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Thread: Ghost Rider, Subway, Fat Man's Misery, Neon, Arch Nemesis, Cassidy and more

  1. #1

    Ghost Rider, Subway, Fat Man's Misery, Neon, Arch Nemesis, Cassidy and more

    Earlier this year I posted a thread looking to meet up with various people to canyon with in August after my regular canyoning buddy who lives in LA couldn't make it (or, rather, his budget didn't extend past one night playing $5 blackjack in Vegas). Thanks to lots of kind offers I was able to fly out and meet up with various people and do the following canyons:

    -Ghost Rider
    -Subway
    -Fat Man's Misery
    -Neon (not completed - we took the moki steps escape route)
    -Arch Nemesis
    -Cassidy Arch
    -Boltergeist
    -Pine Creek

    Here's the trip report! First, the video:



    And now the notes and photos...

    Ghost Rider

    I soloed this on my first day after leaving Las Vegas. It was a chance to get to grips with my new CRITR2 and also rappelling single strand, neither of which I'd done before. The first few raps in Ghost Rider were pretty short and gentle and ideal for this (although one rap I kinda missed and downclimbed by mistake). Got to the longest rap (around 80 ft) and thought for safety's sake I'd revert back to double strand on the ATC, just because that's what I've been more familiar with. Did one more rap after that before then finding the exit and the steep ascent back to the car. The canyon took me around 3.5 hours but I was going very slowly and experimenting with the new techniques I was practicing.

    Ghost Rider was useful as a practice canyon but nothing more - the drive in was a little rough, the temperature was 107 degrees and I didn't find the canyon particularly scenic. It was, however, convenient in that I was driving up from Las Vegas and it was quicker to reach than either Yankee Doodle or Boltergeist, particularly as I also had to get over to ZAC later to pick up a wetsuit.






    Subway

    Next up, I joined Brett, Josh, Jeremy, Sarah and Rachel (think I got all the names down pat!) for a romp through Subway. I'd done Subway once before (versus Brett's 28 previous trips) but was happy to do it again, particularly as the first time I did it had been in September and I'd been pretty wet and cold throughout with no change of clothes. Partway through our hike in we saw a large group of around 12 people behind us and decided we'd want to keep a decent pace up to stay in front of them. We didn't see anyone else until we got to the first boulder rap at which point we took the right hand rap (rather than the main one) as there was already a group tied in to the main rap.

    From this point on it was pretty much the usual Subway fare with plenty of swimming and wading. At the final rap we saw a large group on the rap already, some of whom were apparently crying....so it didn't look like being a quick wait. However, there was a log wedged between rocks spanning both sides of the drop - this allowed us to walk over to the other side and quickly set up on the other, more gentle rap and save a load of time.

    Another reason I'd wanted to return to Subway was to get to the main pools at a better time of day and get more spectacular photos than I did last time around. That said, even though we arrived earlier than I did previously, I felt like the best lighting was gone. My hunch is that the most spectacular photos are perhaps taken by people hiking the bottom-up route and arriving earlier than most canyoneers doing the top-down route will. Nevertheless, I got to check out the waterfall room which I hadn't done last time around, and Subway is just a fun canyon. We started Subway around 8.15am and finished at 5.30pm.













    Fat Man's Misery (West Fork)

    Next up, a canyon that I was particularly looking forward to. I met up with Ryan (not Road Trip Ryan) and we started at 7.30am. We used Road Trip Ryan's GPX tracks, there's a very slight variation between these and BluuGnome's tracks (mostly as to when you head east over to the canyon) but its pretty minor.

    On the first rap we were caught up by a small group of three and we ultimately let them play through as they were quicker than we were. I rigged a knot block on the first rap and after descending they said to us that it was somewhat wedged in the (large) quick link - they freed it and from this point onwards (and for the rest of the trip) I think every single strand rap was set up on a biner block rather than a knot block. Anyway, the canyon was great run - quite a lot of partner assists (not sure if that was due to low water levels, but there were definitely one or two drops we really helped each other on), a natural anchor that we had to rebuild (the rope later got stuck on the pull so we spend a bit of time freeing it), etc. We reached the confluence at 1.45pm and the river at 4pm before easily finding the steep exit back up to the ridge.

    Fat Man's was a really scenic canyon and a good mix of route finding, partner assists, wading, a little bit of swimming right at the end, practice with natural anchors, etc. My main comment here relates to Road Trip Ryan's beta. The site is invaluable, the descriptions and GPX tracks are so helpful... but we both felt his estimate of 5-8 hours is WAY off and could lead to people taking less than they need in terms of lights (I wasn't well equipped on this front), water, etc. Assuming that the time estimates are for first-timers in a canyon (after all, you don't need an estimate if you've done it before and know what to expect, how long you took, etc), this time estimate just looks miles off. By contrast, Shane estimates 8-9 hours, Tom estimates 10-14 hours, Citrus Milo says 9-12 hours, etc. We took around 13 hours, finishing at 9.15pm (and total darkness). Admittedly, we lost a bit of time after Ryan accidentally scrambled up to the ridge and left his harness down by the river, I was probably a bit slow in the technical sections and he was a bit exhausted in the latter stages of the hike - but even factoring that in, I'd say 9-10 hours seems a likely estimate for a group that's never been in the canyon before.

    In any event, Fat Man's Misery was one of the most scenic canyons I've done - even with the long hike back, I wouldn't hesitate to do this again.

















    Neon

    I arrived in Escalante after midnight and then set off early the next morning to meet my next canyoning buddy, Craig, on the intersection of Hole in the Rock Rd and Egypt Rd (which I had done last year in a rental car when I did Egypt 3 but thought it better to leave the rental car on Hole in the Rock Rd this time). Craig was tall and had a bit of experience with keeper potholes, which I don't, as well as a hook, potshots, etc., so I figured this was a good opportunity to go tackle a canyon with keeper potholes. However - we had read up on the canyon condition and two weeks before our visit, we knew the potholes to be filled with water and easy swim-throughs.

    We left the trailhead at 9.15 and made good progress, hitting the Escalante River at 10.45 which was pretty much in line with expectations. We found the easy route up to the rim of the canyon and continued hiking, pondering our entrance into Neon. We first came across the "Sport Entrance" (per BluuGnome descriptions) but this was too quick, we'd miss the first keeper pothole and a lot of the canyon, so we carried on. The next entrance I was looking for was the "More Fun Entrance" which, as I understand it, involves rappelling off a hoodoo. Never saw that at all. Anyway, we found a good entrance later on, a crack which provides an easy walkable descent down into Neon. At this point it was wetsuits on and away we go.

    For the first part of the canyon it was mostly wading - and the line on the rock suggested to us water levels had decreased. Anyway, we got to the first keeper pothole, with Craig leading the way, but he inadvertently missed the metal bolt on the left signifiying this was the first keeper and instead descended into it with his backpack, only to find it was in the worst mode possible. Water levels too high to touch the bottom, too low to swim across. Craig had the rope (235 ft, I think) with him and I had cord with me - so we agreed I'd throw down the cord, he'd tie off his backpack and I'd haul that up first before then throwing down an etrier which he would use to escape back up to me. We started doing this...only the backpack wedged between the narrow rock, grinding to a halt - out of his reach, and not easily reachable for me unless I downclimbed partway down towards the keeper and yank it around. Anyway, long story short... I've never exerted as much force in my life as I did for those few minutes, but eventually I yanked the backpack free, threw down the etrier, Craig climbed back up to me and I pretty much laid flat out on my back for a while after the energy expenditure.

    Both a little rattled by the experience (and somewhat exhausted) we carried on, climbing up the rock on the left and traversing over to the metal bolt before rappelling down to bypass the first keeper. We then continued, through deeper water at this point, before reaching the open part of the canyon with the moki steps escape route to the left. At this point we discussed what we'd read online - leave ropes in place before attempting keeper pothole 2, in case you need to retreat back to the moki steps and escape that way. So that was our plan. We reached point Neon76 (BluuGnome label) which is a 35ft descend into water. We set up the rope here and rappelled into the water before continuing. At this point, we got to another rap - and had no more rope, only cord. The realisation came that we weren't going to be able to complete Neon - at least, not without gambling on the state of the second keeper pothole and committing to it, with no retreat upcanyon available.

    (With hindsight, and if we hadn't been somewhat on edge... what we should have done here is have the first person rappel down, see if they were able to comfortably upclimb it and, if so, go down again and this time we pull the rope after ourselves. However - this ultimately may not have made a difference as there were ultimately two genuine rappels to come - the one we turned around at, and the one into the keeper. Perhaps if we'd pulled the rope on this downclimb, left the rope at the next rap and gone to the top of the rap into the keeper we'd have been able to gauge the water level in the keeper and make a decision. But I guess that wasn't guaranteed and in any event, its not what we did.)

    We ascended the ropes back to the open part of the canyon and used the moki steps to escape to the rim. They weren't particularly easy, Craig went up first and I roped up for my ascent - and did slip the first time. Anyway, on the rim, the main issue here was that we were now on the opposite side of the canyon to the route in - and with no idea as to what an exit route looked like or if there even WAS a walkable route out (there's plenty of sheer cliffs about). There's zero beta for this online, as far as I can see. Anyway, we headed downcanyon and came to a saddle on the left just before the massive rock dome - we went up and round the saddle and basically came to a point where we were sure we were going to get cliffed out, repeatedly, and have to do a pretty damn large rappel to get down. We kept on checking round "just one more rock/corner" and eventually saw the jackpot - gently(ish) sloping ledges back down to lower levels and, eventually, the river. At which point, having run out of water and totally exhausted, we abandoned any idea of filtering / waiting 30 minutes for iodine, and just guzzled. Luckily no upset stomachs followed.

    The hike from the river to the car was steep and arduous, it took us just under 2.5 hours.

    Unfortunately I didn't take much in the way of photos or videos during Neon - what with the concerns that arose at various parts during the day, my mind was elsewhere. One thing in particular that stands out, however, is just how remote and exposed you feel in an area like this. Unlike the canyons in Zion, Capitol Reef, etc., you feel (and are) a long long way from help. There was no other car at the trailhead when we set off and, indeed, no other cars at the trailheads for Egypt 1, 2 and 3. You look around and it's just an unrelenting, unforgiving environment.

    Question
    - when we ascended the rope, I used two klemheists. The one that had the foot loop attached to it (which I would stand up in) regularly kept cinching way too tight, making it very difficult to slide up the rope. What gives? Would an autoblock or French prusik have been better? Just use one less loop round the rope?







    Arch Nemesis


    After a day's recovery post-Neon (I had a blister, was generally a bit exhausted, etc) I met up with Jason and his son to do Arch Nemesis in Capitol Reef.

    The general 'feel' for both this and the next canyon, Cassidy Arch, was very different - less sustained slot canyon and more a feeling of getting to the top of a rock formation and slowly rappelling your way down repeatedly through its features. It was, however, good to get a feel for something quite different. Arch Nemesis itself started with a scramble up various ledges before slowly working its way round towards the first rappel.

    We did the first two rappels - around 50 ft each - before getting to the third rap into a series of potholes. However, the water in the potholes looked anything but appealing - it stank. So we did a bypass round to the left which ultimately means doing a somewhat larger rap from a tree down to the bottom of what is the fourth rap, a deadman. We spent a little bit of time here getting everything ready - Jason going down first and then eyeballing the condition of the deadman (if need be, I believe we had enough rope to combine the two raps). The deadman seemed solid enough and so we did the third and fourth raps one after another. The fourth rappel drops you into a nice little area, with great lighting looking back up at the other rappelers. Unfortunately, it also deposited us the wrong side of another stinking pool, this one with no bypass available. Little choice but to wade on through.

    From here on in the rest of the canyon was fairly easy - the rappels came quite thick and fast (a total of around 8, I think, as we bypassed one more rappel) before depositing us a short way from the car. Arch Nemesis took us around 6 1/2 hours.














    Cassidy Arch

    Once again with Jason and his son, this time he brought his wife and daughter too. Cassidy Arch has a similar feel to Arch Nemesis - you begin the day by getting the ascent in (unlike Arch Nemesis, there was a much more clearly defined route though) and this brought us to the top of the first rap - around 140 ft, just to the side of the large arch itself.

    This was the biggest rap I'd ever done, and the same for Jason. We spent a bit of time setting things up (and Jason tried a fiddlestick for a bit, before deciding it wouldn't be ideal given the anchor positioning) before getting things going. The CRITR2 was ideal for this - there were various points where I wanted to adjust my friction and so I appreciated the flexibility it offered. This also was the first rap where I've tied my backpack (which was quite heavy due to tripod, camera gear, rope, etc) between my legs for the rappel rather than wear it. The rap itself is spectacular. It deposits you in a narrow area at the bottom of the arch where its just a very short walk to the second rappel. The second rap is a similar height to the first (albeit less free hanging) but involves a slightly exposed traverse to get there. We spent a fair amount of time here too, Jason going out first as I fed rope, before we then used this as a fixed line for the kids to clip into with carabiners and walk out to the rap station. I went last, essentially rappelling in reverse towards the rap station. The rap itself starts off fairly gently before becoming steeper and free hanging for the last part. There's great views at the bottom up to the top of the arch - nearly 300 ft away.

    As with Arch Nemesis, once the larger stuff is out the way, most of the remaining raps (quite a few) come thick and fast and we tackled these in various ways - sometimes fixed anchors, sometimes a meat anchor, sometimes a bit of downclimbing, etc. They're all significantly shorter than the two big raps, however. Near the end we came to the old wooden bridge - this could offer an alternative to the nearby rap if one was so inclined, but we all thought it much easier/safer to take the rap. In total, Cassidy Arch took us just over 7 hours. I'd say it was a very similar feel to Arch Nemesis - but the first two raps, in particular, were more spectacular and there were no foul potholes.















    Boltergeist


    After another short break and a slight change of plans, I went off to solo Boltergeist, mostly for a bit of practice.

    I took the early exit route (after the 4th rappel) before the much larger rap - largely on account of how much extra time and distance the extra rap would add. The four raps themselves were all fairly simple - all bolted and well established. The third was a fairly nice gradual fluted channel (which would be downclimbable except the last 15 foot or so falls away), the fourth rap was perhaps the trickiest. The anchor looked a bit of a mess of webbing (various different strands), someone more capable than me will probably clean that up at some point. The anchor point itself is also quite low, which means a bit of a mini downclimb to get into position. I hate heights and spent a bit of time here trying to get tension on the rope quicker by having the anchor hang over an adjoining rock - but that wasn't working and it was just going to create a swing the moment I got directly beneath and so there was no avoiding the slightly awkward start. I'm sure for most people its a total non-issue.

    Boltergeist was definitely more scenic than Ghost Rider - if I was in the area again and wanted a fairly quick and easy romp for practice, I'd head that way instead. Temperatures were also more civilised too.





    Pine Creek

    Another slight change of plans, and last minute permit, and I ended up meeting Jason one final time to try Pine Creek.

    When I picked up the permit I'd been told by the ranger that nobody else had collected a permit yet - but we encountered two people ahead of us at the first rap. They told us they'd done Keyhole already that day (it was maybe 11am by this time) but did indeed not have a permit for Pine Creek. We overtook them although they pretty much followed behind us throughout.

    The cathedral rap was stunning and had some full swimming at the bottom of it. We timed the canyon well - as we moved forward from here, the light was starting to penetrate into the canyon and the colours were amazing - I reached for the camera constantly. Until a little further into the canyon when, during perhaps the only other part I remember being a full swim (briefly), my dry bag wasn't quite tight enough and the camera met an untimely end. Every single damn trip.

    At the last rap we took the 'first' of the two options (the slightly shorter rap, I believe, which takes you into the heart of the chamber below) and then kept the rope in place to navigate down the final slightly slippy climb with flowing water. As with the cathedral, this was a spectacular area. I had my backpack on during the rappel and I definitely became aware of the advantage of having it beneath you - it felt like a constant battle not to get drawn into becoming horizontal.

    After the last rap it was just the boulder hop out - this took a little while as I was pretty tired from the last 10/11 days at this point and not necessarily exhibiting much in the way of any finesse in the downclimbs, etc. We had two cars so didn't need to do the tunnel hitchhike. Emerging from boulders and shrubbery onto a fairly busy road was a surreal and fun way to end the route.

    Pine Creek ranked alongside Misery as my favourite canyon - darker, better lighting, but I also appreciated the solitude (and time to go as slow as we wanted) in Misery which we didn't quite have with Pine Creek.

















    And a quick mobile phone snap (due to my camera woes) of the final rap:





    To everyone that drove out of their way to meet me, invited me to meet friends, to meet family, put in long days listening to me ramble on, etc., I'm really grateful - it was great to meet a lot of different people, share those experiences and learn new skills. Hopefully there'll be a chance to meet up at some point in 2020!

    Peter



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    Bogley BigShot oldno7's Avatar
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    Very nice report: Very nice pictures, what camera did you use?
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  4. #3
    It helps to stick with one beta site - get a feel/understanding of their lingo, speed, etc. IMHO RTRyan is short and concise with his beta, and is fast. Bluugnome is wayyy over the top on info and waypoints, and runs very slow. His estimates on times is way longer than what I do canyons. Shane & Tom are in between those 2. For Fat Man's 8-10 seems right. 8 would be a good steady clip, 10 slower, over 10 slow. Once you have done some canyons you get better feel on the beta - it works both ways. And you also find out if you personally are fast, medium or slow. All good.

  5. #4
    Quote Originally Posted by flatiron View Post
    It helps to stick with one beta site - get a feel/understanding of their lingo, speed, etc.
    ^^^This is some good advise^^^





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  6. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by oldno7 View Post
    Very nice report: Very nice pictures, what camera did you use?
    Thanks! I use the Canon EOS 750d / T6i, its an entry level SLR. I then just edit everything in Lightroom and Photoshop.

    Quote Originally Posted by flatiron View Post
    It helps to stick with one beta site - get a feel/understanding of their lingo, speed, etc. IMHO RTRyan is short and concise with his beta, and is fast. Bluugnome is wayyy over the top on info and waypoints, and runs very slow. His estimates on times is way longer than what I do canyons. Shane & Tom are in between those 2. For Fat Man's 8-10 seems right. 8 would be a good steady clip, 10 slower, over 10 slow. Once you have done some canyons you get better feel on the beta - it works both ways. And you also find out if you personally are fast, medium or slow. All good.
    That's a good idea - I'll bear that in mind for the future! I think we generally round Ryan to be quick on pretty much every canyon we did - so that's a useful barometer.

    Anyone have any thoughts/advice on the problem I mentioned in the Neon bit - namely that when trying to ascend back up the rope, the friction hitch that had the footloop attached kept on cinching way too tight to easily slide up the rope? Both friction hitches were klemheists - would a different hitch have been any easier/less prone to tightening?

  7. #6
    Content Provider Emeritus ratagonia's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ibarro View Post
    Anyone have any thoughts/advice on the problem I mentioned in the Neon bit - namely that when trying to ascend back up the rope, the friction hitch that had the footloop attached kept on cinching way too tight to easily slide up the rope? Both friction hitches were klemheists - would a different hitch have been any easier/less prone to tightening?
    I like the Bachman Knot. Same idea, with a handle installed.

    "Question - when we ascended the rope, I used two klemheists. The one that had the foot loop attached to it (which I would stand up in) regularly kept cinching way too tight, making it very difficult to slide up the rope. What gives? Would an autoblock or French prusik have been better? Just use one less loop round the rope?"

    That said, that is a low-angle rappel, almost up-climbable, so just using the rope for your hands could work just fine there.

    Tom

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    Content Provider Emeritus ratagonia's Avatar
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    "The next entrance I was looking for was the "More Fun Entrance" which, as I understand it, involves rappelling off a hoodoo. Never saw that at all. Anyway, we found a good entrance later on, a crack which provides an easy walkable descent down into Neon. At this point it was wetsuits on and away we go."

    You found the "More Fun Entrance".

    Tom

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