Monday, December 31, 2012

Monkey Business

On December 31st, 2012, Steph and I headed through Monkey Business. We chose to go with very little beta, to spice things up a little. In hindsight, this was a fantastic canyon to gamble with. There are a couple of obstacles in Monkey Business that will challenge most canyoneers. I bet the first descent of this canyon was very exciting.

We were familiar with the exit and the approach, so that was easy. We knew that the longest rappel was 25m and that there was a large pothole that usually contains water, so we brought wetsuits. We didn't know anything else about the route.

There is a very interesting rap, pothole, twisty corner, pothole, rap sequence that is very pretty, and gives every canyoneer an opportunity to screw up. The second pothole is so dark that you need a headlamp to see into the bottom, and it's geometry is not deadman friendly (even though that is what we ended up doing). If the potholes were full of water, it could become a very serious obstacle. Luckily it was bone dry, so we had a lot of fun with the sequence, and thought it was an excellent surprise. It was somewhat dark in there, and we were busy, so we didn't get any pictures of this section.

FWIW, not leaving grooves in this canyon takes patience and finesse. Being cold is not a reason to leave a groove. Feeling frustrated with an obstacle is not a reason to leave a groove. Keep this in mind if you ever attempt Monkey Business, because this canyon is challenging and still very pristine.

Car-to-car MB took us about 7 hours. It is a much different canyon than Shenanigans next door, but just as good IMO.

We were so bundled up that we forgot our helmets.  Neither one of us noticed until the first rappel. Don't worry Tom, we are still decidedly pro-helmet.

We came across a keeper pothole and had to put on the wetsuits. 
This was our first experience in ice water (yes only thigh deep, but still pretty cold). 

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Arscenic Canyon

On the frigid morning of December 30th, 2012, Steph and I bundled up and ventured through Arscenic Canyon.

As we approached the first rappel our breath froze to our glasses and eyelashes. Our 2 liter water bladder was half frozen within 90 minutes, and while still inside of Steph's pack.

The only rappel was very fun, and seemingly endless. The canyon was longer than we anticipated, and contained a few more obstacles that we imagined. None were particularly difficult, but they kept the canyon interesting. We moved at a snail's pace and were done in about 4 hours. Arscenic would be much prettier with a little better lighting (during the summer).

Frozen platypus, 90 minutes into the hike.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Granary Canyon

Tony and I checked out Granary Canyon on December 4th, 2012. It was spectacular! It is a longish route for a short winter day, and the navigation was challenging.

The final rappel was intense. It looks much higher than it actually is, partly because the top is so much higher than the surrounding landscape and partly because you can't see your ropes touching the bottom until you are 150 feet into the rappel. Sadly, we have no pics of the final rappel because we were hustling to get down before it was dark.

If you decide to do Granary, be sure to take some extra time plotting your route to the first rappel. Navigating around the plethora of drainages is easy to mess up and the terrain is tough to read. Also, during the middle of the day it is difficult to maintain your eastward bearing (especially while engrossed in quality conversation).

Overall, Granary is my favorite Moab route. It was great day with a great friend.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Undercover Canyon

On December 3rd, 2012 Steph and I ventured through Undercover Canyon. It is gorgeous, and easy, but the exit is not so simple. Once we were finished, we were not sure if the canyon was worth the exit.

We made our way through the canyon in about 90 minutes, taking lots of photos and videos on our way. We took a leisurely break at the bottom of the big rap, to enjoy a snack and marvel at the beauty of the place we were in.

We headed down undercover and up MMI, soon finding the seam that is the key to the exit. The seam is steep, but not too tough. Once at the top of the seam things began to get sketchy. I headed right across the slickrock to a precarious tiny perch, about 200 feet from the canyon floor. I soon realized that was a big mistake. I couldn't continue right, or up (I tried, and my sticky rubber slipped), and going back to the seam would be very tough, since climbing up is always easier than climbing down.

I couldn't keep my balance with my pack on, so I attempted to toss it to Steph, who was standing at the top of the seam. Unfortunately, I didn't throw it far enough so it rolled about 125 feet down the slickrock and stopped on the steepest part of the cliff face. Very unlucky placement.

I slowly made my way back to the seam and spotted a cairn on a small platform to the left of the seam. Above the platform is a very steep nose with few noteworthy features. Below the platform is a very steep 150 foot slab of slickrock. Between the platform and the seam was a crack, about shoulder width, that we could hunker down in.

From the crack I belayed/lowered Steph down to my pack; the final 30 feet or so was far too steep to climb. I had to drag/winch her back up the face as she returned to the crack.

Looking up at the climb above the platform, we saw no reasonable way to get to the top of the cliff, it all seemed too steep. A fall from there would have been disastrous. It was 3:30 and it was beginning to get cold. At that point, we had been on the sandstone face for an hour.

Looking at the nose of slickrock above the platform, I could see a very faint, steep shelf heading right and then left to the top of the nose. I pinned myself in the crack and belayed Steph as she climbed the nose. Yes, belaying from below is dangerous, but far better than slipping off the nose to the bottom of the face. Steph then belayed me from behind a boulder as I climbed the nose.

We headed up to the final obstacle. We had to traverse left (the beta says right, but our eyes told us left) across the cliff to access the top level. The exposure was daunting. There is a small lip, about 6 inches wide, that leads 100 feet across the cliff face. A slip on that traverse would have been deadly, I double checked on Google Earth, and we were 220 feet from the canyon floor. We scooted our feet, one behind the other, as we made our way across. Due to the stress, we both nearly vomited when we reached the top of the cliff.

Moral of the story: study your beta closely. Take a GOOD look at your route on Google Earth before attempting this exit. It's an easy one, and scary one, to mess up.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Elephant Butte

Steph and I hiked to the top of Elephant Butte on December 2nd, 2012. This is an excellent route for climbers that dabble in canyoneering; but not so much for canyoneers that dabble in climbing (me). I do realize that the two sports overlap a bit, and this route strongly reminded me to get back in the climbing gym.

Not being much of a climber, I sometimes freeze up on unprotected climbs. I simply can't block out the exposure. Clip me in, and I'm fine. Is it a matter of practice? Or simply a matter of how I'm hard wired? Not sure, but exposure freaks me out.

The 5.4 climb on this route looks pretty easy, but if you fall, you will break some bones. The fall is 15 feet down to a steep sandstone bowl, then another 10 feet down to some broken boulders. Having a spotter there is pointless, it would just be a good way to get two people injured.

Steph can block out the exposure, and she is a better climber than me. So up she went...

She handled the climb just fine, but it made me quite nervous. The penalty points for falling there are pretty severe. There are no holds to grab onto, one must simply balance on the holds the entire way up. Would it be outrageous to put a bolt somewhere on this climb to belay the climber and prevent a catastrophic fall? It seems prudent in this case, even though I'm generally against bolting.

We soon arrived at the first rappel. It is a 5 bolt anchor, of which 4 of the bolts were used. The outside bolts, #1 and #4, held most of the weight. The webbing placed apart at such an open angle puts a lot of stress on those bolts. Also, bolts #2 and #3 were rigged with acessory cord. And the whole damn thing was ugly. So I decided to rebuild it.

I did make one mistake here. I aimed the anchor parallel to the wall when it should have been pointed out away from the wall, toward the rope grooves. I also wonder if the person that placed all of those bolts intended for the anchor to be on bolts #4 and #5, and the other three to be used as protection on the way out.  It doesn't really matter though, your rope will grove from any of the 5 bolts. IMO, the bolts should have been placed high on the wall next to where the current bolts are located.

Anyway, the view from the top is excellent. The exit rappel is cool too (sorry, no photo). Elephant Butte was a great way to spend a day in Arches and we highly recommend it.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Rock of Ages

Steph and I took a lap through Rock of Ages on December 1st, 2012. It's a pretty straight-forward route with some amazing scenery, but lots of fun. We will certainly do this route again in the future.

There are a couple of fun, but easy upclimbs, a little water to wade through, but not a lot of excitement until you get to the bolts on the last rappel. They will get your attention. The webbing is hanging directly above the 100 foot abyss. There is a bolt back from the anchor that should be used to protect people while approaching the anchor, but it looks like a few people have been rapping from it. Rope grooves, tough pull, single bolt from 100 feet... uh, sounds kinda crazy.

We had the privilege of hiking with Mandy and Tim for a good part of the route. Tim was kind enough to share some of his photos of the final rappel. (Wow, what a difference a good camera & photographer make! ) Thanks, Tim and Mindy, for the photos, and also for letting us use your rope on the final rappel! Hope to get out with you guys again some time!

Pool Arch. 

Friday, November 30, 2012


Steph and I checked out Tierdrop on November 30th, 2012. It is a great route to do in combination with U-Turn.

Tierdrop is a simple route with some fantastic views. The final rappel makes it worth the journey.

FWIW, if you do Tierdrop, consider extending the first anchor down the slickrock face. It will require at least at least an extra 50 feet of webbing, but will make the rope pull much more pleasant.

It's tough to create a really great video out of this route. It's short, and there isn't any water to jump into.


On November 30th, 2012, Steph and I took a lap around U-Turn in Arches National Park. Next to Lomatium and Granary, this is my favorite technical route in the Moab area. The route is very easy, maybe the easiest we have ever done, but the view is fantastic and the balanced rock after the 3rd rappel is cartoonishly good.

This route is a treat. It's what Keyhole is to Zion. Go do it.

Quite the view from up top. Waayyy in the background is Balanced Rock.

Our simple retrievable anchor.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Egypt 1

On October 27th, 2012, Steph, Tony, Lindsey and I headed through Egypt 1. It was Lindsey's first technical canyoneering adventure.

It is surprising that Egypt 1 doesn't get more publicity. It is more fun than E2, and almost as good as E3. Heck, it is WAY better than E2 if you don't include E2's giant headwall rappel. The slotty section of E1 was much longer and far prettier than we anticipated.

Once in a while you get the right combination of people, weather and adventure. It becomes the recipe for canyoneering euphoria. This was to be the case during our leisurely hike through E1. No racing the clock, no concerns about the obstacles ahead; it was simply a pleasant stroll through an amazing place.

One of the interesting sandstone features that abound in the Egypts. I call this one "The Pig".