Heaps, the biggest of the big boys in Zion (in my opinion). This is an adventure you won't soon forget, and one ONLY SUITED TO EXPERIENCED AND PHYSICALLY FIT CANYONEERS. All members of your group must have solid skills and be fit. Don't attempt this until you have substantial canyoneering experience under your belt.
So, what makes it a big boy? Size. Heaps Canyon is on a scale unlike most other canyons in Zion. A moderately long approach leads to a long, physical, and challenging canyon. Just when your feeling tired and ready to be done, the grand finale is reached, a series of rappels culminating in an 90 m ( 296 ft. ) rappel to the Upper Emerald Pool. The depth of the canyon sees little sun, meaning hours of cold water exposure. Did I mention keeper potholes? Oh, it can have those too in the right (or wrong) water conditions.
Beautiful, physical, and long, this is a great canyon for advanced canyoneers, and will feel like an accomplishment.
- Heaps can be done in a day, but I would highly NOT recommend attempting to do it in a day unless you have done it before and know the canyon a bit. 2 days seems to be the standard, and what I would recommend.
- Because of the drainage and narrows, this needs to be done when the forecast is completely clear for the whole time you will be in the canyon. 10% chance of rain on day 2? I'd cancel and wait for 0% chance.
- The 90 m ( 296 ft. ) rope is best dry-bagged. It can be used at the entrance rappel, but then try and keep it dry to minimize its weight.
- Bivying at the start of the first narrows or the crossroads are the only safe places in the canyon. I would recommend hiking in to just before the first narrows, sleeping there, getting an early start (if the suns up and your not heading down canyon, your doing it wrong), and finishing on day 2. This makes for a long day 2, but means you don't have to put on a wet wetsuit on the second morning.
- There has been a number of serious accidents and a fatality at the final rappel. If your tired when you reach the final 3 rappels, bivy and finish in the morning. The final 3 rappels are big wall fashion and require full alertness and attentiveness. Don't try them if your exhausted.
- A small group of 3-4 will be fastest. Because of the potential for potholes, 3 seems like a reasonable minimum. Share the weight appropriately so everyone in the group is giving the same effort. More than 4 will make the final rappels slower and more cumbersome.
- I'd recommend bringing 60 m ( 197 ft. ) and 40 m ( 132 ft. ) ropes, in addition to a 90 m ( 296 ft. ) one. Once in the slot, you can leapfrog ropes to keep the group moving, while keeping the big rope stashed in a drybag.
- Walkie-Talkies can be very nice on the final 3 rappels and are recommended.
- Oh, and even if its 100 degrees in the valley, bring a light bag to sleep in. ( Lesson learned the hard way, sorry for talking you into not bringing one either Jim... )
Most importantly, have fun and take in the views, it is a stunning canyon!