where’s the spray in spry? | spry creek canyoneering

6 mi . 5990 ft high . 800 ft ascent . 165 ft rappel . about 12 rappels

Zion National Park

Note: This is a technical route, rappelling and rescuing techniques required to descend the canyon.

Canyoneering was my first technical sport before climbing or mountaineering. It started in California but I never had the opportunity to try it in Zion. Well, one time I did, but I chickened out. For my friend’s bachelorette we did a bunch of canyons where everyone got a chance to do at least one and some stayed for 4!! I just stayed for 3 due to timing because I was headed off to Iceland right after with only a one-day turnaround between flights.

Navigating the scramble
Downclimbing from the saddle
Viewing into Spry Canyon from the saddle

Out of all the canyons we did on this trip, Spry Canyon required the most hiking. In the summer, it’s super important to start hikes early enough so you don’t overheat or dehydrate too fast. It helps to get your permit the day before so you can start earlier than the ranger station opens. For us, the canyon was dry enough that we didn’t need wet suits.

The morning was a lovely temperature as we hiked through a wide canyon on sandy ground. We followed the dried up Pine Creek until the canyon got too narrow and started making our way up the saddle. Some scrambling was involved and we noticed certain footwear was better than others. It was interesting picking our way through the horizontal layers of Zion’s red rocks but we managed to find the least steep way up, careful not to cliff ourselves out.

At the saddle, we enjoyed a short break to enjoy the scenery, away from all the tourists in our own solitude. We could see the canyon we’d descend shortly, or at least the area which seemed to get narrow. We needed to get down to the drainage of Spry, opposite of Pine Creek. Navigating cacti and other prickly plants, we found ourselves between East Temple and Twin Brothers, which create the walls of Spry Canyon. A trickling of water was our indicator we landed in the right spot for the start of the canyon.

Hidden cave after a few rappels

It starts off relatively dry with a couple walks in-between the first few rappels. Optional wading in water or spider-man your way over small creeks. There were plenty of short and longer rappels, slot canyons to walk through, and slot canyons to squeeze your rappel through. A handful of rappels later found us in mid day sun. We were eager for some wet rappels again!

…that is until the last wet rappel into a slot canyon that had a require swim to the next bolts to set up one more long rappel. It was honestly frigid standing in the water and huddling for the one dry spot. Thankfully, our group size was only 6 and we did our best to be efficient on the next rappel. That let us end in the sun with a nice down climb to our last two rappels, which was one of the most exciting for their free hangs! When the rappelling is finished, you still have quite a bit left to down climb between big boulders and sandy slopes. Careful as you descend, but in no time, you’ll be back in the base of Pine Creek. The leisurely 1/3 mile hike out is a lovely way to end the day! You might find people swimming in the creek, and definitely enjoy that yourself!

Descending Lamb’s Tongue (last rappel)

  • No wet suits needed in the summer. That may vary depending on season and temperature. We did have some brief required swims/wading, but it was quick to get dry again.
  • A car shuttle is needed to run this canyon.
  • The exit from the canyon is a long down-scramble.
  • Park one car at the first switchback of the UT-9 road (almost not even a switchback). Park the second one near the Canyon Overlook Parking or the next spot east if there’s space at a pullout. This is the upper section of Pine Creek.
  • There’s 2 main free-hang rappels, lots of scrambling up steep sandstone and scrambling down big boulders and sandy ground at the end.
  • For more technical details of the canyon, feel free to check out Canyoneering USA, Roadtrip Ryan, or Citrus Milo

Photos taken on Canon 5D Mark IV

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