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Thread: Long Branch 4/6/16

  1. #1

    Long Branch 4/6/16

    Long Branch 4/6/16

    Left the King Mesa parking at 7:00, start our way down towards Sleepy Hollow. Bush-wacked up Sleepy for 20 minutes until a weakness is found on right canyon looking up. There is an 8 foot slab move up slickrock to get to better ground and an easing in the cliff band.

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    Red dot is SH exit, two blue dots are drop points and marks the pothole section and the open area between the upper and lower stemming.

    Head northeast up the slick rock as you will soon see the canyon on your left, the opening between the lower and pothole section is only about 1/4 mile from where you start up from SH drainage. Here we make our first gear drop of a large pack, wetsuits, 25ft webbing, extra water/food. We lowered our pack with a 200ft rope at the southern corner(close to where the pothole fork begins) where you can see the bottom, likely only about a 60 foot pack lower but the final rap is at least 80ft with hanging KPH so the 200 rope was thrown down as well. If you were to lower your pack up canyon then the drop quickly goes up to 100+ ft but this open area is perhaps only 1/10th of a mile. This was the only place we could see the bottom and be sure the pack was in a retrievable place and not a tree or poison ivy.

    Continue to follow the rim another 1/2 mile or so and you get a view of the business most the way up to the next open section. Here we make a second drop of a lep pack containing about 4L of water, food, rap equipment and 110 feet of webbing. This open section is very obvious and a walk in/out.

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    Feature near middle section

    Following the rim on the right, the canyon stays on a northeast heading for about 20 minutes before making a north turn. Continue for another 15-20minutes and you find yourself at the head of the canyon. We gear up knee/elbow pads, 100ft rope and make our drop, the beginning is a 15 foot down climb and the stemming starts right away.

    The upper goes fairly smooth and I felt the most tame section between PINTAC and LB. There is a lot of rotting walls and rock, at one point we pulled off a 10x5 ft flake that was about 4 inches thick so we or anyone else doesnít have to stem through it. Another TR has an up climb mentioned in this first section that gave at least some trouble or sketch factor. The canyon opens momentarily, the LDC wall with previous collapses has been rotting away dropping big boulders below into the walkway. The right side is solid. We went up early and it was quite easy which required a high left foot onto the rotting wall and up into a stem and over the crack. Itís quite possible this section has changed making it easier, when looking another 6 feet down canyon where we stemmed over you would have to squeeze and make a move into a chest high crack with bombaying walls, I can see where that would be a hard move but not necessary if going up early.

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    Rotting wall move

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    The upper has a walking section that divides itself into two parts. The lower part(of the upper section) has more stemming, none too high but still X. UC and DC that arenít terribly high but again awkward at times with crumbling walls.. There is a very nice pothole section with a natural bridge/arch that is scenic with a couple partner assist DCís. Soon the potholes get bigger and a few more partner assists occur, the big pothole was low enough that we could easily see the window for a duck through with knee high water. If it was full and you didnít know or couldnít do the swim through, there is no reason a pack toss or nicely wedged potshot would not conquer this PH. A few more potholes to get through and the upper section is over after about 1 1/2 hours.

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    KPH Window

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    Other side of window

    There was cell service in the open section if you are willing to go up about 100ft to the rim. We start the lower section around 11:40 and it gets serious right away. High stemming, convoluted walls with better quality and more features than I was expecting but demanding. Unlike PINTAC you are not going to the ground often if at all. Most times itís simply not worth it to go all the way down because you are heading right back up. For long stretches there are two layers you can choose between. The lower is a star bridge and very twisted, the upper has another 10-15 feet of exposure and its own challenges. We found ourselves going between both at times but usually the high route seemed like less work. Rests are all high on ledges or dishes, on the lower layers you can stand or sit in potholes in the wall. Iím having a hard time remembering anything stand out in the first 1 1/2 of stemming except that it was consistent. Not as physical as PINTAC but still very serious. I also canít recall any exits or safe areas if weather turned on you.

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    She shows her teeth off

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    Lower Level

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    Upper Level

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    We come to the green room and its the first feature I recognize in this section. We DC into it, it is pretty although likely much better in the summer or fall. The UC goes rather smooth as the walls didnít feel terribly slick. From here the next 30 minutes was hard stemming again, awkward and some silos that I never left back to feet for but were very exposed. Then we came upon the void, some might call it a silo but its really a void with straight walls covered in moss that actually was slippery this time. The walls look wide, straight down and the DC and UC look worse than tolerating the exposure.

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    Green room

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    Should have taken a picture but I didnít have the camera, should have turned on the gopro but the battery died at least an hour before. As I go across Iím back to feet, maybe mid back to feet for a few moments and do make some micro adjustments up and down as I traverse this 30+ft section. Looking down it would be at least 40-50 feet straight down without any real hope of catching yourself. Extraction if you did survive would be of the stuff SAR have nightmares about. It wasnít hard, just very heady. Nat had mentioned belaying this spot? but to do it from a safe position would be a big swing and high force factor to catch if even possible on a static rope. If someone was unwilling to cross the void I think the better option would be to have them down climb it and then set a meat anchor with rope to assist them out on the other side. It would be a lot of work and energy this late in the canyon.

    The rest of the section feels very straight forward after that, the wall tease for a while looking like they are about to break but around every turn is another corridor and another turn. Finally we are slowly working closer to ground, even a few short walks and back upÖbut itís easing. Soon we see really old webbing tied to a natural bridge and know we are close. The webbing stretches 100ft to the last drop of 40ft. It was old but but passed visual and a vigorous test.

    The 3 hours + we spent in the lower is over and it feels good to be free again. The granary was intact and a first for me to see in a technical canyon. We rest and eat for about an hour, retrieve our pack, I check for cell phone service but none. We suit up and head down the pothole fork.

    It starts off very good with some down climbs and partner assists and beached whales. Then it eases and becomes a walk before turning back into deep potholes before the final rappel. They can all be DCíd or partner assisted and never required any fancy techniques. We come to final rap and the arch on RDC is still intact and actually looks better than I imagined. We replaced and extend the webbing. Angus goes down over the edge and stops above the hanging KPH to throw our bag over the lip. Down into the pothole which is about chest deep. Angus couldnít find any way to climb out, at least with wet muddy feet. His weight is enough to pull the bag up. Over goes the Lep pack, with everything we have left. Still not enough weight. I head into the KPH. Angus climbs me and then I fully extend my arms with his feet in my hands with a hard shove he is on the lip.

    We had plenty of water bottles that were empty, potshots to fill with sand as well as the bag but we felt a partner assist attempt was better than pulling the bag to the top and starting over. Back to the car for a time just under 12 hours.

    PINTAC vs Long Branch:
    We both feel that PINTAC is a more physical canyon and felt the effects the next day much more so than Long Branch.

    LB has more stemming and more exposed sections that just feel more serious than the worst in PINTAC. The UC and DC in PINTAC are much harder than any in LB. There are more exits? in PINTAC and likely none that we could see once you start the lower and most difficult section in LB. PINTAC was a more aesthetically appealing canyon in our opinion and the one we would repeat before LB.

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  4. #2
    Wow... ... ... just wow.

    Five stars, no doubt. Thanks for sharing.

  5. #3
    I'll have a TR in a couple days when I get back, but just wanted to get this out there, the 100' of webbing at the end of the X section was rotten when we got there so we pulled it, and the last drop is out of a pothole that was mostly dry so we used a sand trap and didn't bother replacing the webbing. If the pothole had water in it a water anchor of some kind would be required so if you do this canyon bring both sand and water anchors and you should be good. If you don't have a water anchor bring the sand trap but bring 100' of webbing as a backup.

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