Friday, January 18, 2008

Repeater Missions in Zion!

On occassion we are asked to assist in transporting radio tech's to repeaters that for Zion National Park, are in some very hard to reach locations. This is usually an early season project and one that the crew really looks forward to. Not everyone gets to land in the locations that we have repeaters. This makes it a right of passage (so to speak) for the members of Zion Helitack... "your not truely a part of the crew until you have landed on the top of Timber Top or West Temple".

Timber Top

This towering formation is located in the Kolob district of Zion N.P. Visitors from down on the road look up at the towering plateau barely able to tell, if at all, that there is a crew working on an unseen tower. Each year landing on the top of Timber Top is a challenge. The top of this plateau is covered in scrub oak brush and manzineta. Both of which grow incredibly fast, which means the helispot cleared last season is probably overgrown once again. We try to couple flying the tech's in with doing some improvement to the helispot itself. This is usually minor, as we don't want to clear away too much of the vegetation (which provides for keeping the dust to a minimum during landings), however we don't want anything the stick up too high and possibly cause an accident or injury. Timber Top is near the NorthWestern most part of the Park and is at a fairly high elevation... between 7,000 and 8,000 feet.

West Temple

high above Springdale and the entrance to Zion NationalOne of the most recognizeable formations in the park... West Temple sits Park. It is the site for a very large array of radio antenna's. There are several groups that have radio repeaters on this site, and it is very difficult to reach as it is a plateau on top of a plateau... this is what gives it a very distinct look. Hikers can reach the top of West Temple, but not without a little bit of rock scrambling. It is not a hike for novice's, and will take the better part of a day to get up and back (that is if you are in great shape and know where you are going). West Temple is a lot like Timber Top in that every year the Helitack crew must do some maintaining of the brush that thickly blankets its top. It is even more tricky in that the brush is nearly all manzineta and it grows in a layer of sand... Once vegitation is removed, the sand is easily blown away which causes pitting of the helispot. Currently management is considering options for putting in a helispot that is more permanent without being permanent (this is the plight of the park service... to respect the fact that it is wilderness area, but allow the use as needed by those who work in the park) I believe that the big issue is safety for those whom land on top of West Temple, and this balance with those who wish to protect the wilderness is often a teater totter...

I look forward to our oportunities to land on the high majestic plateau's of Zion... those who join Zion Helitack and pay their dues, so to speak, also get the chance to spend time in these hard to reach places...


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