Thursday, April 24, 2014

Spring Canyoneering Fest

If it's April it must be Spring Break time, and if it's Spring Break it's time to go to Daytona Beach!  Or, I guess, the southern Utah desert is a good second choice.  And thus last week was the annual canyoneering fest, which - as always - is sponsored in part by the New Hampshire and Cincinnati Canyoneering clubs, presided over and funded by the Hanlon and Elovitz Family Foundations.

The week's grovelfest got off to a good start when Colin, Ash, and I went down early to do the notoriously-skinny Shenanigans canyon in the North Wash area.  It has long sections that are only 10 inches wide and doesn't let up vertically until the top, so if you are prone to claustrophobia, this is a great place to confront your fears.
The King and his throne, preparing for battle
Ash ready to dive into the skinnies, where she just sashays along while the big lunks grunt and heave their way through
Colin taking a breather while stemming.  
I didn't get any pics of the real tight stuff because a) it's really hard to get good canyoneering pics at all, much less when it's really deep and dark, b) I pretty much couldn't even reach into my pack half the time to get the camera out, and c) there's nothing quite like being deep in a slot canyon with thunder and lightning crashing and flashing overhead and rain spilling into the canyon, so our focus towards the end was downcanyon motion, not pictures!  But we were able to get through the nefarious Grim Crawl and out the exit rappel without getting the waterpark slide effect.  

And then the erstwhile members of the NH and Cincy Canyoneers Society showed up.  Despite more thunderstorms in the morning that drove Colin and Ash off towards home (though they ended up hitting Crack canyon on the way) we went to Shenanigans' next-door partner, Foolin' Around, which  - while not quite as tight, is probably a bit more strenuous to wriggle through.  And then off to Ticaboo Mesa, home of the Dante Canyons and the Best Campsite in the World.
Moonrise over the slickrock
Dan after waking rubbing his eyes, and realizing he's not in Massachusetts any more
The Dantes are a series of five awesome slots all spilling down towards reservoir Powell from the campsite.  I had done one of them last fall with Colter, Tom McFarlane, and Brother Paul, and it only whetted my appetite to hit up them all.  They are not long, but they are dramatic:

and the hike out is really dramatic as well:

Team Elovitz/Allan showing good stemming technique:

and the ever-smiling Sue going deep

Dan preparing to cut all his fingers off going over the edge:

Mike had to give him a little hug:

Must be spring
Three of the slots - Purgatory, Paradiso, and Devil's Thumb - are pretty straightforward, but the other two have some trickier sections.  Limbo has a stem that starts out maybe 10' off the canyon floor and then traverses over a DEEP pothole where the stem gets a little wider, but at least the wall your feet are on is a little loose and crumbly.  I made a slight error in traversing to the slightly-wider high rather than dropping low, and got a bit stretched out in the crux, so that all that I had touching rock were my toes and shoulder blades.  I was glad for my Pilates classes this spring as I was, uh..."fully engaged" at that point.  To alleviate this somewhat stressful situation I sorta slid/worked my way downward, pulling my shirt up my in the process so as to get the full value of the sandstone on my bare back.  I wasn't really giving Mike and Greg - who were right behind me - full confidence in the move, but at least they were able to identify what NOT to do!  I'm usually good for at least that.

Inferno canyon has some additional challenging sections, including some raps that lacked anchors, so we were pushed to "ghost" it with removeable anchors.
The Gnarly Dude (see the label) about to test out his sew job on his homemade "potshots"; bags filled with sand that we rappelled off of.  
and in order to avoid a possibly-sketchy traverse over a pothole we elected to do an even sketchier 5.8-ish traverse high above the canyon floor.
Once again we were able to prove what one should NOT do!  
The earlier thunderstorms and subsequent winds had died away, and the Best Campsite in the World delivered for the three nights we were able to be parked there
Sawyer - the self-avowed expert in finding the Big Dipper - showing his prowess.
Near the bottom of one of the canyons is an Anastazi ruin:

with a milling stone:
Dan was - and I think still is - a bit unsure about whether or not this whole native ruin thing was for real
These pipes were embedded in the rock going up to the ruin.  Mike had heard that a U of Utah archaeological "expedition" in the 20's had used a lot of permanent fixtures to access the ruins.  
some pretty dramatic raps
Because new rental cars are impossible to figure out - but aren't as sophisticated as my new i-phone that has apps that are able to detect low battery juice - we left some lights on in the car and Dan the tow-truck man and Greg were able to use Dan's exploded lawn chair legs to jump-start the rental....without getting electrocuted.  
Strong work!  
Sue modeling some scrumptious and sexy rappelling attire
Dan on his own exposed, sketchy traverse
A cool multi-stage exit rap

We then moved on to another sea of slickrock on the other side of Ticaboo Mesa for a fun figure-8 slot adventure (down one, up and out, down another, up to the intersection, and up and out a different canyon).  

That had some skinnies
Sawyer's "little kid" advantage in the skinnies is disappearing rapidly!
The apple and the tree
Sue is All Set
Me, on the other hand....
not so sure......
The great white light behind us drops several hundred feet down to the reservoir
a sand "angel", if a 14 year old kid can indeed be considered angelic....
We then headed south to hit up Cheesebox canyon, which is a "must do classic".  And indeed, it's worthy.
suiting up.  It looks dry here.....
If you were walking across the desert and came across this creature, what would you do?  
Gang lunch
rapping into the water
Jane in the water
and soaking up the occasional sun

some amazing formations in here.  
As ever, a great trip with great folks.  thanks to Mike for some of the pics.  


  1. Great write up! Next stop "Grand" Canyoneering! There's an open spot!

  2. I really like the way you draw images of what you read in the text to support your ideas.
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