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.

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