Looking for info on Death Hollow

dhertbag

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Feb 26, 2018
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I've been interested in doing the full Death Hollow hike out of Escalante Utah, starting at the Hell's Backbone trailhead and exiting at the Escalante river. I've been doing my homework on the route and I've been seeing a lot of mixed reports on what to expect as far as difficulty and technical challenges. I've seen reports that say it's a fairly "easy" hike and others stating that "I've never been in a place where there are more ways to fall down and get hurt". I watched YouTube videos of kids in tennis shoes completing the hike that don't show any questionable obstacles and have also read reports that say there are 18' drops. Can someone please give me the honest lowdown? I'm wondering about upper Death Hollow in particular where the amount of reliable info seems to be lacking. I want to make sure that I'm not getting in over my head. I have completed hikes of the top-down Zion Narrows route, Orderville Canyon, Coyote Gulch, Buckskin Gulch and others but don't have any rappelling experience. Any and all info is appreciated. Thanks.
 

Nick

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Upper Death Hollow is pretty serious and most people will want/need a wetsuit in all but the hottest conditions. Long, cold swims and some down climbs that may require handlines for some. You may also need a way to float your pack if it's not totally waterproof. @Artemus and @Bob can tell you more about that.

The lower part (BMT down) is mostly just hiking in knee deep cold water with lots of poison ivy. There are some minor obstacles that seem to come and go but nothing major.
 

Bob

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DB.....Upper Death Hollow doesn't compare to what you posted. It is hard....but in the same sense easy. There is no room for a mistake and getting hurt. Depending on the particular time going in you can have a lot of swimmiming or minimal swimming.... But you will have swimming. Yes the water is cold..... And in the shade alot. Mileage is slow.. flash flooding is very real...any rain forcast DONT go...if you're in the wrong place ....you'll die. But on the other hand it's a very beautiful and interesting hike.. there is no rappelling. Some take float tube....myself I just put air in my pad..put it in my pack, strapped the pack on and swim. Cold water doesn't bother me but others I've been with it has. Portions are very slick with moss. And lots of poison ivy....forcing you into the stream to hike. Water shoes are a must. If you're in good shape and can hike decent you'll be fine. PM me and I can fill you in more specific
 

dhertbag

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Feb 26, 2018
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Thanks for the info guys. It’s sounds like I need to put this off for another day. I’m looking at scheduling a spring trip with a fairly large group, which would make for slow progress and more opportunity for injury. I’ll maybe plan something in the future with a select few, trusted companions. For future reference, how many days would you need to complete the full traverse, and not feel rushed?
 

Bob

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Large group takes a lot longer....getting thru swimming and getting gear back on .... Doable but longer. Some side canyons are worth the visit....Maime Creek, hidden forest...
 

Strawsome

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Feb 10, 2018
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I'm looking for the a lot of info on this hike as well. I'm hoping to take a group of 5-6 experienced hikers in May (weather permiting). I've also done Zion narrows, subway, buckskin, coyote gulch and others but can't seem to get a feel for this one. Is Mid-May too early? too cold? How long are these swims? (like Subway? 10-20 yards long?) Is the decent sketchy like 1 miss step and you're fallingto your death or not that bad? I'm planning on starting in Boulder just past the airstrip but haven't decided where to exit yet. Is hiking to HWY 12 bridge, the "death hollow parking lot"(just south of the death hollow/escalante river conf) or Escalante city best? Also, I've seen lots of different total distances for the hike. I'm assuming 22 miles total but seems like it might be a bit less (especially if we just exit near the confluence to the parking lot)? Can you park near the exit in Escalante or is that private land? Lastly is doing the hike in 2 days (1 night in the canyon) realistic? Lastly what is Upper vs Lower Death Hollow?
 
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Bob

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There is trailhead near town where the escalante river comes out of the canyon...
 

LarryBoy

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Mid May should be ok. Water may be a little cold.
Swims completely depend on beaver activity. From the airstrip two years ago, the max was waist-deep but that varies year-over-year.
Sketch depends on your definition of sketch. I seem to remember it as sloping slickrock but the footing's ok in dry weather.
22 miles is the distance to the Hwy 12 bridge. 1 night is fine if you just keep hiking all day/get an early start. The miles aren't super slow for the most part. Depends on your photos to walking to food to harmonica time ratio.
 

Jackson

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I'm looking for the a lot of info on this hike as well. I'm hoping to take a group of 5-6 experienced hikers in May (weather permiting). I've also done Zion narrows, subway, buckskin, coyote gulch and others but can't seem to get a feel for this one. Is Mid-May too early? too cold? How long are these swims? (like Subway? 10-20 yards long?) Is the decent sketchy like 1 miss step and you're fallingto your death or not that bad? I'm planning on starting in Boulder just past the airstrip but haven't decided where to exit yet. Is hiking to HWY 12 bridge, the "death hollow parking lot"(just south of the death hollow/escalante river conf) or Escalante city best? Also, I've seen lots of different total distances for the hike. I'm assuming 22 miles total but seems like it might be a bit less (especially if we just exit near the confluence to the parking lot)? Can you park near the exit in Escalante or is that private land? Lastly is doing the hike in 2 days (1 night in the canyon) realistic? Lastly what is Upper vs Lower Death Hollow?

Upper Death Hollow generally refers to the section above the Boulder Mail Trail. As has been mentioned above, there are multiple swims through cold water in that section. The lower portion is less demanding.

Mid May should be fine as long as the weather doesn't look too cold or rainy. The water in the canyon will always be cool (not frigid), so if anyone in your group doesn't like being in cold water up to mid thigh or waist, they may want to reconsider. And if anyone in your group has bad reactions to poison ivy, make sure they know they'll encounter a good amount of it on the trip.

Lastly, just don't overthink it all. Lower Death Hollow is a blast and shouldn't be too hard for most people who have backpacked before.

Oh, and be sure to come back and post a trip report on here when you get back! The unofficial rule is that the first advice is free, the next will cost you a trip report. :)
 

Bob

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Lower is cake
....upper is interesting and not to be done if rain is in forecast...or high temp with snowpack on the ground...
 

Strawsome

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Feb 10, 2018
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So it looks like the weather isn't cooperating as much as I'd like it to. I have 2 more questions on this hike. We're headed out in 2 days to finally do the hike (Friday & Saturday) and it's looking like there is a decent chance for rain. How concerned should I be? Also, was thinking of hiking to the "cove" to camp for possible protection from the rain but not sure how far into the hike that is......anyone know?
 

Nick

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Man, that is super fast, in my opinion. Yeah, if you get up early and hike long days, it's doable, but remember there is hardly any actual trail on this route so you never get into that stride where you're knocking down miles like you do on a trail. Not to mention not being able to stop and enjoy the place. But everyone's into a a different experience. That said, A high of 70 and low of 46 is on the chilly side for walking Death Hollow. You'll probably want neo socks to keep your feet happy. 50% chance of precip is certainly high enough that conventional wisdom would say stay out of narrow canyons. Especially ones with big catch basins like Death Hollow. That said, in my reading of the storm, it doesn't seem like it could make too large an impact. I wouldn't want to be in the core of Death Hollow for that part though.
 
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