Dominguez Canyon: Snow and Ice, Part 3


Oct 8, 2012
Check out the threads by Brutus on Dominguez Canyon for location details and a contrast of conditions. As the "old man" Brutus refers to and the only one with a camera, I get to write this 3rd part.

A friend I haven't seen for 30 years was in southern Utah for Christmas Vacation so we decided to try to get together. My son wanted to take his wife down the canyon so we tagged along and soon with family and friends we had a total of nine.

We arrived at the canyon with snow flurries on top of a foot of snow that had already accumulated from previous storms. We knew the rappels had great flat staging areas so we were not worried about that part but, could we get up to the top in the first place?
1 snowy start.JPG
2 approach2 IMG_6168.jpg We hiked up the canyon and soon came to the first obstacle, about a 14 foot climb. Without the snow it was minor but, a little ice and snow complicates things. Fortunately, My friend and a couple others were good at bouldering so they got up and lowered a rope.
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A little further and we were ready to start the climb through a draw to the top. Again, on earlier trips the sand and rocks on the steep slope just took a lot of energy but presented no technical issue. There is one ten foot vertical climb which was previously easier than the other climb we had already done. With the snow and ice all the great hand and foot holds seemed to disappear. again my friend and a couple others proved up to the task and scaled it. The rope was lowered with several figure-eight loops in it and with some pushing from below we got everyone up. I was last and ended up using arm power up the rope more than any climbing technique. Sorry no pictures, I had the camera tucked away from the snow as I was slipping and crawling as I concentrated more on the climb.

We had to continue pushing and pulling each other and stretched the rope out a couple of times. An extra hand was required to get most of us the last step. One confession, when my turn came at this point, I reached up and lost my balance. I was able to direct my fall into shrubs behind me and popped right back up with success the second time.
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Above: a hand up for the last one, my son. Below: The human chain to back up the one giving the hand.
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From this point is is a fairly easy hike the rest of the way to the first rappel. On the slope into the ravine leading to the canyon, I was on my butt more than my feet.
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The plain truth is the climb up was absolutely the most challenging part of this trip. In fact really the snow and cooperative effort to get to the top elevated this otherwise fun trip to an adventure.

Now for the part we fought for, the fun of descending the canyon.
First Rappel
7 keith first rappel IMG_6191.jpg
7 scott first rappel IMG_6195.jpg
Not every descent went perfect. The ice ended up with one person inverted but smiling as the belayer lowered her.
8 bonnie inverted IMG_6192.jpg
The second rappel is only a short walk. The canyon in snow was gorgeous.
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The hardest part of the rappels was waiting in the cold for your turn. Above is part of the group waiting above the anchor my son and I built last time we were in the canyon. You can barely see the webbing and quick link in the lower right hand corner.
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These first two rappels are about 30' each. There can be mud at the bottom of the first and water under the second. Both were frozen this time. Last time the mud was sticky but shallow and the water was avoidable.

The third and last rappel is few hundred yards away through a nice narrow section with an easy 20' down climb. From above you cannot get a view of the rappel. It is about 120 feet. My rope is 260 feet and both ends had a lot of extra at the bottom. we rigged the rope so we could send people down both sides. We went one at a time but hooked up the next person while the other descended. The feet do get cold standing there waiting. So, we tried to minimize the wait.
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A shot from the top just before the first went over the edge.

Next a few shots from below.



With the rappels done, all that was left was the walk down the canyon to the vehicles, about 2/3 of a mile. The only obstacle was the 14' drop we had climbed before, far easier down than up. Many just sat and slid down others used a hand line held by one of the others to slow the descent.
My son and I took a little time to pull and coil the rope. By this time, one foot was uncomfortably cold. So, I was walking fast to create some heat. We did not catch up until we were almost to the vehicles.

Below: my son dropping down.
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As I reached my Jeep, my foot was finally warm. We had an adventure and what could be better to re-bond a friendship?

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We don't have dry suits. Maybe next year?