Sunday, April 26, 2015

New Hampshire Canyoneering Festival

Another April, and another annual soiree by the New Hampshire Canyoneering Team to the grovely slots of the Utah desert was a wild success!

The week had the potential for a challenging start, with the team experiencing not only a cancelled flight from Phoenix to SLC but their luggage opportunistically seized a different flight to SLC.  The Team - understandably anxious - pressed the US Airways "customer service" folks for actual service, were at one point told "look, we got you to Phoenix, which is MOST of the way to Salt Lake!"  The team had the good point that perhaps they should have paid only "most" of their fare!  But as it turned out, one of the newest members of the team (the hilarious Chris Hanlon, recently liberated from some godforsaken town in Illinois) did happen to be in Phoenix and was able to transport the team upstate to Utah, and the SLC contingent (me) was able to grab the luggage at the SLC airport (a weird scene; a full carousel of lonely luggage with NO customers!), a rental SUV to transport said luggage, and a plan to blast in said SUV down to the dez to meet The Team.  I stalled a bit in SLC until I realized that I had not only The Team's camping gear but also their warm clothes, and if they arrived at our campsite late at night before me the Team might get grumpy (if they ever did, which they don't).  So off I went.

The Team also had another couple of rookies coming in from Ketchum: the effervescent Paul Yelda ("Smiley") and Dani. While I hadn't met them, I got a text from them that they were in a grey Toyota Tundra, and sure enough at 10pm at The Campsite there was a grey Tundra as I bounced into the site. I leapt out with a hearty "Hullo!" and rushed up to introduce myself, but the couple there sorta backed away from my onslaught and sort of defensively asked "Can we help you?" Uh, is there a different grey Tundra, and are you not Paul and Dani?  Guess not, sorry, and prepare to be invaded a couple more times tonight!   And indeed it came to pass.  But by midnight The Team was finally all together and the fans sighed in relief; let the games begin!

North Wash is the unofficial epicenter for Utah canyoneering, as it's locale (30 miles south of Hanksville, just south of the Y intersection for Hite and Bullfrog) puts it in a convenient spot for getting after it in dozens of great nearby canyons.  and get after it we did, with great grovels down the south fork of Maidenwater, Tracheotomy, and the very tight classics Shenanigans and East fork Leprechaun.  We then moved south to one of our favorite areas, Ticaboo Mesa.  This mesa - northeast of Bullfrog - is pretty nondescript, until you get to any edge, where it spills off into oceans of slickrock punctuated by awesome slots.  It's as close to a roaded wilderness as I know; in 4 trips there of 3-4 days each we haven't seen another soul!  The road-end above the Dante Canyons is well known to at least Brother Paul and I as The Best Campsite in The World, and it's home to the classic Good Day Jim and Hard Day Harvey canyons.  This trip The Team focused its energies on the fun canyons of Smith Fork, that includes the tight "Wormhole" slot (that has a moderately-scary "silo" section that has the potential to be doing a too-wide stem way high), Pothoez (with a challenging pothole escape), and a couple of others, including Psycho D, described as one of the most challenging canyons on the Colorado Plateau, which is saying a lot (we didn't give it a go).  The Smith Fork canyon itself is as beautiful a hike-through as any canyon anywhere and a worthy outing unto itself.

Here are a few pics of the Ticaboo area.

Gettin' Happy that we are heading into the slots.  
heading down into the slickrock sea of Smith Fork
A far cry from New Hampshire
Sue stoked about the Blammo of the desert cactus
Blammo!  (and I get to use the little "flower" feature of my camera....) 
Pretty subway-esque, only without the hordes of people
The hike is a bonus to doing the cool grovely slots. 
The Team taking a much-needed break form the arduous hike!
Paul peering into the depths of Wormhole canyon while The Team looks on
happy to be diving in
Greg trying to be....funny?
big dark clouds loomed over the mountains all day only a few miles away, but the thunderstorms mercifully stayed away from our canyons til we got out. 
Team Captain Sue sporting the latest canyoneering fashions 
Dani and Paul slithering down some random slot 
Sawyer about to go deep
Why do they call this guy Smiley? 
Sawyer prepared for battle
We then moved north to Capitol Reef, where we finally confronted the major cold front that was pounding the Wasatch with 3 feet of snow.  but after a chilly morning breakfast:

things warmed up enough to dive into another fun slot right in the heart of the Park.  
The Team unsure where to go
This Way!
Getting pumped to drop in
The final big rappel.  There was a bunch of fun downclimbing between the entrance and the rap, but no pics...
Smiley clambering around on a weird rock
Our Ketchum friends had to move on, so the remaining members of the team hit up a fun short canyon on the way home, between Goblin Valley and I-70.  Despite the chilly temps, it was sunny enough to dive into a wet canyon
Nice sunny spots to warm between swims
And another year of slot-grovelfesting was done.  Many thanks to new Team Members Chris Hanlon, Smiley, and Dani for keeping me laughing the whole time, and of course to the core of the New Hampshire Canyoneering Team:
Sawyer's the only one responsible enough to avoid potentially breaking a natural bridge!  

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