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.

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