Sunday, September 27, 2015

Red Spur

On September 27th, 2015, Tyler, Jason, Stephanie and I ventured through the North and South Forks of Red Spur.

Red Spur is broken up into three distinct sections: The top of the North Fork, The South Fork, then lastly, the bottom of the North Fork. I’ll say a little about each one.

The top of the North Fork has several fun downclimbs and nice features. It is challenging, but not hard until you get to ‘the hook rappel’. Until we arrived at this drop, I’d never trusted my well-being to a hook before.

When we arrived at the drop, there was a hook and rope already in place left by a previous group. We cut their rope then used their hook. We all rapped with backup, Jason going last, being familiar with hooks.

We got down to the pool and soon realized that our rope was stuck. Dammit. I’d never ascended a rope before. Time to learn how… on a hook? Double dammit! Up I went, using a pair of Ropeman Ascenders. Scary, but relatively safe due to the swimming pool below.

Once back at the top I discovered a silly mistake. Our rope was pinched between the apex of the sandstone and the rapid link, just past the hook. The harder we pulled, the more pinched the rope was. So I extended the anchor and rappelled again. Amazing how fast we burned those 90 minutes.

Onward and upward we walked to the head of the South Fork. A little bitty guy. Supposta be 60 minutes? NOT SO FAST. The South Fork gets serious in a big hurry. VERY skinny right away.

Steph is a lithe beast. At 110 lbs she moves through skinny slots like a boss. She goes first to scout. She barely, barely fits.

So we dudes go up up up. Stemming at the 25 foot level, comfortably across the top of the slot. Downcanyon we scooch. Then the slot changes character and the walls grow tall and parallel, with a very unfriendly v-shaped slot lurking below. The last 100 feet of canyon looks HARD.

Steph chooses the 15 foot level, Tyler chooses the 20 foot level, I choose the 25 foot level. We battle through to the end and wait. Jason chooses a level, runs out of gas, then slips to the bottom of the slot.

Oh shit.

The canyon is so tight where he is that Steph can’t get to him. The canyon geometry won’t let us stem above him to assist. Tyler and I hike to the top of the canyon, on the cliff above Jason to see if we can lower a rope. No, very dangerous, a last resort.

We go back down to the slot and offer words of encouragement, water and calories, then shuttle my elbow and knee pads. After about 45 minutes of being trapped, Jason musters the energy to go up and backwards, to the beginning of the nasty 100 foot section. It sounded horrible.

Jason rests for a bit, then carefully considered his options. Reverse the canyon, or forward? … … Forward! A few minutes later he pops out of the South Fork, quite relieved.

Downhill we race to the bottom of the North Fork. Tricky and very wet. Through a very cold wade that was chest deep.

We arrive at the final drop then overestimate its height. We built a deadman out of sticks and river rocks (bomber!). Then one of us rapped and discovered that the drop was 9 ½ feet. I’ll remember it as a learning experience involving hypothermia and a graceful partner assist.

We hiked back to the cars while watching a complete lunar eclipse. It was an awesome way to finish a memorable day.


The following photos were taken by our friend Jason Pease

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