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Thread: PINTAC 4/4/16
04-26-2016, 01:08 PM #1
- Join Date
- Oct 2013
After a cold morning and sluggish start we left our vehicle at the King Mesa parking and made our way down towards PINTAC at 08:45. 15-20 minutes after the DDI drainage there is an obvious weakness in the wall that lets you onto the rim. The terrain is up and down on slick rock but a sharp pinnacle or obvious peak will soon become visible that is the best reference point for the canyon access. The canyon runs on the east side of this, southeast of this point is the lower section and directly north is the head of the upper. You get a good look at the canyon the whole time with this approach and it looks intimidating. There is another way by using DDI's approach and crossing over the top to a ridge and I can't say which is better. If stashing gear between the upper and lower, I would have to speculate our route makes more sense.
Pinnacle in the background
Looking down the Lower
Looking down the Upper
Between the upper and lower we stash our new Lep pack(thanks Tom, love the improvements), extra water, food and a 115 ft rope. We take a 54ft rope, rap gear, knee/elbow pads and enough water and food to get us through the upper. Getting to the upper took some route finding and we ended up going around the pinnacle with some traversing on the east side, not difficult but the terrain with many fault lines makes for slow progress as you are forced up and around the gaps. After taking some pictures and a short rest we drop into the upper at around 11:45. Iím not thrilled about our start time given the reputation of the canyon but the weather is perfect and we can exit after the upper if things don't go well.
The upper starts with immediate stemming and large sharp moquis embedded in the walls that gave the canyon its deserving name, some rock is fairly rotten and requires full attention.
This initial section is relatively short and after 20 min we are at fault lines where there is an escape on either side. Starting into this next portion it soon becomes obvious what others have talked about that makes this canyon very challenging. There are many short wide sections that force a down climb to the ground or near the bottom, walk for 10-20ft to find a pinch that is impassible low. You climb up anywhere from 15-50 feet, high stem over the 50ft pinch or longer and then down climb back to the ground for another short walk, and then repeat the processÖ.over and over and over. After 40 minutes of this we find another open area with fracture lines where there appears to be an exit on the east or at least escape to high ground if necessary. We drink some water and eat snacks for a short break here.
Looking at the topo map we have done about 40% of the upper section and are feeling good. We quickly get a reality check as the remaining portion is much more difficult and slower going. It takes us a little over 2 hours to complete this next section which is much of the same, many up climbs but in this section you find yourself going to the ground much less as there is more sustained high stemming. There are rests but typically high up. Beautiful walls with one corridor that I thought was the most amazing of the whole trip. A smooth vertical wall that followed a gradual but perfect curve in the canyon while the opposing wall resembled a cheese grater with beach ball sized divits dispersed throughout, all while stemming 40-60 ft off the ground with a consistent but gradual narrowing to the floor below.
We found ourselves changing directions frequently to adjust to walls for safer or easier travel. There are two drops that some have DC'd but with only two of us we used the existing webbing and one really long rope anchor to handline past these obstacles. They were both quite old but passed visual inspection and held up to a vigorous test on backup.
The canyon walls start to diminish and gradually released us into the open area between the upper and lower section back to our stashed gear. It is around 15:00, we take a lunch break, refuel on water and drop into the lower section. The lower section has two memorable up climbs relatively early and then mostly sustained stemming down convuluted walls. Some mossy areas were encountered that hadnít reached their full potential given the lack of recent rainfall in the area.
More features on the wall in the lower section which makes for good star bridging but focus needs to be maintained here as high penalty points remain for a slip or complacent step. At times itís easier to go higher and deal with exposure than working at the lower level. It really is a lot more of what we have been doing all day without the climbing but after an hour we find ourselves at the final 50ft DC straight down to the floor and the end of the stemming portion. The area below is quite beautiful and good eye candy with unique walls and features not found in the other king mesa canyons.
In the lower we built anchors for the two drops, one slung large boulder in a pothole and a chockstone about 30ft up canyon from the final drop. A 115ft rope will get the final rap and pull assuming your anchor is extended far enough to prevent any rope grooves. We had to farm down a suitable boulder from up canyon as most the rock is rotten sandstone. After the final rappel it is a fairly short hike back to coyote gulch and to the car by 19:40 for a total time near 11 hours.
We found PINTAC to be extremely physical and mentally draining, I doubt many others top this. The upper required 3 hours of complete focus and the lower with another solid hour. No room for mistakes and the fact it is the most remote of the King Mesa canyons is always in the back of your mind. Looking back at the other trip reports I too find it hard to grade this canyon. If it were comparable to a climb it would certainly warrant some sort of endurance rating because it requires a lot. We didn't feel any of the off width problems we encountered are much more than a 5.7 but that also depends on your angle of attack. It also could be misleading for those who have never done off widths. A 5.10 face climber could struggle on a 5.7 off width problem because it requires different technique. Many canyoneers don't climb and most climbers avoid off widths like the plague which makes it silly to even mention. It's hard to rate because one person could choose a poor route and find an up climb nearly impossible while another route a few feet up or down canyon might go easier in comparison. Climbing experience and a trained eye are crucial but it's also a game of trial and error, perhaps a little luck too. Alternating the lead for climbs is beneficial as beta can be relayed to improve the others route up. The difficulty truly relates to ones ability to micro route find the path of least resistance. Less is more in here as large packs would surely amplify the obstacles. This canyon lived up to its reputation and deserves much respect as does the whole area. Its beauty and uniqueness of challenges was worth all the effort but the canyon makes you earn every bit of it.
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04-26-2016, 02:30 PM #2
- Join Date
- Mar 2006
- Above you and looking down
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Awesome! Some sick twisted part of me has always wanted to do this one, including DDI, and the Scorpion slots...
Thanks for the detailed info and pics. By far the best TR (and beta) about PINTAC.
I am curious, with your Egypts trip and this one now, did u do any more in the area?? I'm anxious to read em if so!
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"There are two ways to die in the desert - dehydration and drowning." -overhearing a Park Ranger at Capitol Reef N.P.
"He who walks on the edge, will eventually fall."
04-26-2016, 03:01 PM #3
- Join Date
- Oct 2011
- Sandy, UT
04-26-2016, 05:09 PM #4
- Join Date
- Oct 2013
Thanks and glad it was useful...taking pictures was a chore at times. Long Branch and Little Canyon TR should be ready soon
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08-10-2016, 03:26 PM #5
- Join Date
- Feb 2007
- Vail, CO
Hey Freak, great trip report. You going to post up DDI and Long Branch anytime soon?
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