11 days of canyons in Springdale to Page area (second half)


May 18, 2012
As this is part 2 of a trip to the same places as I posted in part 1, there's not a lot more to say, so to make a bit of a story, as Bull Valley Gorge is featured, I will do it as a little tribute to a Kanab photographer and photography shop owner called Terry Alderman, whose photo inspired me to go there and who was great company on 2 trips he took me on, but I was told he sadly passed away in the past year or two.

Back perhaps 20 years ago on my first South West visit I saw upper Antelope canyon, with no other tourist there, and was just amazed. My only knowledge was of park map trails in national parks so I was surprised it was there after seeing a postcard in Page. The same shop had a card of The Wave -labelled only Vermillion Cliffs Wilderness - but some research after the vacation led me both to its location, Paria Canyon and Wire Pass and my first Kelsey book.
Trip 2 it was easy to get a Wave permit then, and at the parking one local said to another Whitepocket was even better. We also saw Wire Pass and I just found my first two slot experiences so exciting. That followed by a photo of Toroweap on a.magazine cover at Chicago airport led to trip 3 and Terry taking us to Whitepocket (again no other people)

We had reserved with another guide for some reason for Toroweap, but after he warned us the road was prone to punctures, we got one - and on a Sunday when nowhere could changed a tyre in Kanab. He couldn't take us again, so we asked Terry, whose prices were half those of other outfitters, I think because he so loved the places himself and he certainly enjoyed taking his own pictures at White pocket.

He was a lovely guy who told us lots of stories about life in the area, the BLM, and his shop had non-digital cameras of all different kinds. I recall him saying how people made once-in-a-lifetime trips to Grand Canyon South Rim, and sometimes something would go wrong with their cameras, so they would make a round-trip drive of several hundred miles to him to get them repaired.

But back to Bull Valley, I loved those slots I'd seen and wasn't aware of many others then - certainly easily accessible ones, that didn't involved canyoneering, so when I saw 2 more lovely shots - narrow but different to Antelope - on his wall I asked where they were and he told me Bull Valley Gorge and Willis Creek. He also made a great recommendation on Point Sublime which I was later to spend a wonderful night watching sunset at.

My first attempt to peer into Bull Valley at semi-darkness led to me drive straight over as it was hard to tell we'd gone over "the bridge".

Maybe 9 years later I returned to hike it, expecting the entry point to have the tree trunk lodged at 45 degrees that my descriptions said you could climb down. But a flash flood had taken it, we had no ropes and it looked a 12ft drop into a very muddy pool. Not know if a second similar drop would need a rope, and not wanting to be trapped between the 2, we chose instead to walk a few miles down the rim instead.

Forward a few more years, and we went prepared with rope and wetsuits, but this time he entry floor level seemed to have raised a few feet so we were able to chimney down.

Soon before the bridge I recognised the spot in Terry's photo, which he'd obviously taken time to compose, got in the right light and used a tripod. So I've included it as the last photo here, even though mine does not compare.

Within a mile or 2 we passed a cairn for an exit that I'd read about, but we decided to risk continuing to another about 6 miles down, which we'd only heard was a "possible" exit - a bit risky as we wouldn't have had time for the 18-mile loop to Willis.

The canyon walls got higher and higher so knew we were in for a tough ascent - which it was as we were a little tired from our 6th successive day of long hikes, it was steep and loose underfoot, but nothing scary. Heading back on the east rim proved much harder than those years earlier on the west as you could not hug the rim without going up and down gullies and the rim went in and out with a lot of vegetation. There was no discernible trail, so although we tried to follow washes they fizzled out, so I felt guilty that there was no way of avoiding treading on cryptobiotic soil.

We certainly had not walked in a straight bearing and the canyon's highest rim didn't appear very straight, plus going round gullies and approaching darkness made it tricky following a compass and the sat nav seems inconsistent but we knew we'd hit Skutumpah Road eventually and when we did we were only about 10 minutes off the car.

Perhaps we should have tried to exit on the west rim which I guess if more often used even maybe beyond the cairned exit.

It doesn't seem an overly popular canyon, perhaps because it's not technical (just a bit of chimneying/stemming/and one rope was in place for a short drop), and not too colourful, but the narrow part, the variation and the deeper parts meant I thoroughly enjoyed it, so thank you Terry. Willis Creek 3 years earlier was also well worth the visit.

(if anyone has seen 3/4 of these on Facebook there's some different ones)

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