Wednesday, May 2, 2018

The Subway (Left Fork of North Creek), Zion National Park, April 26, 20178

This is what it's all about . . . 

. . . but this is where it starts.

The trail wasn't exactly obvious but after a little backtracking and then referring to the Kelsey trail guide (I carried a photocopy) we found the right trail . . . until Trevor and I got way out front to set-up the first rappel before the crowd . . . and promptly got lost by descending part way into the east fork of Russell Gulch.

I got us lost a bit below this point. Shut-up Trevor.

The first of two big and aggressive Rattle Snakes we saw today. This was about a mile in. The second was found just as we started the climb out of the canyon to the trail head at the end of our day.

The trail isn't real obvious. Watch for cairns on the slick-rock  and worn paths in the dirt. Although, Trevor and I followed a bogus cairned trail part way into the east fork of Russel Gulch and realized we were off route when we couldn't find a well worn trail in the dirt . . .  found out the hard way by traversing twice the half-mile wide drainage from edge to edge and losing time, burning calories and water on a hot day in April.

A huge amphitheater of slick-rock. The cairned trail leads down and over the first ridglet, but NOT the second. That's where Trevor and I got lost. At the second ridglet, follow the foot paths rightward on this side of the ridglet. It leads to the steep chute to the start of the Subway proper.

View up the huge amphitheatre.

Finally! Made it to the first rappel in front of the groups behinds us. This is where Trevor and I caught up to our group after getting lost in the east fork of Russell Gulch.

Kara on first rappel. If you're good at down climbing one can probably get away with lowering off webbing  and not wasting time with the rope. (On skiers far right off of a second set of anchors hidden behind this rap -boulder.)

Mike's turn.

The first pools looked kind of grungy, but once we started swimming is seemed almost pristine. Mind over matter?

Don't think, just do.

The rangers at the ZNP service desk told us not to do this without wetsuits and river boots because the water is frigid. The two hikers just behind us never put on their wetsuits or boots and they seemed just fine. I took a wetsuit but opted to not carry my boots to shave some weight from my pack. My toes went numb for about 30 minutes in the thick of the swimming section, but were fine thereafter. 

Trevor and Northern-Cali hiker on right who opted to go without a wetsuit. He and his wife didn't seem too chilled.

See . . not too grungy.

Mike carrying his hemorrhoid tube.

Kara's hemorrhoid tube STUNK (no, IT REALLY STUNKKKK!!!!) like raw rubber and it was making me sick by the end of the day. So sick that I chucked it into the first garbage can I found once we got back to the car.

Several tight spots with tricky down climbs, but we only used the rope two times. Once each on the first and last 10M raps.

Always happy to get out of that frigid water.

A rare selfy . . for good reason.

We found several springs. I started with 3 quarts of water, thinking it'd be plenty, but I ran out and should have carried a purifier. I was semi-dehydrated by the time we got out.

More scrambling ahead.

And then the famous tree comes into view.

The hero tree.

Erika and Mike.

Trevor and the world most famous tree.


The lowest sections of the Subway are my favorite of the whole route.

From the tree the route covers beautiful cascades and one more rappel of 10M . . . 

Hikers coming from the bottom up are stopped here. Seeing these hikers meant we had about 4.5 miles of ground to cover to get back to the car, but that was about the toughest 4.5 miles I've ever hiked. Hundreds of stream crossings and thousands of boulders to hop. My GPS indicated 17.8 total miles, but I read somewhere that the route is only 9.1 miles, as the crow flies. Hikers mileage found on STRAVA showed more like 18 total miles. Trevor's watch said 19 total miles including my screw-up getting us lost at the start. I'm thinking it's a lot more than a measly 9 miles. 

Trevor on the lower rap.

And Mike.

These guys followed us all day then asked to use our rope here, presumably to avoid getting their rope wet AND HEAVY (when pulled down it goes fully submerged). I said no because I'm such a prick! But six rappers would have added an hour to our day. Kind of bold for them to even ask.

Kara on the rap.

From here the route was mostly HELL, with endless boulder hopping and down-climbing. Did I mention endless boulder hoppting/donwclimbing? By the end I was questioning whether the Subway was worth the long, tough hike out. I'll let you know later. Ironically, when we reached the last steep uphill mile out of the canyon, the steep climb seemed much easier to me than the long, endless boulder hopping that we had just come through. Just a sweet reward at the end of a tough day. 

Almost done, just one steep mile and one big, surly rattle snake to deal with.

Still smiling after a long day in heaven.