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Thread: Canyoneering in the Fiery Furnace

  1. #1

    Canyoneering in the Fiery Furnace

    I am beginning a new thread, but this ties in with the other recent thread of Canyoneering in Arches NP. You may want to read that one as well. This is an important issue for all in the canyoneering community who may venture into Arches NP.

    Two of us from the Grand Junction area visited the Fiery Furnace in Arches NP in November and had the opportunity to meet with two park officials at the Abbey Arch location on the “Lomatium” route
    As many of you are aware, the park has recently implemented new regulations that affect both rock climbing and canyoneering. One of the most significant new rules prevents climbing on any arch and/or anchoring off an arch. Many who have done this route in the past have used Abbey Arch as the anchor for the 135’ rappel. This was typically done by using a long sling or rope in a retrievable setup that went around the arch. This is no longer allowed. Our purpose in meeting with park officials was to determine an approved method for anchoring and to discuss locations for descending near Abbey Arch that would not cause any further resource damage and would help keep this route open for further use by the canyoneering community. Here is a summary of what we learned on this visit:

    What is not allowed:
    1.Using devices like potshots and sandtraps is not allowed because they require digging in and displacing sand & rocks. Also, the new regulations make it clear that deadman and/or cairn type anchors are not allowed within the park
    2.Anchoring webbing left behind such as around the boulders under Abbey Arch, or around the pinyon tree behind the arch, or the juniper tree up the wash a short distance, when found by the park service will be removed. Such material is considered “New Fixed Gear,” which is not allowed. Worn webbing on established/park-sanctioned routes may be replaced but must match as close as possible the rock color.
    3.In general, it is preferred that no rappelling be done from the immediate area of Abbey Arch as part of the resource management goals. This would include rapping from the boulders under the arch or rapping from the pinyon tree behind the arch even with a fiddlestick type device. Any method used here will either leave webbing behind or result over the long term in grooving on or around the arch.
    What is allowed:
    1.Fully retrievable anchor setups: Rapping from the large juniper back up the wash, from about 30 feet before the wash spills over the edge using a retrievable setup or fiddlestick type device. This takes any potential damage away from the arch. Some grooving may result. There are already some grooves there. Set up your anchor to reduce rope drag across the rock as much as possible. Back away from the canyon wall on the pull to reduce grooving on the pull. (not much room for this) Either method of anchoring, know what you are doing! An anchor failure here will be catastrophic. Life threatening injury is likely.
    2.A bolted setup: We discussed possible locations to place a two-bolt setup with a chain somewhere in the same vicinity as described in #1 above. (Where the wash empties over the edge.) Our take-away impression was that a bolted anchor in some location may be favored as a long-term solution. It would minimize resource damage and provide the safest and least obtrusive option. Those not wishing to use the bolts have the other option listed above. It is up to “the canyoneering community” to come up with possible locations for bolt placement and we can make more than one suggestion for anchoring alternatives. Also, it will be up to us to actually place the bolts if approved.

    To have bolts placed at that location requires an approval procedure by the park. I am initiating that effort now with the assistance of some others. It could take up to two months to be approved once submitted. While I generally agree with the“no bolt” ethic that has become the norm for canyoneering, this is a unique situation brought about by the change in park regulations and seems to be the best long-term solution that will help keep this route open and descending safe for everyone. A cooperative effort from the canyoneering community is the key here. Comments & discussion are welcome and should consider these three areas: resource protection, visual impact and visitor use.

    One other note: Regulations for the Fiery Furnace specify a group limit of 6. If you arrive with a larger group, they must be split into two or more units so as to not exceed the requirement. In addition, those groups MUST remain separate throughout the trip. If they are found together, they will be viewed as being in violation of the group size regulations. The same rule would apply in other areas as well such as the Lost Spring complex.

    (Not related to the Lomatium route, but important to have clarified – the Dragonfly route will remain open. The regulation against going through water-filled potholes does not apply to those potholes which have a regular inflow & outflow, typically found in a water course like Dragonfly.)

    Our thanks to those park officials who were willing to meet with us and cordially discuss the new regulations and how they apply to canyoneering in the Furnace and throughout the park. I believe our discussions have had very positive outcomes.
    "Beaten paths are for beaten men."

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  3. #2
    Thanks for the info and your work with the Park Service

  4. #3
    Moderator jman's Avatar
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    Canyoneering in the Fiery Furnace

    Thanks for the update peakbaggers! Great to know.

    It's interesting to see that they are current on the sandtrap and the like and have banned its use.

    Speaking of deadman anchors, I know they dug up the one in Not-Tierdrop this last year and so now it's just a Bollard (which is a "cairn-type" anchor). That will NEED to change then if it hasn't already been corrected.

    (I still need to do the two routes in the furnace this upcoming year...hmmm)
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  5. #4
    I have never understood why the Abby Arch rappel was not already bolted. Out of all the rappels in the Furnace this one has the potential to cause the most damage. If my memory is correct it's the only rappel on the Furnace trade routes that is not bolted. The really silly part is the rap immediately after it is already bolted. Anyone who has done much exploring inside the Furnace already knows there are dozens of bolted and piton rappel stations scattered throughout the Furnace.

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  7. #5
    If my memory is correct it's the only rappel on the Furnace trade routes that is not bolted.
    The route we took through Lomatian/Krill had two places where retrievable anchors had to be set up. Maybe there are alternate routes though?
    Utah is a very special and unique place. There is no where else like it on earth. Please take care of it and keep the remaining wild areas in pristine condition. The world will be a better place if you do.

  8. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by Scott P View Post
    The route we took through Lomatian/Krill had two places where retrievable anchors had to be set up. Maybe there are alternate routes though?
    The first rappel in Lomation is not bolted if that's what you remember, but there is a simple scramble around on the right using a crack system that is pretty fun unless it's snowing. I also believe the "rabbit hole" bypasses what could be a rappel for some. I consider Abby Arch to be the first rappel in Location. The way we do Krill as part of a combo meal it is all bolted.

  9. #7
    The first rappel in Lomation is not bolted if that's what you remember
    The two rappels we did were at the very end of the canyon, before you exit. Both were about 20' or so? I believe there is an alternate route around the last one somewhere.

    The last rappel we did is called the Toilet Bowl and is through an arch. The other one was into the room above the Toilet Bowl. Does this sound familiar?

    Now that I think about it, there is an alternate route. Near the end of Krill, the main drainage goes straight (over a little drop-maybe this is the Rabbit Hole you are referring to-I vaguely remember that there might be a hole there?) and we went right and over a fin to the other features. Maybe you went straight down the drainage and we were on an alternate route?
    Utah is a very special and unique place. There is no where else like it on earth. Please take care of it and keep the remaining wild areas in pristine condition. The world will be a better place if you do.

  10. #8
    I think you and I need to vist the Furnace together sounds like we might be connecting things a little differently.

  11. #9
    Thanks for the info and effort in helping to further the use of the area Tim.
    Jared Hillhouse
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  12. #10
    I need to offer a correction/clarification to point #2 in "What is not allowed."
    The Lomatium route is considered an "established" route, hence webbing can be left behind, but must match rock color. It would not be considered "New Fixed Gear." Canyoneers and climbers may explore new routes as long as they are not leaving behind any "New Fixed Gear" (bolts, webbing, etc.) and are following the general guidelines regarding travel on durable surfaces. A new route requiring fixed gear may not be established unless it has gone through a review and approval procedure by the park. The following link may help explain this:
    The overall goal from the park's perspective is to minimize resource damage. Sling left behind in multiple locations around Abbey Arch would impact "visitor" use and possibly lead to resource damage. You know how those rats nests of webbing can build up. So the goal of this discussion is to see if we can reach a consensus in regards to how to best make the rappel at the Abbey Arch location so that we don't have multiple rap solutions leading to resource damage and possible closure of the route.
    I hope that clarifies rather than muddies the waters.
    "Beaten paths are for beaten men."

  13. #11

  14. #12
    Any updates on the situation. I have not done this canyon since the new regulations so I've only rigged the arch rap.

    Any new recomended info is appreciated, I'll probably be venturing that way next week.

    FWIW, I'm not a gumby looking for a route description. I just want to be respectful of the park and so I'm wondering what you guys think the most appropriate setup is for this first rap given the current situation.

  15. #13
    I'm wondering what you guys think the most appropriate setup is for this first rap given the current situation.
    Just did the canyon. You can easily descend from a tree near Abbey Arch without using the arch. This is fine by the NPS regulations.

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  17. #14
    Over this last weekend, we had some of the key personnel gathered in Moab to go in and make a final determination regarding anchoring the descent at Abbey Arch, but we were unable to obtain the necessary permit to enter the Fiery Furnace due to heavy spring break demand. Therefore, we are going to "table" the issue until probably next fall when there's a better guarantee of getting Furnace permits. For the time being, it remains my opinion that the best way to descend there is to utilize the juniper tree that sits across the wash from near where the wash spills on over the edge into the canyon below. This is shortly before you arrive at the arch. Parties will need to use either a fiddlestick type device or a fully retrievable sling anchor around the juniper. (That sling retrieval may have some risk to it so be sure & test thoroughly.) As a reminder - use of potshots & sandtraps are not allowed or building any kind of deadman anchor.
    Thanks for wanting to respect the parks new regulations while we continue to try and come up with a more permanent solution. The attached photos may help some identify the tree anchor and the best drop location.
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    "Beaten paths are for beaten men."

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  19. #15
    How long is the rap at the head of the canyon? Or how much rope do you need to bring?

  20. #16
    Quote Originally Posted by Iceaxe View Post
    How long is the rap at the head of the canyon? Or how much rope do you need to bring?
    Did not take an "official" measurement last fall but we descended on a single strand using a 200 ft. rope, pull cord & fiddlestick. Plenty of rope to spare, but I could not guarantee a 50 meter would make it. Might be risky until we can get back in and make a final measurement. You need 30 feet just to get from the tree over to the edge. If you're trying to use a retrievable webbing anchor, you would need at least 60 feet of webbing to get it to the edge and another 10 - 20 to extend it down and ease the pull.
    "Beaten paths are for beaten men."

  21. #17
    I predict the top of the canyon is going to become a clusterf**k of rope grooves before this all gets corrected. This is the problem with attempting to establish anchors by committee. YMMV

  22. #18
    Vast improvement. Thanks to those who put in the effort to get these bolts installed.

    Sent from my SM-G935V using Tapatalk

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  24. #19
    Couple of pics from Krill.

    Sent from my SM-G935V using Tapatalk

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  26. #20
    Hi All,
    We are a party of three experienced canyoneers coming in from Texas on 18th through 21 (days before Thanks Giving) of November. Is there some one kind enough to guide us though the Fiery Furnace rappels. Since this is a Friends take friends deal only and no betas available, not being from the area is to our disadvantage. Will buy beers and dinner after.

    Please reach out.


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