The Zion Subway — the very name strikes awe in the hearts of photographers and canyoneers everywhere. Needless to say, I'd looked forward to this hike for a long time. We canyoneered the famous top-down technical route, which is the more strenuous and complex of the two ways to get to this spot.
Residual floodwater from southern Utah's summer monsoon storms gushes over the vivid crimson Archangel Cascades in Zion National Park like syrup over a stack of pancakes on a cool autumn morning.
The route is considered Class 3B III intermediate-advanced canyoneering, depending on conditions, involving handlining/rappelling over 30 foot cliffs, down climbs, bouldering, wayfinding, swimming, and some of the most intense and strenuous hiking you've ever done in your life. We arrived the morning after a violent flash flood had destroyed the entire canyon the night before. It looked like a tornado had gone through there. There were several spots where we had to swim through 30-50 feet of brown debris-filled muck that was over our heads and full of logs and sticks. The typically clear aquamarine-blue water was nowhere to be found in most of the canyon. Adding to the complications was the fact that the "bowling ball" - a round boulder precariously jammed in a deep, narrow, water filled crevice that you have to swim through, had a log jammed under it during the flood, effectively trapping you in the water filled crevice with no apparent way out. Fortunately we were able to find a way through after about 20 nervous minutes and several failed attempts. My gear all stayed perfectly dry and functional through all the swims, thanks to my previously tested drybags holding up perfectly, and my mostly watertight pack, which kept the water out pretty well too.
I was fortunate to get a few good images of the famous "North Pole" log, coined by Fatali back in the 90s and featured in his image of the same name, along with several others of the Archangel cascades, and the famous crack you see here.
Pointing the Way
My tripod head failed, and I lost both the caps to my trekking pole legs and ran out of water (we couldn't filter the water because it was basically mud), but after about 10 exhausting hours of intense hiking we finally made it up and out of the canyon and safely back to civilization!