Archive for the ‘Recent Posts’ Category

Backcountry Skiing: Avalanche and weather forecast

Tuesday, December 27th, 2011

Ski season is well underway here in the west and conditions are looking good for trips into the backcountry or resort sidecountry.  Leaving the crowded ski resorts and venturing into your local backcountry areas is a very rewarding and increasingly popular way to ski and enjoy untraveled areas.  We are gearing up for our backcountry skiing season and offering both One Day and Multi-Day backcountry ski trips in the uncrowded and powder laden Tushar Mountains of Southern Utah.

Backcountry skiing demands a more advanced skill set than the recreational resort skier.  Avalanche and mountain weather education are necessary for safely and responsibly enjoying these backcountry venues. Basic avalanche education classes are a great way to learn the skill necessary to make safe decisions in the backcountry.  The American Avalanche Institute offers a complete curriculum of avalanche education courses and are considered the industry leader.  All Zion Mountain School backcountry ski guides have completed Avalanche Level II courses at a minimum,

Current avalanche forecasts and mountain weather reports are useful tools to use when making decisions about when and where to backcountry ski.   The Utah Avalanche Center gives daily avalanche forecasts, reports on avalanche activity, and provide links for local mountain weather.Click this link for the Tushar Mountain weather forecast. This is a tremendous service for backcountry users and is a valuable tool we use when venturing into our local areas but are not a substitute for avalanche education and good judgement.

We are excited for our upcoming ski season and look forward to sharing some of our favorite areas with you. The Yurts are all set up and we are currently booking multi-day yurt trips and single day ski tours.  Be safe, have fun, and enjoy the snow.

Canyoneering in the Grand Canyon

Monday, December 19th, 2011

Last night in St George, we checked out a great presentation by Todd Martin, Rich Rudow and Dan Ransom. All three were showing photos and stories of their canyoneering exploration into the Grand Canyon.

Because of the it’s size, the Grand Canyon poses challenges to modern day canyoneers. It’s big; 16 miles wide and 1 mile deep in most spots; remote, has extreme weather conditions, and oh, yeah, the river to cross! Until Todd, Rich and Dan started exploring the technical side canyons of the Grand Canyon, most were only seen by river runners, hiking up from the river while on a Grand Canyon float trip. Canyoneers typically descend canyons from top-down, so these guys had a lot of adventure finding hiking routes to the top and descending into the the unknown.

The slideshow highlighted the new guidebook, by Todd Martin:

The book is comprehensive and full of great photos. It’s amazing to see canyons with rappels up to 450′! Another new canyoneering technique is using a packraft to navigate the mighty Colorado River when needed.

The evening was capped with Dan Ransom, a Utah-based photographer and canyoneer, showing a preview of the movie the group is working on. The full length show will most likely debut in Spring 2012, but here is a great preview of how the canyons in Grand Canyon look:

We’re excited to see the finished product! Thanks to Rich Rudow, Todd Martin, Dan Ransom, Bo Beck and the Desert Rat and St George Art Museum for collaborating on a great presentation.



Zion Top-Rope Rock Climbing Course

Friday, July 29th, 2011

Zion National Park and the surrounding Southern Utah and St. George areas comprise a diverse rock climbing mecca.  Thousands of climbs at varying locations provide amazing year round rock climbing of all styles, lengths, and difficulties.  It is a perfect place to take a rock climbing course and build upon your skills and experience. At Zion Mountain School we provide a range of instructional rock climbing courses that are suited for climbers of all levels and abilities.

Christine and her son Brian came to Zion to take our Top Rope Rock Climbing Course.

Getting ready to climb. Click to enlarge










Christine and Brian has some experience rock climbing in a gym and some climbing outdoors.  They were interested in learning the skills needed to safely climb on their own outside.




Brian getting belayed by mom. click to enlarge














This two day course is for the climber with basic climbing and belaying skills looking to learn the skills needed to safely top rope climb




Throwing the rappel rope. Click to enlarge










Brian and Christine got lots of experience setting up anchors on climbing routes and then getting climb on them.




Putting their heads together. Click to enalrge










We visit different climbing sites in the area for more variety and hands on learning opportunities.  This course gives you the opportunity to get a lot of practice and experience under the guidance of a professional instructor.




Rappelling down to climb. Click to enlarge









After the top rope course Brian took our 2 day Lead Climbing Course and then visited some of the local rock climbing areas to climb with his mom.




Enjoying a fun climb. Click to enlarge


Guide to Zion Narrows

Saturday, July 16th, 2011

An Interesting Season for the Narrows:

After nearly 4 months of closure due to high water from snowmelt, the Narrows is now fully open for hiking, both

Hiking in the Narrow...Click to Enlarge

the full Narrows from the top and the dayhike up from the bottom. This also opens up some of our favorite canyon routes, including Mystery Canyon, Imlay Canyon and Orderville Canyon. Recently, we took a hike up from the Temple of Sinawava.


Current conditions to hike the Narrows are great. The deepest section of water we needed to cross was just downstream of Mystery Falls, about fifteen minutes into the water portion of the hike. There is a short (30 yards) section of chest deep water there, which feels great! Flooding over the winter and spring has washed out a sandbar that previously made that section a little shorter. However, with temperatures hovering around the 100 degree mark in Zion, an afternoon hike in the Narrows felt great. With the water being around 50 degrees, we had on quick drying shorts, a thin long sleeve top, neoprene socks and 5.10 Savant shoes keep us comfortable and feet warm.

Hiking the narrows is a classic Zion experience and there is an appropriate hike for all ages and abilities. For the top down, expect 16 miles of river hiking and planning some extra logistics including obtaining a permit, possibly a camping site (you can hike it in one long day or take two days and camp), a shuttle or ride to Chamberlain’s Ranch (about 2 hours of driving from Springdale). For those with less time or who would like to experience the Narrows without so much commitment, the hike upstream from the Temple of Sinawava is fantastic. After the paved mile-long Riverside Walk, you’ll hop into the river and head upstream. We always suggest hikers try to make it into Wall Street, a section of canyons with wall to wall water which is about 3 miles from the trailhead. Take food, water, a drybag, and good hiking shoes. A walking stick is also helpful.

As a note of caution in the summertime: while the Narrows is an excellent hike to cool off, take careful note of

Orderville side canyon...Click to Enlarge

afternoon thunderstorms and the chance of rain. Flash floods DO occur in the Narrows. If caught in a flash flood, find higher ground and hang out until the waters recede. We recommend getting an early start on the Narrows hike (hopping on the shuttle before 9am), both to avoid thunderstorms and also, the hike is much less crowded in the morning times.


Closed toed shoes work best for hiking in the Narrows, especially if planning to hike more than 3 miles. Along with the guided trips we offer, Zion Mountain School is able to rent hikers gear for the Narrows, if you need, including mesh hiking shoes, neoprene socks, a dry bag and hiking pole. This gear is easy to use, and can increase your enjoyment of the hike. Contact Us if you have questions about your visit to Zion.

Group Canyoneering Adventure

Saturday, June 11th, 2011

Canyoneering is a great activity for a group on their trip to Zion National Park.  Suzy signed her friends up for an ultimate canyoneering trip to celebrate a birthday and a couple’s anniversary in the group. Suzy and her friends are on the adventerous side and were certainly up for the long hike and rappels up to 175 feet in length that the Ultimate Canyoneering Trip affords.  We customize all group events and offer half-day and full-day guided trips suited for groups that range in age and experience.

Here is a shot of the group on the hike in.









A view of the big 170′ foot waterfall rappel from the approach trail.












A great shot of the group at the top of the hike. This is just before we begin descending the canyon.









Very excited and happy to be out with friends.









A great shot of Kimberly on the big waterfall rappel.









One last shot of the group climbing through the slot.

Teresa’s First Multi-pitch Rock Climb

Wednesday, May 25th, 2011

Broni and Teresa atop the second pitch.









I first met Broni last year on a full day climbing trip. The Zion bug got into him, and decided to come back and get some more of the sweet desert sandstone. This time around, he brought Teresa. Teresa has never done a multi-pitch climb before and was both excited and anxious to give it a go.

Teresa on the 2nd Pitch.









The goal was a 5 pitch route called The Barbarian, a fun mixed bolted and crack climb that is great for beginner and intermediate climbers alike. With perfect ledges good rock, and just enough exposure, it allows for an enjoyable day.

Broni and Teresa on the Summit









After rappelling back down the route, we had enough time to climb the first pitch of Living on the Edge 5.10. This is a pretty wild route that climbs to the right of a rather larger left-leaning dihedral corner. This aspect gives you some wild exposure the whole route.

After our climbing was done we caught up over a refreshing beverage. Its always a pleasure to climb up high with new and old friends.





Family Canyoneering Adventure

Thursday, May 5th, 2011

Downclimbing over a chockstone. Click to enlarge









Leslie was looking to add a little adventure to her vacation with her two boys, Sawyer and Riley. So she signed the three up for a day of Canyoneering.

About to wade through the water












We all met the mourning of the trip, the boys in a hazy bog trying to gather their senses from arriving the night before. They were also trying to gather the amazing new scenery of Zion Canyon that was surrounding them.

Heading down the natural slide









We packed up, and headed out to Yankee Doodle. A super fun slot canyon. With a couple rappels and many fun down climbs, they were in for a fun adventure.

Leslie the kids and I had a super fun day!  Leslie told me later that it was the highlight of her families’ vacation to Zion.


Safely Exploring Subway Canyon

Thursday, April 28th, 2011

Ask any Zion canyoneer what the classic canyon is to descend in Zion, and many will answer The Subway. Located on the expansive Kolob Terrace of Zion, it has a slickrock approach, slotted canyons, clear flowing water and a few short rappels: the Subway is a sublime desert experience.

However, Zion’s famous Subway Canyon has been in the news a lot this spring, because of lost or overdue parties descending and subsequent search and rescues. Luckily, no one has been seriously injured in these canyoneering rescues. Currently the Zion watershed is 188% above our average snowpack and springtime flooding is higher than normal, so its easy to assume many beginner canyoneers and hikers are simply running into epic conditions that make the descent harder and more dangerous.

If you are interested in the stories this past week, here’s a sampling:

Video: Stranded hikers reach safety with help from Air Force

Because of the unique high water conditions and safety concerns, the Subway is currently closed from the Top-Down canyoneering route. It will re-open once conditions improve, probably in the next few weeks.

How can you learn the skills to canyoneer and safely descend the Subway?

Stories like these and 127 Hours survivor, Aaron Ralston often make the average adventurer and their group nervous to take on canyoneering on their own. However, with a few important skills and techniques, you and your group can safely and efficiently descend the Subway this summer or fall on your own. In lower water conditions, the canyon is a top choice for novice canyoneers who have some training under their belt.

At ZMS, we strive to teach students how to be competent, safe and reliable canyoneers. Many who have taken our One Day Course with us have descended the Subway the next day on their own, and have had a successful and safe time. We have also had many clients really enjoy taking our Two Day and Three Day courses because it allows them the ability to practice new skills and techniques more while under the guidance of our accredited guides.

Our courses cover route finding, safe belaying, proper rope management, and safe rappelling techniques that every  beginner canyoneer should know when attempting the Subway. After you have taken a course with us, we provide rental equipment and up to date conditions. It’s the best way to learn new skills and check out Zion in a new way: the canyons.

Check out our courses HERE.

Zion Cliff Closure Update

Wednesday, April 27th, 2011

Some cliffs that have been closed due to peregrine falcon nesting have been reopened.  As of 04/26/11 the East Temple, Mt Spry, Cable Mountain, and the Great White Throne have been reopened.  Due to active nesting sites Angels Landing, Mt Issac, Mt Kinesava, Mountain of the Sun, North Twin, Middle Fork of Taylor Creek, and Tunnel West area which included all routes west of the tunnel entrance including the Kung Fu amphitheatre.  The confluence, cragmont, and routes on Ataxia tower are not affected.  More information can be found here on the NPS website. The cliffs with active nesting sites will remained closed until sometime in June.

Spring Canyoneering in Zion

Monday, April 4th, 2011

Spring canyoneering in Zion National Park can be a very exciting and adventurous experience. Depending on our winter, you can find large snow drifts, flowing water from snow melt, and very cold water. Currently, we are at 140% snow pack and it has been melting.

Spring Waterfall Rappel. Click to Enlarge


Applying skills learned from a Three Day Basic in Kolob Canyon. Click to Enlarge







Spring can actually be a pretty serious time to go into these cold chasms and go canyoneering. If you are a private party, proper equipment, knowledge, and experience is crucial to navigating these slots safely and efficiently. Efficiency is paramount to getting out and into the sun sooner than later. Over the years, there have been many parties who have underestimated these endeavors.

Avoiding the water in Water Canyon. Click to enlarge.


Zion Mountain School offers Canyoneering Courses and Guided Trips for all abilities and experience levels to help you properly and safely navigate these canyons on your own. We also guide both wet and dry canyons during this time of year. Your trip includes all necessary safety gear and equipment as well as professional guidance and instruction necessary to have a safe and fun day.

The weather is perfect, the cotton woods and flowers are blooming, making this one of the more beautiful times of the year to explore Zion National Park.