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:

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