Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Sad Cow Disease

A few months ago, I found a slot on Google Earth. It looked like it good one.

On April 16th, 2013, Tony and I went and checked it out. It was our first exploration. The journey was thrilling and unforgettable; the sense of adventure was palpable. We didn't know if our ropes would reach, and couldn't tell if we would get trapped. Around every corner was a surprise.

It was scary and awesome. And ohhh... such a beautiful canyon!

It didn't take long for us to start prattling on about what we should name our newfound treasure. Tony, the creative half of our duo quickly conjured a name- Melancholy Bovine Syndrome? Our brows furrowed as we tried to think of a better name.

Much to our disbelief, we found footprints within! Awww man!! No first decent. Whoever hiked through there left it totally clean. Looked like a small group with some mad skills. Hmm...

We were elated when we finally arrived at the end of the canyon! It was a new and awesome feeling of joy and relief. Adventure at it's finest? We don't know. But it's about as good as anything we've ever experienced.

The Beta:

3AIII Fun for intermediate canyoneers or better.

Park at the Little Death Hollow trailhead. Hike for about an hour to: 37 45 17 N 111 13 04 W Head up the slickrock. The climb up is a difficult 4th class scramble with some exposure. Be very careful about the route you choose, retreating down the slope would be difficult. Belay required for the inexperienced. Having a climber in your group is a good idea.

Make your way around the bare shelf of slickrock to the top of the canyon: 37 45 31 N 111 13 28 W

1st Rappel: 70 feet. There is a shelf 20 feet from the top of the rappel where you can stop and enjoy the view. To prevent rope grooves, a two anchor system should be set up for the last man down. Bring enough webbing to extend the top anchor down to the shelf's edge, which will prevent grooves and simplify the rope pull. Don\'t get sloppy on that rap station, that rappel is pristine and could be kept that way with a little effort and ingenuity.

2nd Rappel: 20 feet. Downclimbable by the highly skilled. Easily ghosted with a little thought. You will encounter couple of challenging chimneys and a long wet hallway, up to waist deep (possibly a swimmer at times). The hallway can be stemmed over by the strong and skilled. Bigger fellas (200 lbs+) will have a tough time in one narrow chimney. It's very similar to the width of Middle Leprechaun through that section.

Hike back to your car for 90 minutes then exchange high-fives.

Expect a car-to-car time of about 6 hours.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Neon Canyon

On April 13, 2013, Mark, Colleen, Tony, Tyler, Steph and I finally had the opportunity to descend Neon canyon. Neon had been a project in the works for nearly a year. This was Colleen's first technical canyon, and she did great! Good thing, because she is one of my bosses.

Neon was not that great until you got to the end. I'm not sure if I'd go through twice because the approach is so long. The big pothole was simple to defeat because the sand was so deep.


Friday, April 12, 2013

Micro Death Hollow

On April 12th, 2013, Tony, Tyler, Steph and I spent an afternoon in Micro Death Hollow.

On a fridgid day last fall we walked around the rim of Micro Death Hollow peering at the goodies within. At the time there was a considerable amount of water in the canyon. We also couldn’t find a reasonable exit. We decided to save it for another day.

Friday we visited again and the conditions were much better. A warmer day, and a drier canyon presented us with a better opportunity.

We had almost no beta; a big rap at the top, a possible 4th class exit near the bottom of the canyon, but knew nothing else about the contnents of the canyon. We planned to complete the canyon and escape down the Escalante River to the highway. Our second option, if possible, would be to climb up a weakness in the cliff face on the north side of the Escalante River. The 4th class exit on the west side of the slot was our third option for escape.

There was no water visible from the top of the canyon, so Tony and I gambled and ditched our cumbersome wetsuits. Tyler and Steph opted to bring theirs. A difficult decision for each of us.

At 250 feet, the entry rappel was easily one of best we have ever seen. The bottom 200 feet is fluted and visually sublime. The rest of the canyon delivers as well. There was a little bit of forced high stemming, a tricky little pothole, followed by a scenic slot.

We opted to skip the final rappel through a deep water-filled pothole, because it is within throwing distance of the Escalante River. Finishing the canyon this way would have made our return hike much longer. Oh yeah, I didn't have my wetsuit either. Easy call.

It was a great hike with three of the best people I know. I'm as thankful for their talents as I am for their company.

The Beta:

Park here: 37°45'53"N 111°29'59"W and hike down to the mouth of the canyon.

There is only 1 mandatory rappel; 250 feet. Bring a 300 foot rope, to give yourself the option of anchoring to a sturdy bush away from the drop. Leave your rope at the top of the rappel and retrieve it at the end of your day. Pulling your rope would certainly leave grooves in that magnificent entry rappel; and hauling a long rope through the canyon would suck. So please, just leave it.

UPDATE (April 2015): A friend told me that the sand can wash out at the bottom of the big rappel, exposing a large keeper pothole and extending the rappel by about 10-15 feet. SO GO PREPARED!

Some medium-high stemming is required, maybe 20 feet off the deck. Not difficult, but not beginner friendly.

The canyon has the potential to hold a lot of water, so bring some kind of protection from the cold. A 3/2 wetsuit (or shorty) on most warm days will be adequate. There is a pothole mid-canyon that is tricky to avoid.

At the very end of the canyon there is a 40 foot rappel down to a large pothole. The Escalante River is just beyond this pothole, so we skipped it and took the 4thclass exit. The pothole looked very deep and the escape from within looked difficult. More importantly, your escape from the Escalante River will probably take a considerable amount of time and effort. For this reason, I recommend skipping the optional final rappel and pothole.

Reverse the canyon for about 200 feet and exit on the LDC (west) side. Look up the slope and you will see a seam heading up to the top. This is the 4th class exit. Toe-jam your way carefully up the seam. There is some exposure and technique involved with this exit, so it is not recommended for beginners.

Hike up until you can traverse back towards the top of the canyon. The traverse is very easy and obvious. Be careful to avoid the crypto.

Retrieve your rope by pulling it up from the side of the canyon to avoid grooving the rappel. Then lug your rope back to your car.

Budget a car-to-car time of about 4 hours.

Headless Hen

On April 15th, 2013, Tony, Tyler, Steph and I ventured through Headless Hen.

Steph didn’t like it. I loved it. She though it was ugly. I thought Headless Hen was an engaging puzzle unlike anything we had ever solved.

We only brought 3 Potshots with us, so anchoring was a challenge. We stacked them and tested them, over and over before trusting Steph’s safety to them. We rebuilt one anchor 5 times before moving up to another pothole and rebuilding it 3 times. Yes, on the 8th try it was bomber.

Tony showed off his recently discovered talent of running around potholes. If Tyler is our rope gun, then Tony is our canyon ninja.

Tyler battled with the potholes, in denial that they were keepers. Surrendering no footholds, they kept him.

We all made our way over the top of a 20 foot silo. I consider it our first ‘real’ silo. Scary and fun. Coaching and spotting from Tyler and Tony was much appreciated. Their longer limbs and climbing skills are a huge advantage is some canyons.

Ram told me recently, “If you can’t be good, bring people who are.”

I’m grateful to canyoneer with people that are good.

Steph contemplating one of the first potholes. 
If you look closely you can see Chimney Rock in the distance (photographed by accident).

Steph walking around a deep pothole, on belay.

Tyler coaching Steph over a silo. Scary stuff, but we all made it.

One PotShot thrown across a keeper. 15 feet deep.

Me using handled ascenders to get out of the pothole.

Steph rapping from a 3 Potshot anchor. Tony and Tyler spotting below.

Can this pothole contain our mighty rope gun?

Yes it can.

Teamwork is the name of the game here. 
Steph at the top of a downclimb/capture.

Ninja Tony relaxing after running around a very large pothole.

Tony coaching ninja Tyler across.

Steph and a 3 Potshot anchor, in the back of a pothole. 
This anchor did not work...

So we moved it to the front of the pothole. 
This worked great!

Retrieving our anchor. Super easy and fun.

The end of a fun day. Hiking toward Chimney Rock.