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05-26-2006, 12:24 PM #1
- Join Date
- Jan 2006
*Tight* Slots in the Month of Mae
After spending 5 days backpacking with a friend on the north slope of navajo mountain, enjoying the wonderfully carved canyons like Cha and Nasja and the mind-blowing Rainbow Bridge (Photos), I had planned to do some *tight* slot canyons with my friend J (Justin). Though J has not done any *tight* slot canyons, I knew his strong bouldering and climbing skills would allow him to adapt quite easily. We planned to meet up with my good friend Nat Smale for the last couple of days, as he was getting off of a 5 day trip in the escalante. Mike Kelsey joined also, at the invitation of Nat, and, after hiking with MK a little over a year ago, I was happy he was joining us.
PHOTOS ARE INCLUDED BELOW (with captions in the descriptions).
Since I quit taking photos 5 years ago, and some friends gave me an older digital camera, I am a bit rusty and quite negligent about taking photos.
Day 1: East Fork of Leprechaun
Day 2: Middle and West forks of Leprechaun
Day 3: Upper Stair Canyon & Hog 3
Day 4: Psychological Damage & Main Smith Fork Narrows
Day 5: Pandora's Box
DAY 1: J and I left Salt Lake tuesday morning at 8:30 headed for north wash for an enjoyable tight slot warm-up in the Leprechaun complex. Arriving after 1pm, we eagerly hiked up the west rim and descended the East Fork of Leprechaun. After shredding up my last small pack, it was great to christen my new leprechaun pack (shipped right from Tom) in the namesake canyon itself. [Fantastic pack, btw!!!] The night before we got J some kneepads and from the initial tight sections he immediately realized and appreciated their function. The canyon seemed to go by quickly and we were enjoying the athletic moves in the hot afternoon sun. After the hike, we drove up to the spur road separating the W. Butler and Leprechaun canyons and camped for the evening, enjoying cold beverages and fantastic sunlit views.
DAY 2: The sun woke us up early and we knew it was going to be quite warm for our double loop of the Main fork of Leprechaun (Shimrock) and the West Fork of Leprechaun (Shamrock). From the camp, we hiked to the head of Shamrock and left a water cache in a shaded rock overhang, and headed back to the main fork. Then we descended the main fork, shimmying up and down and sideways. J was really diggin' it. Though we were mostly in the shade and the air was somewhat cool, with all the squeezing and stemming and shimmying we worked up quite a sweat. There were sections where the light fell just right, bouncing off of the smooth walls and presented us with wonderful glow. After descending the final dark slot in belfast boulevard, we took some respite in the subway section beyond, enjoying the cool breeze moving through the slot and the echoing squawks of ravens and their young.
Down canyon we bumped into a woman (and two children) who was chaperoning a school-related canyoneering trip of youngsters who, at this moment, were descending the West Fork, just where we were heading. We quickly hiked up the west rim and reached the head of Shamrock, to find the tail end of the group just beyond the entrance rappel. We passed the group of 13(!!!) at the second downclimb, and it felt like we had entered a party, being in such close quarters. Lead by two guides, the gang of young kids were very cute, especially donning their colorful helmets.
We continued on shammying down the canyon back into belfast boulevard, and i noticed that the glow was gone, and the slot was darker during the midday than during the morning. Then in the final downclimb I heard some *scary* noises and could make out a shadowy figure in the darkness. Sure enough it was Ram, who had come to see Rhonda and the kids from colorado. I guess there really aren't many better ways of meeting someone for the first time than in a slot canyon. The four of us chatted it up for a while, and Ram told us of the wild slot in Bishop canyon he had done with Nat a few days earlier. Knowing that the hike back up would be quite warm and sunny, we graciously accepted a ride back to camp from Ram.
During dinner Nat arrived at the camp and we started talking about his adventures with Ram and others in the escalante as well as his day in the Squeeze with Steve B. A short while later, Mike showed up and we started talking about the next couple of days as the sun set over the Butler complex.
DAY 3: Today we had two hikes on the list, the slots in Upper Stair Canyon and Hog 3, the third tributary on the West rim of Upper Hog Canyon. From camp we drove out on the road (super sandy in spots) all the way to the head of Stair Canyon, where we were graced with the spectacular views and dramatic relief of the Dirty Devil drainage that I had hoped to find. Upper stair had sections of spectacular, consistently narrow tight slot, which was most comfortable to high-stem at 15-25 feet up. Though we wished to enjoy the slot from its depths, it was fun to peer into it from above. After finishing the second (final) technical section, we hiked the steep west wall to the rim and returned to the car. Stair canyon definitely proved to be quite an exhilarating way to wake up.
Next we drove to Hog Springs parking to leave a car. Instead of returning to the upper trailhead at Hog canyon, we took Ram's suggestion, to descend Hog springs canyon and do some swimming in the large pool. After lunch we drove the the upper trailhead and route found our way into the head of Hog 3. The canyon was great as it descended steeply in a staircase of short, tight slots, presenting us with fun and gripping (some exposed) downclimbs into one final pleasant 100' rappel. One thing that makes this rappel interesting is that the canyon walls at this place are curved so that you rappel from the top of an overhanging wall to land upon and descend the opposite wall. We continued down canyon to the large pool and enjoyed the cool water, in the heat of the day. To kick it up a notch, Nat and I enjoyed a 30ft jump off of the high point of the rocky alcove on the upcanyon side of the pool, very fun!!!
We drove south on highway 276 and camped on the windy west rim of Smith Fork, again entertained with 360 degree views and another great sunset.
DAY 4: Today on the agenda was the infamous Psychological Damage(PD). From down the road, we hiked out on an arm extending from the west rim and down into Main Smith Fork, just above where the side canyon/slot PD enters. First we walked to the slot's exit which, today, was into a dry pool basin. We then proceeded to hike up the north rim of the "pothole" canyon to the north that forms a wish bone with PD, crossing it in the middle to access the first slot of PD. We had spotted the bivy flake from the rim, but I needed a closer look.
During the first two slots I was already getting quite hot and feeling a bit dehydrated. We rested in the shade before the third slot and i pounded a full liter of water and within moments started to feel much better, which was good as the most difficult section was ahead!
We preceeded down the third slot, Sometimes down low, often up high 15-30+ feet. We sat at the bivy flake were Ram, Tom, Roylnn and Doug were evading the fabled flash flood. WOW, not a lot of room there!!! Thoughts of the sobering story had lingered through my thoughts all day.
We continued down canyon, continuously high-stemming through spectacularly sculpted slot with Nat leading as we pass silo after silo, figuring out our own best ways to deal with each, until we reached the crux silo. The crux silo is preceded by a very short, very tight slot section, which presents 3 routes. A very tight bottom section, a slightly wider middle section (the Middle Way), an impossibly tight upper-middle section and a wide upper section. Nat chose to go via the wide upper section, then stem with different combinations of hands and feet and back across the silo, successfully making it with one really exposed move. Problem solving then ensued to figure out the best way for the rest of us to traverse the challenging silo. Since J is smaller and thin, he attemped and managed to go through the low tight slot, chimneying slightly up and slightly down to stuff his way through to the lower cavity of the silo, then across. Everyone figured I should try to stuff myself through the slightly wider middle section. The vertical span of this section was slightly shorter than I was so i worked my way through, crouching a little bit, shimmying through using the flaring footholds and ducking my head through towards the silo. Fortunately it was sufficiently wide and with my medium-large frame i made it to the silo no problem. The silo was wide and exposed and I took comfort in the marginal belay Nat provided from his stemmed position, high in the opposite slot. Crossing the silo at the level of the wider opening was a bit *tingly* but the moves felt quite solid nonetheless. Instead of going high, MK also decided to pass through the *Middle Way,* and also across the silo with belay. He found it difficult to pull his larger pack through it....I must say that I definitely enjoyed my small Lep pack in all of these canyons!!
After the crux silo, the slot drops and opens into a pothole/pool(dry) which continues into the final downclimb that drops into the (dry) pool and wider subway chamber we walked up earlier. After the difficult canyon, we relaxed our nerves and ate and some of us napped as we enjoyed the cool breeze and painted walls of the exit chamber. Clouds and ravens flew by, and there was even a almost imperceptible sprinkling of rain, illuminated by the sunlight. We then hiked up and enjoyed the beautifully sculpted narrows of the main fork, which, BTW, has lots of scratch graffiti. We returned back to the rim to enjoy the spectacular views of the darkening clouds over the henrys, the endlessly undulating sandstone and the impressions of the slots therein.
Day 5 - Link to Pandora's photos
All in all, we had a great time and J now is hooked!!
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