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Thread: Relative newbie - Pine Creek (or alternatives)

  1. #1

    Relative newbie - Pine Creek (or alternatives)

    Hi all,

    Returning to Utah for two weeks in August and wanted to pick folks' brains about a few slots.

    My friend and I are beginners. Together, we've done Zebra, Peekaboo, Spooky and Keyhole. I've also done Diana's Throne and Subway.

    Our plan is to tackle Pine Creek, Egypt 3 and Baptist Draw this time around. However, I'm a little unsure as to whether Pine Creek is a bit more of a 'step up' from Keyhole than I anticipated.

    In particular, reaching for two of the anchors (I think at the Cathedral rap, and the final rap) looks kinda exposed and precarious. I assume it'll be safer to have the other person set up a meat anchor for the person heading to the anchor station - but what then? Would the person at the anchor station then just tie a figure of eight on the rope to attach it to the anchor and then have the other guy (who was the meat anchor) also tie in via a figure of eight, to ensure he's also fully protected getting across to the anchor station (before either one of us starts our descent)?

    If anyone has any good pics/videos/etc of those two stations in particular, that would really help - i've seen a fair bit online but a lot of it is mid-rap or when all the logistical stuff has already taken place, etc. Any explanations as to the 'alternative' descent for the last rap and whether that eliminates some of the precariousness etc would also be great!

    Also, for that final descent - we've seen a lot of people just descending on a single rope. We'll have a 60m rope and my plan was to get a 40m too. My thinking was that this will allow us to tie the ropes together, ensure the knot is at the very top and above the belay (so we don't need to pass the knot, which I haven't learned and don't want to attempt without doing so) and then descend using both ropes. Is there any reason why this is a bad idea? For safety I assume I can set up a biner block on the rope the same side as the knot (obviously pulling on the other rope to get the rope back) so that even if, somehow, the ropes came apart, the 60m would still be in place and we'd still be on one rope (albeit with no way of getting that one rope back ourselves, due to the biner block). Again, is there anything daft in this thinking...?

    Finally (and thanks to those who've made it this far!), as alternatives to Pine Creek I'm eyeing up Birch Hollow or Benson Creek (obv latter not in Zion but still close enough). Birch Hollow obv has more raps and similar heights but seems less exposed in terms of anchor access and might not involve meat anchoring, etc. Echo was another alternative but I'm assuming the semi-keeper pothole will be a factor in August and so didn't want to risk that as we have no pothole escape experience. Do those both sound viable, any other suggestions?

    All thoughts, comments, etc are most welcome!

    Peter

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  3. #2
    I noticed you listed three slots that are all over the place - Egypt 3 (in Escalante), Pine Creek (in Zion), and Baptist Draw (in the San Raphael Swell). If your plan is to knock off all of these you'd be spending a considerable time driving. I'd suggest choosing one of these areas and do canyons in that area. Zion is great for this because there are many slots close to one another. Plus Zion has the added bonus of having many (if not all) rappels already bolted.
    <----I'm with Spartacus

  4. #3
    Also if you're at the level that pine creek scares you, then you probably shouldn't be leading trips no matter how easy they are. Another upside to sticking in Zion is that there are several locals willing to go with you if you secure the permits and give them some advance notice.

  5. #4
    I agree with Tommy Boy, you should go with someone more experienced if you can

    In regards to how to rig the cathedral rappel. Buy a chain reactor or make a cows tail with webbing. Use it as a tether to clip into the bolts. Now you can use both hands to set up the rope. You can then manage the station by handing the rope to your teammates so they can set up away from the edge. And you would rappel last

  6. #5
    In Pine Creek the Cathedral Rappel is really a non issue. It's simple to rig and contains no free air. Nearly all major accidents occur at the Grotto Rappel (final rappel) as you simply step off into space and if you have an error in your rigging you have zero opportunity to fix it and you get to contemplate the problem as you try to learn how to fly for the next 90'.

    No need to buy an additional rope as a 60 meter is all that's required, just make sure it's not short. Ropes have a habit of shrinking up to 10 to 15%. That means your 200' rope last year might only be 170' long this year.

    The semi keeper in Echo should not be an issue with two or more canyoneers.

    Good luck.

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  8. #6
    Thanks for all the comments and tips.

    I agree I probably shouldn't be leading! But we're just making the most of the situation we have - we both really enjoy slot canyons (since we first discovered them through Spooky and Peekaboo), its just the two of us and so last year we did an instruction course at Lambs Knoll to try and learn the basics of rappelling etc. And now I'm trying to progress us incrementally and slowly, trying to minimise the risk as best I can by scouting out the risks of each canyon as much as possible online first. Our canyons are spread out as we're doing a trip that takes us through those places before then heading up into Wyoming and elsewhere - so we're trying to squeeze in what we can across those locations. I'll look into trying to get someone else to join but all the days we're doing slot canyons are midweek, not weekend, which may limit our audience a lot...

    Utah Canyoneer - if I'm reading that correctly, are you describing a personal anchor system? If so, we both have them and will absolutely be using them. Good idea on the rope setup tho, I hadn't thought about having the other guy then go first while I'm still on the anchor.

    Based on the above, I'm leaning towards swapping out Pine Creek for either Benson Creek or Birch (although first rap at Birch seems a tiny bit awkward). Any view on one over the other?

    Thanks!

  9. #7
    Content Provider Emeritus ratagonia's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ibarro View Post

    Based on the above, I'm leaning towards swapping out Pine Creek for either Benson Creek or Birch (although first rap at Birch seems a tiny bit awkward). Any view on one over the other?

    Thanks!
    Of the three mentioned, Pine Creek is BY FAR the best and the easiest adventure.

    You have to be CAREFUL at the top of the Cathedral rappel, and in certain conditions a belay might be appropriate.

    This is normal conditions now (excepting a good thunderstorm while you are in there, or a flood of mysterious grease), so you need to be careful, which I hope you already know you need to be careful ALL the time.

    Tom

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  11. #8
    IMO birch hollow is more straight forward and less technical then Pine creek.
    I would suggest Birch Hollow or Benson. Skip Egypt 3 and do E1 or spencer. Would help hone the skills.
    Iíll be out there same time so
    Let me know if ya want company Iíve done all these routes and have an exceptional uncertified track record of not dying!

  12. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by Uncertified View Post
    IMO birch hollow is more straight forward and less technical then Pine creek.
    I agree.

    I'd be curious to know why Tom thinks Pink Creek is much easier?

  13. #10
    Content Provider Emeritus ratagonia's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Iceaxe View Post
    I agree.

    I'd be curious to know why Tom thinks Pink Creek is much easier?
    Poster Ibarro made it clear that he is new to canyoneering, and has a limited set of skills.

    Birch Hollow is a much LONGER adventure - for a beginner, maybe 8 hours vs. 4 hours for Pine Creek.

    Birch Hollow requires navigation. People get lost out there all the time, going in and going out. (Assuming the WWH exit, which was in good shape a couple years ago but the exit trail in the middle has gotten obscure of late).

    Pine Creek is, unusually, getting pretty dry, so wet suits are not required at the moment.

    Ibarro expressed concern about the exposure on the Cathedral and last rappel in Pine Creek. We know that these are pretty straightforward, and the rappels themselves are easy. The first two raps (or one rap if you go in that way) in Birch Hollow are not all that exposed, but ARE difficult starts (and have some loose rock).

    The WWH exit from Birch is hot, and it is damn hot out right now.

    ---

    I would put the technical difficulties of the two essentially equivalent. And while both are popular, as a backup, almost any day in the summer one can count on other parties in Pine Creek, and a polished SAR team. The same cannot be said for Birch Hollow. (Wash County SAR team does a good job, but is 4-6 hours further away than the Zion Team in Pine Creek).

    Tom

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  15. #11
    @ibarro I totally understand what you mean about making the best with what you have. I started caving, climbing, and canyoneering the same way. Few resources and fewer contacts, and an "I'll figure it out" mentality that may not have gotten me here the most efficient way, but it worked. It sounds like you plan to be prepared and to use caution which is great. Make sure you are always double checking each other and saying aloud your thoughts or questions. They are great canyons!

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  17. #12
    Great advice all. Uncertified - I'll shoot you a PM.

    In terms of the choice of route - all those points make good sense, although I think Birch Hollow (or Benson Creek) will be the better bet for us. We'll probably be a little rusty and getting back into the swing of things and I'm more inclined to get back up the learning curve on less exposed rap stations (with possibly a queue forming behind us). With Birch its also possibly advantageous to get the trickiest rap out the way at the beginning rather than have it lying in wait later (with no escape route). Very valid points about navigation and SAR rescue although I guess with the former, even if we can't find the shortcut escape we can trudge up Orderville as a worst case scenario).

  18. #13
    @ratagonia, im going up to pine creek in 2 days ? You said it's been pretty dry ? Flying in late Friday and trying to decide if wetsuits are still reccomended

  19. #14
    Content Provider Emeritus ratagonia's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by 5.fun View Post
    @ratagonia, im going up to pine creek in 2 days ? You said it's been pretty dry ? Flying in late Friday and trying to decide if wetsuits are still reccomended
    I do not KNOW. Have not had a recent report. You might try the Canyon Collective but, seriously, most people are doing something other than canyoneering these days. 96 degrees here in Mt Carmel today, at 5000 feet.

    I would go in without a wetsuit, and not be too worried about it.

    Tom

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