Saturday, June 29, 2013

The Great White Icicle (June 2013)

On June 29th, 2013, Nick, Liz, Tony, Steph and I took a refreshing lap down the Icicle. This was Liz's first canyoneering experience.

The water was the highest I've seen, this being my third time through. The temperature in the valley was about 105, so the extra water was welcome.

Just few photos to share:


Nick on rappel, me at the semi-hanging station.



Liz on rappel, Steph relaxing at the bottom.


Nick and I, rapping from a stone knot.

Another fun day with some really great friends.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Entrajo Canyon

Steph and I took a quick lap through Entrajo on June 9th, 2013. It was the easiest canyon we have ever done. Fun, pretty... but very short.

Hopefully someone getting into the sport will find this report useful. Entrajo is a good place to be introduced to the sport of canyoneering. It is a very short route (took us an hour), but a great place for a newbie to learn. There is one short mandatory rappel, a large optional rappel, a couple of downclimbs and a long cold swim (the swim probably changes frequently).

We ran into a few guided groups along the way. All the guides we met were very friendly and were using natural anchors. The guides bolting the hell out of Yankee Doodle could take a page out of their playbook.

One guide placed two cams high in a crack to belay his clients while on rappel. VERY NICE!

Anyway, just a couple of photos to share:

Guides with clients heading into the slot.

Steph on the only mandatory rappel.

Downclimbing into the pool.

Preparing to swim.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Iron Maiden

The North Fork of Iron Wash... kind of a bland name for such a great little canyon. Iron Maiden would be much more appropriate. If other people can improve canyon names, then why can't I?

Steph and I headed through Iron Maiden on June 7th, 2013. Like the mythical torture device, it contained us and punished us for a bit. So far, this is my favorite canyon in The Swell. Very pretty, a little spicy, and doesn't kick your teeth in for the entire day.

The upper part of the canyon is gorgeous; orange walls of Wingate pock-marked with huecos. Interesting downclimbs and puzzles to be solved. With some effort, our feet stayed dry.

A bolt placed by a very easy downclimb? 
Did the person who placed this know of the difficulties downcanyon? 
Perhaps not.

Steph coming down the easy downclimb.

Standing at the bottom of the downclimb.

Soon we arrive at a very dark and tight slot, leaning to the left. A very large pothole loomes at the end, pitch back inside. The flash of my camera reveales an overhung exit. The water is 7 feet from the lip, and probably quite cold. Ugh.

I look up. Waaay up. There is a log, almost out of view. So I back up the canyon and and chimney upwards. 30 feet off the deck I look over; the log is still 10 feet above me! I must cross completely over the pothole to get to it... 50 feet over the surface of the water in the pothole. This option is sickening. The exposure over the pothole is daunting. I picture myself falling and bad things happening.

With that option off the table, it's time to battle the pothole.

I hesitate to say how we got across it. I would hate to make someone think it's easy. Although, with 3 or more people, being bold is a more plausible option (recommended).

That being said, once we were certain we could climb out of the upcanyon side (Steph dropped in and explored our options), I climbed in and boosted her out using a potshot-weighted rope for a handline. It was quite easy once we figured out the depth of the water, how a potshot would behave on the exit lip, how far we could throw a potshot, and most importantly, if the exit would succumb to a partner assist.

Looking down the hallway, approaching the pothole.

Looking into the pothole. The darkness added to the difficulty.

Upper left is the log, 40 feet above.
Photo taken from the entry side of the pothole.

Steph smiling, victorious after conquering the pothole.  
Photo taken from inside the pothole.

The exit hike is nice.

On the hike in, standing proudly by my new ride. 
Wearing a bug net to keep the cedar gnats out of my teeth.

Carefully assessing the pothole is key. Like the keeper in Neon, the floor of the pothole and depth of the water could change significantly, making the pothole MUCH more difficult than it's current situation. You have been warned!

We wandered a bit on the exit and the hot sun beat us down. Here is a very easy exit that should be considered:

Saturday, June 1, 2013

The Squeeze

Sometimes I'm so happy when we finish a hike that I kiss my truck upon our return. Saturday was one of those days. On June 1st, 2013 Steph and I romped through The Squeeze. Arguably... it romped on us.

Just like individual people, every canyon has a personality. Mystery is charming and easy to be around. Shenanigans is a control-freak. Das Boot is like a blues guitar player; cool, smooth and unfettered. The Squeeze is like a billionaire's trophy wife. It's unspoken every minute of the hike:

"Mister, you're gonna pay if you want to play."

For just the two of us, this canyon was a daunting task. It's really a table set for four.

Knowing it would be a long day, we felt up to the task. Steph was amazing, bombing into potholes and delicately mantling out unassisted. Soon we arrived at the 'tough keeper'. The water was 18 inches below the exit lip, making a solo escape impossible. Steph dropped into the pothole and notified me that it was very cold, much colder than the other water that we had encountered. The clock was ticking as I readied a pack toss.

The ledge from which you launch your pack is very awkward. You must throw it hard to the left towards the exit lip, about 10-o'clock, from a fairly tight stance. One try... not far enough. Two tries... no. Three tries... splash! Not even close. Time to try a potshot. Good thing she's wearing a 7mm suit, or she would be frozen by now.

After 3 throws with a potshot, I land it on the far side of the exit lip. Steph has been in the pothole for 20 minutes and is beginning to get chilly. The lone potshot is 1/2 full.

Steph verrrry delicately pulls on the rope attached to the potshot. "Good enough" she says. Amazingly, she pulls herself out of the pothole and delicately places her elbows on the smooth exit lip. With the balance of a ballerina, she gently shifts her weight forward and mantles out of the pothole. From my perch I marvel at my wife's athleticism, my arms on fire from throwing stuff.

A thrilling scene from a thrilling day.

We were very busy during this canyon. I only had time to take 4 photos:


Notes that some Squeeze-bound canyoneer might find helpful:

We FLEW through the technical portion of the hike in 6hr 45min. Our round trip time (from Factory Butte) car-to-car was 12hr 20min. We wandered a bit, but not a lot. The approach hike from the Factory Butte TH is awful.

We completed about 18 rappels. Maybe more? Two small rope bags would have saved us about 30-45 minutes.

This hike is NOT suited for a team of 2. If one of us had suffered an injury, it probably would have been a disaster. Many partner assists are required to complete this canyon. A 4-6 person team is strongly advised.

Leap-frogging rappels would have saved us another hour (if we had a third 100-foot rope and a team of 4).

Bring at least 4 liters of water per person. You'll be working hard in a wetsuit for about 6 hours and you'll sweat most of the 4 liters out.

It's a LOT of work for a lot of good canyon action. Enjoy!