Thursday, June 07, 2007

Escalante Canyoning by AJ

May 24th thru May 27th


Wednesday 5/23:

A group of us went down to the Escalante over the long weekend, which we made longer by a taking a few more days off. The plan was to have one group that would break into two canyon groups. Mine would tackle the bigger and more challenging
canyons; and there would be a less aggressive canyon group as well. We headed out on Wednesday after work, and drove down
to the Egypt Bench road. We set up a meeting spot on Egypt Bench, and saw a car and tent there already. Turns out that
they weren't with our group, so we apologized if we woke them (it was late.) It was a nice night out so we just threw down
our sleeping bags and bivvied for the night.

Thursday 5/24:

We woke up around 6:00am, and met up with a few more from our group. Marty was down with his family, and he and his son
Derek would join the less aggressive group. We packed up our bivvy gear, grabbed a quick cold breakfast, and headed toward
the E3/E4 start. Everyone met there, and we divided into two groups. Five of us would do the more aggressive Egypt 4.
Brian, Ben, Rom, Richard and I set out to the head of Egypt 4, and got there around 9:30am. It was already quite warm.
Egypt 4 was quite the warmup canyon for the weekend. A very fun, but strenuous, canyon with lots of off the deck stuff;
some quite high, up to around 100 feet off the deck. The canyon is quite sustained, with a few silo crossings; you aren't on
the ground for very long at all for most of the first section of canyon. The footing seemed a little loose in the
beginning, with some sand on the walls; but felt comfortable the rest of the way. Most of the silos had decent footing, but
a slip would definitely mean serious injury or death.

All the Egypts seemed to have decent water. Egypt 4 certainly didn't require a wetsuit though; you would be insanely warm
with all the climbing - and most of the time you were at least 30 feet above the water anyway. Although, the additional
padding from a wetsuit on the lower back would be nice; we were all quite sore there. There was a spot where the canyon
finally opened enough to get to the ground around 11:30am, but shortly afterwards had around a fifty foot upclimb. Fun!

A bit over halfway through the canyon, Brian, Rom and Richard had enough. They weren't enjoying all the effort and they
were sore from all the stemming and chimney work. We all had sore red spots on our lower backs. We found a spot where they
could exit around 1:30pm. Ben and I decided to continue, as we were still enjoying the scenery and the challenge. I gave
them my backpack though so Ben and I could travel light, and we kept just an emergency cord and a few other emergency items.
Unfortunately, we were low on water as it was pretty hot out in the mid-80's, and all the climbing was definitely making us

The second half of the canyon was more of the same. Lots of off the deck, high stemming, with some intermittent up and down
climbs. We ran out of water just before hitting the end of the canyon; thanks to Ben for sharing his. The last section was
a cool little chained pothole section. We scooped some decent water from a pothole, but my water purification tablets were
in my backpack. Crap. We'd drink it if we had to, but started the hike up to meet the others around 3:30pm. Thankfully,
they waited for us where the E3 and E4 exit routes meet up. There were a few from the Egypt 3 group there too. We got some
water from them, and all hiked back up to the trailhead. There were a few cool rock pedestals on the way out. We made it
back to the trailhead around 5:30pm.

Note that Egypt 4 is NOT a beginner canyon; be careful if you head there. However, it would be possible to start upclimbing
from the bottom (though even more strenuous), and head up as far as you felt comfortable. Otherwise, we saw three
different exits on the way down. One prior to the one Kelsey mentions; it was a ramp on the right LDC, then Kelsey's exit
when the canyon opens with ramps on both sides, and the lowest section has many exits as it's much more open with potholes.
Although, if you go from the top, and made it to the bottom section, no need to exit as the final section is comparatively

The Egypt 3 group said the lower section had a long swim in cold water. The water was clean and refreshing on the warm day.
No wetsuit needed, as the long hike back is just afterwards.

We then drove to the Egypt Bench trailhead, packed up, and then hiked down into Fence canyon that same day. Jen was feeling
a little tired, so I first took her pack as well. After a bit, I gave her pack back and then hiked quickly ahead to camp
while she hiked with Brian and Richard. I arrived at camp just as the sun was going down, dropped my pack, and hiked back
up to her and took her pack for the rest of the way down. We made some dinner with the group, talked about the next days
canyon, and visited. It was great to visit with everyone; it had been a while since I saw some of them, including Sharon
from SLC.

Friday 5/25:

We woke up at 6:30am, and started to get everyone else up. The entire group would be doing Neon today:

We hiked up to the standard entrance, and Jen and Misty wanted to start here. Tim and I downclimbed with them, and took
them to the confluence with the main Neon canyon. We gave them instructions on "what if" scenarios, and then upclimbed back
to the rest of the group. The rest of us then went past the normal long route (passed at 10:45am) mentioned by Shane and
Tom. We went up to the next side drainage. It's still not at the canyon head, but it adds about 3-4 hours round trip to
the normal Neon route. We dropped in around 12:15pm.

To get to the confluence with the main Neon canyon, there was a few downclimbs, a wade through a corridor, and then a
handline down into a swim. We hit the upper main Neon canyon around 12:45pm. At the confluence, there was a really cool
sculpted pothole section.

The canyon section above the long route is quite fun with a variety of downclimbs, swims through narrow tunnels (many can be
bypassed, but why?), some tight squeezes, fun jumps, and some open canyon walking. We met up with Jen and Misty around 3pm,
and continued down into the normal Neon canyon. Neon was better than I had remembered it from the last time. Great canyon
with lots of variety and lots of beauty. We also came across a few young ravens that were trapped in the canyon. I carried
a few to an open spot in the canyon.

We dropped into the first deep keeper pothole around 4pm (near the bolt bypass on the left LDC) by sequencing/partner
assists and got out using 2 potshots with rocks from the pothole and one pack toss. Threw the rocks back into the pothole
after we were all out. Fun! Some decided to do the rappel bypass. We took a snack break in the nice warm sun around
4:45pm. Did a few more downclimbs, wades and a swim to get to the second keeper pothole (around 5:30pm.) We used a macrame
knot around the window for a handline or rap into a pool. The second keeper was a climb out on a slick large branch/small
log. The final rappel was awesome as usual. Rappeling through the window into the Golden Cathedral pool is just
spectacular. Glad Jen and the others were able to experience it. Fun stuff. Most people wore 3/2 full wetsuits and were
fine. The warmer blooded went without a wetsuit as it was in the upper 80's during the day. We finished the rappel around

We hiked back to the confluence of Neon and the Escalante. We again broke into two groups. Six of us (Rom, Stuart, Ben,
Jonas, Tim and I) hiked down the Escalante and did a bivvy to be closer to the Bakers. The flies on the hike were horrible;
and seemed to favor me more than the others. At our bivvy spot, we spread our wet gear out in the tamarisk trees to dry out
overnight. The rest headed back to the Fence canyon camp and would do something less aggressive the next day.

Saturday 5/26:

We woke up at 5:30am, and made breakfast. We finished the hike over to the Bakers, seeing some amazing destruction from the
awesome power of the October 2006 floods: We started up the slickrock and
debated whether to do West, East or both Bakers; and which one to do first if we were to do both (like I wanted to.) We
decided to do West Baker:

We would then see what time it was when we finished. We would then drop in to East if we had time. West Baker was awesome.
We dropped in around 9am, and shortly came to a murky pool. A few of us (including me) wanted to jump it if it was safe,
but people were taking longer to get ready, so I did a handline into the pool to check it out. It was a little shallow at
just over 4 feet, but still able to jump if careful. Some jumped and others rapped.

The canyon was very fun with lots of variety. Some swims, a jump or two, fun downclimbing, a very tight squeeze, some mossy
sections, and beautiful sculpting. Most wore 3/2 full wetsuits, the warmer blooded wore 3/2 farmer johns, and were fine;
but it was in the upper 80's during the day. The canyon had raps to 55 feet, some from natural anchors, some from a single
bolt. Some natural anchors could be built near the bolts, but the bolts were in decent shape and were pretty clean so we
used them. We hit the confluence with East around 11:15am. So far, we were making decent time. We hiked up East for a
bit, and it looked pretty awesome.

We continued back and down, and saw a possible exit on the East side of the canyon around Noon. We discussed our options.
We could try to upclimb here, and it might be a shortcut to hit East Baker. Or it might burn enough time where we would no
longer have enough time to do East. We could skip the possible exit and hike out and go around; but the entrance to East is
not supposed to be very straightforward. Or we could just head back to camp. Several people (including me) wanted to give
the possible exit a shot; it would be awesome if it went. Would be quite a shortcut. The first upclimb into a subway was
challenging, but not too bad. The next section was long and pretty exposed. With some rock gear, it might be decent, but
we didn't have enough to protect a climb. We also didn't know if there was more obstacles after the climb. We decided to
play it safe and not risk a possible serious injury. We downclimbed back into main Baker, and headed downcanyon.

The lower section (after the confluence of West and East Baker) was still a great canyon. Still some downclimbs, swimming
and awesome scenery. We hit the final rappel around 1:30pm. It was early enough that we still had a chance to do East.
However, we would likely be hiking back to camp in the dark if we did. We then had a big and early day as we were planning
to do Choprock tomorrow. We decided to play it on the conservative side and save East Baker for another time, and hiked
back to camp. We got back to camp around 4:30pm, and relaxed and chatted with the group.

We found out that another group who camped near us had gone into Choprock today, from one person that was with that group
that didn't go in. They weren't back when it started to get dark and he was starting to get concerned; and was debating
hiking out to get help for a rescue. I let him know that we were heading into Choprock the next day, so we would get there
before any rescue team would. I told him to just wait, and hopefully the group would be out tonight. If not, they likely
would have gotten held up from difficult conditions or possibly an injury (sprained ankle, etc) as the weather had been
great all weekend. If it was from difficult conditions, they would likely be out early the next day. If it was an injury,
when we went through the next day, we could help them if they needed it. I let our group know the situation, that we might
be in for some difficult conditions in Choprock and/or a possible situation where we would need to help other canyoneers.
It turned out that we heard the other team get back around 10:30pm, after we were already in our tents. Glad they made it
back, but I figured this meant we were in for some difficult conditions the next day and was glad that we skipped East

Sunday 5/27:

Sunday was Choprock: One of my favorite canyons. Long, beautiful, and not to
be taken lightly: Seven of us would drop in; Rom, Brian, Ben, Diane, Stuart,
Tim, and I.

We woke up early, just after 4am, because we were expecting issues from what we heard from the field and since we knew it
took the other group of canyoneers a long time to complete it the day before. We had breakfast, prepped, and started the
long approach hike around 5:30am, and were dropping into the canyon around 7:30am. We suited up prior to a few downclimbs
into pools; still above the Riparian section. We did the rappel into the Riparian section around 9am.

The Riparian section seemed to be even more lush than last time, with a LOT of poison ivy plants. Some were like trees,
towering around 15 feet high. Incredible. We then hit the Happy section around 10:15am. The Happy section is wonderful.
Beautiful and clear flowing water through sculpted canyon and subway sections. We played around a bit, climbing up and
jumping into some awesome pools. Not too long though, as we were anticipating difficulties in the Grim section.

We hit the Grim section around 11:15am. There was a large log jam in the first tight section. I first climbed over, and it
was easy to go around; but it's a really cool section. I climbed back around and dropped in. Pulled a few of the logs out
and the rest of the jam came crashing down. Cool. Now the whole group could experience this cool, dark, tight and twisty

The Grim section seemed to have more log jams than previous years, but all the upclimbs were from dry spots, with the walls
near the upclimbs were quite condusive to easy climbing. There were many swims, including two longer swims in the canyon.
The first long one is an awesome swim through tight twisty narrows for a hundred yards or so. All of us were in full
wetsuits; minimum of 4/3mm and were fine. I was a little chilly because of a cheap wetsuit, but not too bad.
Unfortunately, my waterproof camera case opened on one of the upclimbs, and my camera plunged into a pool of water. Got it
back, and hoped it would work again when it dried out. Didn't get any more pics after that happened though.

We hit the end of the canyon around 1pm and were pretty surprised. I thought Choprock was a lot easier than previous years,
and others agreed. Since we still had plenty of time left in the day, Ben and Tim wanted to see how far they could upclimb
the canyon. I was kind of bummed, and didn't really feel like doing the upclimb. They headed up, and the rest of us rapped
down, and lounged around in the sun, drying our gear. We then leisurely strolled the river floating our packs behind us
back to camp. I wish we knew we could have made it through that quick (less than 10 hours tent to tent, including LOTS of
leisure time on the return) as we could have added East Baker the previous day. Oh well, better safe than sorry. East will
be there next time.

We got back to camp just before 3pm. We talked with the rest of the group; and lounged around by the river. Everyone got
together for dinner, and we spent the rest of the night visiting around camp. We discussed the plans for the next day. We
would try to hike out early, and possibly fit in one of the shorter Spooky/Peekaboo/Brimstone canyons. I'd love to do the
Spooky/Peekaboo loop, but don't know if we would have time; since we still had the long drive home as well.

Monday 5/28:

I woke up around 6am, and started packing up camp. Others were moving pretty slow. Jonas and I had taken some of the load
from Jen and Misty (who had hiked out the day before) and hiked up to the vehicles. Made it in less than 1:45. Pretty good
timing. We then waited for the others. They were taking a LONG time. We decided to leave a note on the car for them;
saying to meet us at the Kiva Coffeehouse. Just before leaving, Amber (from the other Choprock group) came up asking if we
had seen two of their group. They hadn't shown up for an Egypt canyon that morning. Unfortunately we hadn't. Bummer, they
were having a rough time this weekend. We told her that we would check with the others. We then headed off to the Kiva
Coffeehouse for breakfast; hoping the others would get there early enough to do another canyon; maybe a rap down Calf Creek.

Unfortunately, they didn't get there until around noon, seems like people just wanted a leisure return day. Thus, we just
enjoyed the company and the awesome food at the Kiva. It was still an awesome weekend with some really great canyon
experiences and great friends. I'm looking forward to getting back there soon...

We did hear back from the other group, and all of them made it out safe as well. That's the most important thing, followed
by people having a good time...


20070524D1-31 Egypt 4 - Chimney and Long Way Down.MOV

Group Room (multiple albums):

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