Saturday, October 12, 2019

Midget Rattler

On October 12th, 2019, Steph, Tony, Cara, Jackson, and I descended Midget Rattler Canyon.

After an intense week of doing canyons, we were looking for an easy day.  We were afraid that Midget Rattler was going to be a dud, but ended up being pleasantly surprised.  This might be the most underrated canyon I've ever done - even though it is short, is a real gem.

The hike up could not be easier and the scenery is phenomenal.  There are three required rappels which all pose challenges best suited for intermediates or better.  It is an excellent choice for a half-day canyon.

Our anchor for rappel #1 was a small log.
If you look closely, it is set on the right side of the boulder

Rappel #2
If you are very skinny, you can squeeze through this gap before gettin on rappel.
If you can't fit, then you have to stem up and over before getting on rappel.
A little dicey, but easy to protect if needed.

Constructing a dead man anchor.
We used a medium-sized rock as the foundation,
then buried it under heavy dried mud slabs.

Rappel #3 is no more than 130 feet.
Be aware that the bottom of this slot is a popular tourist destination,
so there might be people standing below when you throw your rope.

Friday, October 11, 2019

Micro Death Hollow - Keeper Mode

On October 11th, 2019, Tony, Cara, Steph and I planned to enjoy a rest day in Micro Death Hollow.  It had been 6 weeks since it had last rained in Escalante, but we packed our wetsuits just in case.

We rigged our rope at the top of the 280 foot rappel, then threw it down.


We all took a deep breath.  It was obviously time to put our wetsuits on.  The morning was cold, so we spent a few minutes talking about what possibly awaited us below.  We had heard tales about a very difficult pothole.  Possibly half-full of freezing water?  The prospect seemed grim.  Maybe coming back another day was the best idea.

Steph had the foresight to bring a 7mm suit, even though she had a thinner wetsuit available.  She also brought a puffy jacket to wear over her wetsuit.  She is good at staying warm.

She decided to go down and check out the pothole, knowing full well that she might have to ascend the long rope.  With some trepidation, we listened quietly as Steph descended...

"Oh my God..."

Echoed up from far below.  Steph doesn't normally phrase things that way.  Our imaginations ran wild.

Steph communicated what she saw - a small platform just behind a monstrous pothole.  It was 13 feet deep with a severely overhung exit lip, featureless and coated with slick mud.  Then she rapped down into the pothole to discover waist-deep water with mud that surrounded her ankles and shins.  It was messy and stinky, but the risk of hypothermia was low.

Tony rapped down next, with about 50 lbs of full PotShots in his pack.  Not an easy task.

For the next two hours Steph and Tony battled the pothole.  Steph tried to escape while standing on Tony's hands - but was not successful.  Many PotShots were thrown and many slid back in.  The tiny throwing area limited Tony's ability to throw for distance, and the tiny landing area limited which Potshots would stick.

While Cara and I were waiting up top we noticed a tree on the left downcanyon side that would probably let us rappel down into the canyon just past the pothole, so we pulled the rope up and re-rigged the rappel at that vantage point, being extremely careful not to pull any rocks.

Cara and I then rappelled into the slot and came down about a foot past the pothole (!!).  About that time Steph figure out that one of the PotShots was really stuck (a good thing).  At that point she was pretty covered with mud, but was still determined to defeat the pothole.

Cara and I didn't touch the stuck PotShot and gave her one last try at it.  With much determination, she got her ascender up and over the lip of the pothole, then climbed out under her own power.  SUCCESS!!

We discovered a LOT of water in the rest of the canyon, two swimmers in fact.  I didn't bother with a wetsuit for the first one and suffered badly.  There was ice floating in the second one, which was a long swimmer down a hallway, so I put on my 3/2 wetsuit and suffered almost as badly.  Lesson learned!! :)

We did not take many photos because we were trying to get through the water quickly. 
Steph doing battle with a monster:

And Steph beating that monster, fair and square:


This canyon can hold water for a very long time and change dramatically with each flood.

The landing zone for our PotShots had one lucky rock that snagged our rope.
There is no guarantee that it will be there to snag ropes in the future.

Hooks might have helped, but we didn't see any useful features.

Even though the daytime high was 70 degrees, there was still ice in the canyon.

There is an alternate entrance to this canyon on the LDC side called Dirty Jobs,
which looks more fun than dealing with the pothole at the top of the watercourse.
We will try that next time.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Headless Duck Exploration

On October 10th, 2019, Tony, Steph, Cara, Grant, Cole, and I explored a canyon rumored to be named Headless Duck.

The approach for this canyon might have been more enjoyable than the canyon itself.  The route to the top of the mesa winds between a bunch tall and beautiful hoodoos.  Once on top of the mesa the view to the east is simply amazing.  Once we got to that point we all just stood silent for about 5 minutes and contemplated the landscape below.

Headless Duck is a short but scenic Wingate slot.  The first couple of drops can be bypassed on the RDC side, then a straightforward downclimb into the canyon presents itself just before the canyon gets tight.

We downclimbed two tall but interesting drops and all too soon found ourselves at the final rappel.  Adjacent to this rappel is a gigantic natural bridge that is easy to walk past if you aren't looking.

The final rappel is 150 feet down a vertical wall.  Be sure to bring some form of rope protection for the final drop.  We discovered webbing at the last drop, so this wasn't a first descent, which we had already assumed.


A shuttle is recommended for this route, but not required.  This canyon does not appear to hold much water, so wetsuits should never be required.  The entire route should take 4-6 hours.

Park one vehicle here, near the end of the canyon:  37.883614  -111.273008

Park your other vehicle here, at the beginning of the approach:  37.911657  -111.249919

Hike to the top of the mesa by winding through the hoodoos.  The route is sometimes steep and challenging to figure out, but no difficult climbing moves are required.

Hike across the top of the mesa while trying to steer clear of the crypto.

The top of Headless Duck is here:  37.882854  -111.266803

The only required rappel is the final drop which is 150 feet.  If you can't find the easy entrance to the canyon on the RDC side, more short rappels may be required.

The route below is approximate and not intended to be used as a map.

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Right Atrium Exploration

On October 8th, 2019, Tony, Byron, Cara, Cole, and I explored a canyon that we call Right Atrium.

This adventure was logistically challenging.  A shuttle was required and the road that heads out to trailhead is predominantly deep sand.  We placed a truck at the bottom, then took two more trucks to the top.  Why two?  Because in case one got stuck in the sand, the extra truck could pull the other one out.  It is probably the only canyon adventure that I've been on that warrants the use of three high-clearance 4x4 vehicles.

We made it to the trailhead without any issue, then hiked toward our destination.  We discovered three short sections of R rated high stemming up to 25 feet.  The walls were embedded with pebbles that shredded our clothes and tore at our skin - like Razorback canyon, only worse.  The movement was physical and generally unpleasant.  The third section of high stemming contained a keeper pothole that must be negotiated.

It was possible to escape the canyon between each section of high stemming, although the escape between sections 1 and 2 looked pretty dicey.

If you are not in the mood for high stemming that tries to tear you to pieces, then you can just hike directly to the fourth and final section.

The final section is somewhat short, but very scenic.  It has the capacity to hold a significant amount of water, so bringing a wetsuit is advised.  A couple of challenging downclimbs are required, but can be easily overcome with partner assists.

Near the end of the slot there was a 20 foot drop that can be downclimbed by the highly skilled.  Most folks will want to rappel that drop using a SandTrap.  At the bottom of the drop was a large pothole which was the crux of the route.

The second rappel was about 120 feet and ended on a large shelf that overlooks Fortymile Gulch.  The geometry of the pothole was almost identical to the final pothole in Euphrates Canyon, so a hanging SandTrap would work well there.  I forgot to bring a SandTrap on our adventure, so we used my backpack as a SandTrap instead.  It worked just fine, but I don't advise that you do the same.  In wet conditions a water anchor would be ideal.  Please bring some form of rope groove protection for the second rappel.  A garden hose or extra shirt would work well. Warning:  There are no other materials or anchor points to work with in that pothole.

The third and final rappel was 55 feet tall anchored from a large boulder that dropped directly into a beautiful section of Fortymile Gulch.  Be sure to extend your webbing to the edge of the drop to prevent rope grooves.

From there, we enjoyed the spectacular hike up Fortymile Gulch back to our escape vehicle.

There were no signs of previous passage, and the geometry was such that it would be tremendously difficult to complete the canyon without leaving any kind of mark.  Therefore, we presume ours was the first descent.

The first three sections look like this:

Then the real fun begins in the fourth section!

Cara gingerly rapping from an improvised backpack SandTrap.

The platform at the bottom of rappel #2.

The hike back to the car was much better than usual.

Monday, October 7, 2019

Davis Gulch

On October 7th, 2019, Tony, Cara, Byron, Cole, Grant, and I were in the mood to do something easy.  I've long been interested in doing Davis Gulch, but hated the idea of turning it into an 8 mile loop.  The beta was somewhat vague about the canyon being reversible.  The drops looked short, so we brought a couple of ropes with the plan of fixing them at unclimbable drops if needed.

It had been six weeks since it had rained in the area, so we gambled and did not bring wetsuits.  That decision paid off when we discovered that the canyon was completely dry.  No rappels were required and all drops were upclimbable using partner assists.

A rope did come in handy when upclimbing one particularly narrow drop.  Byron went high and pulled up everyone's packs which made that obstacle quick and easy.
This was Grant's first canyoneering adventure.  He was a natural, just like his brothers.

Overall, it was a great day with friends new and old.