining pack, and water was running down the aisle. I can’t believe no one wanted to sit next to us. Maybe it was ‘cause John had his wetsuit top down.

Fabulous trip! I will post photos hopefully when Clark gives me his. I left my camera in the truck which was protected by my helmet which I also forgot. Did I mention I am not a morning person?

Scott Card
September 29, 2008

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© 2006 & 2008 Scott Card