It is funny how each canyon tends to have a consistent personality. This canyon was an ass-kicker, almost tedious at times. Awkward foot placements. Skinny, pack-shredding twisty-turney skinnies. It never relented. It seemed unthinkable that luxurious High Spur was just next door.
I made the keeper pothole as difficult as I could. I couldn’t make the stemming dyno move across, for fear of swinging back (on rope) and smashing my head. So I went in. Hey, maybe I can climb out? Ha! NO!!
Steph raps down and tosses her pack across. She can’t make the dyno with the rope pulling her back. I pull the rope toward the exit, ensuring that she will not smash her head by swinging backward. She lets out 18 inches of slack. I stand in the water, freezing my ass off.
In what other sport does one get the chance to improvise like this? Excuse me ma’m, you need to learn an acrobatic move, over a gargantuan pothole, leaping around a blind corner, while not losing your balance and falling backwards. Oh by the way, you get one try, and if you fail, all hell could very well break loose. And you get to go for a freezing swim in your perfectly dry clothes and freeze your ass off like the father of your children that is impatiently waiting in the gargantuan pothole below. One, two, three… now GO!
Of course she made it. Of course she anchored the rope while I clambered out. Of course I was shaking like hell because time speeds by while devising acrobatic moves. I was probably in that pothole for 30 minutes...
Down a couple of drops into a sandy pothole followed by a 20 foot rappel into a watery hallway. No anchor options. Oh crap. Hey look, small rocks! We lay down some webbing into the v-shape floor of the pothole exit, pile 100 lbs of small rocks on top, drape the webbing over the top of our rocks,
then we pray, “Dear canyon God, please let our micro-rock-anchor hold.”
Steph backs up while I test. It works! Steph raps next. Off we go. During the next couple of days a mouse will scurry over that pile of rocks and likely knock them loose. Then that mouse will be the lucky new owner of 20 feet of green webbing and a shiny new rapid link.
A few hours later we find ourselves in Horshoe canyon. We pass some pictographs, high on the wall above. Up the switchbacks, to the top of the cliff. Ahhh, relief!
It was an awesome day with my favorite canyoneering partner.
I would like to buy a beer for whoever built this anchor (rap #2).
It is well placed, bomber, and saved us about an hour of tedious deadman construction.
In order to dyno across the top of the keeper pothole one must go around a corner. A difficult move with the rope pulling you backwards. Scary to do after letting out some slack. Also unnerving not knowing the depth of the water, should you fail. What should I have done here? I should have stayed put, asked Steph to rappel on the blocked side, then I should have pushed her around the corner. Then she could have pulled me around the corner. Something we have never done, and difficult plan to devise while suspended over a pothole. Instead...
... I rapped in, froze my ass off, then helped Steph across from below (she made an amazing move to get across, I just pulled the rope toward the exit lip). In the photo below I'm standing on a very small ledge under the water. The rest of the pothole is chest deep. From that perch it would have been quite difficult to push anyone out.
Wearing a neoprene beanie is a great way to warm up after spending 30 minutes in a freezing pothole.