On April 22nd, 2015, Tony, Makena, Steph and I explored Llewellyn Gulch. We did the bottom half of the Middle Fork, climbed up and out of the canyon at the Main/South junction, then descended the South Fork. This was Makena’s first canyon.
Overall, it was a pretty nice canyon system. Certainly a good place to practice downclimbing. Our car-to-car time was 6.5 hours due to some pretty mediocre navigation.
Tidbits of Beta:
The bottom section of the Middle Fork has several fun downclimbs, the tallest being 25 feet through a rabbit hole.
The South Fork has several fun downclimbs and one rappel of 30 feet down a chute. The rappel can be downclimbed by the skilled, but it is very dusty and smooth. It seems just a hair too steep to safely employ a handline.
The bottom section of Llewellyn Gulch has a couple of easy downclimbs.
All sections are worthy of helmets.
The exit we used is located here: 37 14’18” 110 56’ 54”
This exit requires a challenging 3rd class traverse (about 10 feet from the canyon floor) followed by an exposed 4th class upclimb around a small arch (about 200 feet from the canyon floor). Those that have problems with exposure will certainly want a belay on one or both of these sections.
There are several exits upcanyon from this exit if you find the exposure too daunting, or if you want to leave the canyon earlier.
We set up a shuttle for this route. Doing this will save you 1.6 miles of slog down a dusty road.
Now time for a story about a toenail:
During the two days before Llewellyn Gulch Steph and I hiked for a total of 19 hours. While hiking, I happened to stub my toe a couple of times.
Then during the Llewellyn Gulch hike I stubbed my toe a couple of more times. Typical appendage abuse for that kind of mileage. I thought nothing of it.
When we got back to camp I took my boots off and put on my flip-flops. My toes were a little sore, but nothing out of the ordinary.
As I was sorting gear in my flip-flops I side-stepped, one foot across the other. As I made this move the back of my left flip-flop caught the front of my right big toenail and pulled it upright, perpendicular, away from my toe!
I fell to the ground screaming, as copious amounts of toenail fluid escaped from the inner workings of my big toe. Blinding pain. Steph, Tony and Makena watched as I writhed in the sand.
I gathered myself and looked at my toe. Most of the heavy duty connective tissue held the nail to my toe. This was bad. Cutting this stuff would hurt. I’ve removed a dozen toenails before and know the routine.
Tony sat next to me on a log, saying nothing, but holding a Leatherman. The pliars on this tool were ready to go.
Makena walked away from the scene, saying, “I don’t need to see this…” She picked up a shovel, walked 30 feet away, then started digging a hole. A way to distract herself. A coping skill, perhaps.
Steph grabbed a knife for me. I tried to cut the nail off, but it was far too painful. It became obvious what we needed to do…
Tony offered me a drink of whisky. Just like in the Old West.
I laid on my back in the sand while Steph pinned down my leg. I covered my face with both of my arms. Then Tony pulled out my big toenail with the pliars. And we all laughed hysterically. Our coping skill, perhaps.
After my surgery we bandaged my toe and held a short ceremony for my toenail. We buried it in the hole that Makena dug during the procedure. If you look closely you will see the toenail on top of the dirt pile.
So, the next time you are near Lewellyn Gulch, remember a piece of me is buried there. Pour out a little whisky if you feel compelled.