When Climbing Magazine published the Zicicle on its front cover in October, 2009, it came as a shock to a few of us locals that there was such a formed piece in Zion National Park, the home of great sandstone crack climbs. Since most of us are focused on climbing such rock routes with southern exposure during the winter, we never really scout for ice much. I have descended the more difficult canyons in Zion, Imlay and Heaps, and it is not like one would be willing to hunt ice in these deep, dark and committing canyons. When I started spending more time in southern Utah versus the Canadian Rockies during the winter, my local rock partners did attempt to show me what ice there was, i.e. Hidden Haven, etc. I mostly just committed to driving to Joe’s Valley, Ouray or Provo. The fact that there supposedly was a 200’ WI 5 sustained cicle in my backyard, surprised the hell out of me to say the least. As the FAer’s were quoted in Climbing Magazine; “hidden like a bottle of hard liquor behind Utah’s infamous Zion Curtain" (literally a wall or curtain that blocks liquor in Mormon owned restaurants).
Before I got too excited about it, I tempered my enthusiasm with the knowledge that even though Andrew Burr and company nailed the Zicicle in prime condition last season, how often it would be in such condition again would no doubt be an issue with actually getting it climbed, more particularly led. Add to that knowledge the long, not totally ski friendly, approach at the upper elevations of the vast Zion plateau; it would take a bit of luck to get it climbed ourselves the first winter in which we knew about it.
One of my best Zion rock climbing partners was kind enough to attempt to scope it out ahead of time. During his first attempt, he bottomed out his truck on snow via the road in. The second attempt, he snowshoed in and took photos from the best angle he could arrange from the lip of Englestead Canyon to the left of the fall. It appeared good and fat. He took a full day's rest and we went right back in after a snow storm. His tracks from two days prior were completely covered. He had no experience on backcountry skies, so I agreed to don snowshoes as well. Our shoes sank deep in the fresh powder, but were handy versus skis when making the descent from the upper plateau down to the start of the Englestead Canyon which is where the Zicicle resides.
The first order of business was to rid the top of the fall of the 3-4 feet of snow hanging on the upper edge. I could not see the fall at all until I got this accomplished on rappel. As I rapped over the edge, things were looking great. The top third of the Zicicle was dry and fat. As I got to the middle of it, it started leaking like a sieve and I quickly got soaked. As I neared the bottom, I took the standard last pause “can I get the hell out of here?” The answer was no. The bottom 25’ or so was not in at all. The Zicicle disappeared onto a smooth sandstone wall. I had no choice but to stop rappel, tie a knot below my belay device and have my partner (still above) put me on top rope. Climbing the Zicicle on top rope was not what I had in mind for the effort it took us to reach this “super” one-two pitch wonder. However, that was our only choice. There was no mixed climbing to be had on the smooth sandstone below.
My partner had talked to one of the FAers and supposedly a bottom hanging portion had fell and reformed when they climbed it giving the start a ramp like effect. In any regard, protecting that bottom 30’ would be quite precarious in the best of conditions I would imagine. Stubies or not, I believe one would need to be prepared to solo that first 30’ or so if it was in. It must form very thin when it does come in. The water flow/source for this piece is very slow and small volume. It just runs out of gas most years I would imagine. The photo on the front cover of Climbing Magazine can fool you, because Burr had rigged himself for that shot. You will never get that view of the waterfall unless you are hanging in the canyon.
If you do not know your way to Englestead Canyon in the winter, I advise using the coordinates I give you to map it out in advance. From Utah State Highway 9 on the east side of Zion National Park, take a left on N. Fork County Road. Drive past the Ponderosa Ranch Resort and take a left on Twin Knoll Road and a right on Beaver Road. Drive to where the road is no longer maintained during the winter. Ski or snowshoe in approximately one mile to where there are several cabins. Take the right fork which passes at least one more cabin in about another mile’s distance. Turn right heading for Englestead (which can be seen in the distance). Once you get into the trees, continue along the rim dropping down heading due north. Once in the bottom of this canyon walk west until you are at the lip of a 200’ vertical drop. Rap from a tree right over the waterfall with double ropes. There is rap tat around a tree out on the left side of the canyon, perhaps the rap for doing the summer canyoneering route. Do not use this rap. You will not be able to determine if the bottom of the waterfall is in until you are two thirds down the waterfall itself. One could be easily faked into thinking otherwise and if you did not rap the waterfall, you will be jigging back up if you use that dry rap.
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