Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Llewellyn Gulch

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 declined.

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.

The End.


  1. Hi Bob,

    Thanks for the details about your Lewellyn Gulch trip. I would like to do this canyon, but need solid beta on the available exits. You mentioned other exits available up canyon from where you exited, for those that might be afraid of exposure. Would you happen to have the GPS cords for those exits? Please. Also, how is the exit that you took? I am an experienced cannoneer and climber, but will have a group, and some might be nervous about the exposure. I see that a little girl did the exit that you did. We will have ropes, harnesses & helmets with us. Thank you for any beta you can provide.


  2. Hi Pam!

    I do remember seeing this exit 37 14 20 N 110 57 07 W, which I will call Option B. I don't recall any other exits lower in the canyon. There are ways to escape higher in the slot, but if you leave there, then you will miss most of the canyon. If you are going to hike all of that way I probably would choose ahead of time between the two exits I've mentioned.

    Option A is very exposed in a couple of places, and requires one exposed unprotected climbing move 200 feet from the floor of the canyon. Not a hard move, just an intimidating one. I *think* I climbed it first with an assist from Tony. Then I belayed his daughter while Tony talked her through the moves. So, if you can climb up that move, then it shouldn't be too big of a deal to belay the rest of the group. I don't like unprotected exposure, so I did not like that exit.

    Option B is easy, but it cuts off a nice section of the canyon. And unfortunately, that exit points south, which would make for a VERY long hike back to the car.

    It seems like there were a couple of short rappels between exit A and exit B. So if you get to exit A, then don't like it, you can't change your mind and go back.

    Honestly, there are several better canyons in that area, I would only do Lewellyn after you have done the others. Red Breaks and Egypt 3 are much better canyons. The Beast is waaaaaaay better if you are a skinny climber, but that is not a canyon for beginners.

    Please let me know how it goes! Good luck!