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.

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