Southern Utah Canyoneering

Aldaron

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Jun 16, 2012
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I'm going to admit that I have become reluctant to continue posting trip reports here because it seems like they generate little interest. I feel like I waste my time posting the reports when no one really cares. But I'm going to give it one last chance with a short report before I totally give up on it. This isn't meant as a complaint against anyone here...if people don't like my reports, that's my problem. That's why God created Facebook, anyway, right? :)

So, on November 8, 2015, a NASA engineer I met in the caving club here in Huntsville and I took a LOOOOONG drive to Hanksville to do some technical canyoneering. We had each taken a technical canyoneering class in the past, and we each had a grand total of two technical canyons under our belts. We had also recently taken a vertical caving class, so we were pretty sure that we could pull this off without dying. We wanted to go in October, but I had other responsibilities, so we went as early as we could, hoping the weather would hold.

Did I mention we drove out there? I'm pretty sure that was by far the most dangerous part of the trip...but I wanted my 4Runner with me...it felt like I was back home!

We arrived at Blarney around 11 am on Monday and decided to get right to it. I thought Blarney was a great canyon and a good warm-up to get us started. The hike up to the top was a good scramble, but at least it woke us up after the long drive. And the canyon was beautiful.

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We didn't have any problems with any anchors or rappels, so it was a good day.

The next day brought rain and snow, so we sat it out and just drove around. Of course, I had to show him our Survivorman findings...

Wednesday we hit Baptist Draw. We weren't really prepared for water, though, and we hit a big, deep pool just before the first rappel. After much debate, we decided to wait and fight another day and climbed out of the canyon near the pool and made our way to the trail that leads between upper chute and the trailhead. The walk to upper Chute was simply beautiful and, as always, I loved the quiet and solitude of the Swell's backcountry.

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We dropped down into Chute and quickly encountered another large pool, so we didn't go any further. I had intended to bring my wetsuit, but I totally forgot to take it, so we called it a day and climbed back to the truck.

The next day we were going to hit High Spur or Big Spring, but we ran into lots of snow before reaching Hans Flat. I was worried that the snow would melt and turn the roads into an impassable mess, so we adapted and went down Little Blue John. I actually think this was my favorite canyon of the trip. It had some longer rappels and the canyon was really nice. The hike across the desert back to the trailhead was pretty long, but that was nice, too. Unfortunately, I didn't get any photos in Little Blue, but I've got some GoPro footage that I'll get edited.

The next day we headed back down to North Wash to do the east fork of Leprechaun. This was also a very nice canyon with a fun ascent up to the top. The slots in this canyon were long and tight...I got pretty worn out carrying my entirely too large pack through the long slots. We did start to get more comfortable with the downclimbs in this canyon, so that was nice. We ran into one putrid pool of water right past the junction with middle fork, but that was the only pool we encountered that we couldn't get around.

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And the next day we hit the west fork of Shillelagh. This canyon wasn't nearly as tight as Leprechaun, but it was really pretty with its wide open rappels.

DSC04804.jpg


I'll post this short clip if you promise not to criticize our technique too much!


We did have a point of drama in this canyon that could have turned out bad. About 200 yards before the junction with the right fork, we ran into three cows that were stuck in the canyon. They could have backed up, but they couldn't turn around, and they couldn't figure out how to back up. We tried for 20 minutes to get them to back up, but it just didn't work. There was no way to stem above them, and they were very scared, so it was a bad situation. Luckily, we had just passed the exit point for leaving the left fork to traverse over to the right fork if doing both canyons, so we were able to back up a couple of hundred yards and get on the slickrock above the slot. We made our way past them and were able to drop back down into the canyon at the junction. While we didn't have any problems, I have no idea what we would have done if there hadn't been an escape nearby. There would have been no way to get past them without risking getting thrown into the canyon and trampled.

When we got to Hanksville we called the Sheriff's Department to let them know. We got a call later from the rancher thanking us for calling him. He said, in all, seven cows were stuck in the canyon by the time they got there, and they were only able to get five of them out. I don't know what that means will happen with the other two, or what that means for the canyon.

That was our last canyon...we then made the looooong drive back to Alabama.

We were definitely not perfect canyoneers on this trip, but I think I chose wisely on the canyons that we did, so there weren't many problems. We also learned a lot that will make us better on future trips. I need to learn better rope management...I used an ATC but my friend used a figure 8 which resulted in all sorts of rope twist that we just didn't know how to handle. All in all, it was a great trip and I look forward to heading back out for some new canyons next year.

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Ben

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Sep 12, 2014
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thanks for posting : ) my favorite people on here are the ones who put up trip reports. it's how i see the places that i haven't been yet, which is way more important to me than any discussion of gear or, well, any thing else. generally i just don't feel i have add much to the conversation when it's some where i don't really know any thing about. but thanks again.
 
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Nick

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Aug 9, 2007
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12,934
Yeah, thanks for this. That's too bad you might not post reports anymore. Some definitely get more attention than others for all of us that post our reports. You can't complain about your last one from the Winds though! Tons of views, likes and comments.

There are so many lurkers that never post or even comment. It bums me out sometimes, but it's those of us that do share that keep me stoked.
 

Jackson

I like to go outside.
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May 31, 2015
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Great report. Coming all the way from Alabama sure takes dedication! I never fully appreciate the accessibility of all the places around here (I see that something is 6 hours away and think that that's a long drive).

How do you figure they got the cows to walk backward out of that canyon??

I'm sometimes a lurker in that I don't always comment, but I try to like everything that interests/amuses/has a positive effect on me to show my support. I have yet to post an awesome multi-day trip report (read: your Green River Lakes to Elkhart Park trip that I hope to try some day), but to me, trip reports are the lifeblood of Backcountry Post, regardless of the number of comments they receive.
 

slc_dan

Desert Rat-Weekend Warrior
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Jun 7, 2012
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I haven't been able to watch the movie yet, but looks like a fun trip! Except that drive :(
 

Blake Merrell

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Feb 25, 2013
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I tend to like the people on here more. I use to be active on Bogley and the Canyon Collective. Both have been very helpful in fueling my adventures, but eventually i got sick of the flame throwers. Got flamed way to many times and got sick of the drama. sooo.... now I hang out here more. People seem nicer :D

Thanks for the TR :) I have great memories in all the canyons you visited. Baptist Draw was THE canyon that fueled my passion for the sport. It was in that canyon where I realized I could hike through tecnical canyons with my own gear. It changed my life.

Also, the north wash canyon hold a special place in my heart. I participated in a canyon "jihad", where I did all 7 Irish canyons in a day. It was a lot of work, but a ton of fun!

Glad to see you didn't have any issues with the cows. that is a canyon problem I have never thought about before.

btw... I can't believe you DROVE all the way from Alabama!
 

Aldaron

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Jun 16, 2012
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How do you figure they got the cows to walk backward out of that canyon??

I'm not sure how they got them out. We talked about it a lot, and the guy I was with grew up on a cattle ranch. My idea was that they would have to rappel in from above so that they wouldn't risk getting crushed, and then prod them backwards. That's really the only safe way I could figure out.

btw... I can't believe you DROVE all the way from Alabama!

I probably won't do that drive again. I wanted to have my 4Runner out there so that I could go anywhere I wanted. At the end of the day, I could have gone anywhere with a rental 4x4. And the drive out was most definitely the most dangerous part of the trip. At midnight, driving through Illinois, I saw 4 deer trying to cross the interstate, and there were dead deer almost every 5 miles. That was scary.
 

Glasterpiece

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Mar 19, 2014
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Guilty!

I read most all of the reports but seldom comment. In the future I will correct my ways.

Thank you.
 

gnwatts

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May 19, 2012
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Great report, good pics and video. Bummer about the cow.
 

Mph

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Apr 21, 2013
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nice trip...reminds me of the cow trapped down in Peekaboo...Someone has to make a dark comedy, Sundance movie about cows and canyoneering...thanks for the report.
 

mak1277

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May 2, 2014
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I'm among the group who reads (nearly) every trip report posted, but very seldom comments.
 

Curt

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Feb 1, 2014
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I'm afraid that I'm also one of the ones that reads most of the stuff that's posted but I don't comment very often. I'm glad you and everyone else post your trip reports. I probably ought to post more TR's myself.

What's this about Survivorman findings?
 

Blake Merrell

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Feb 25, 2013
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I'll post this short clip if you promise not to criticize our technique too much!

Like the clip. reminded me of when I did that canyon. That is a fun rappel! The largest one of the Irish Canyons? Happy to see ya using an autoblock for the first person down. do you do that for all rappels, or just the big ones?
 

Aldaron

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Jun 16, 2012
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Like the clip. reminded me of when I did that canyon. That is a fun rappel! The largest one of the Irish Canyons? Happy to see ya using an autoblock for the first person down. do you do that for all rappels, or just the big ones?

Yeah, it was a very pretty rappel. I think the right fork has a longer one, though.

We used the autoblock for the first person down and then the fireman belay for the second person. It's funny, but after I came home, I read up more about autoblocking, and it seems that people on other forums really don't like it. But the more we talked about it, the more I think it's a good idea. That's how @Canyonbug taught me to do it, so that's how I'm going to keep doing it for now, I guess!
 

Blake Merrell

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Feb 25, 2013
Messages
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Yeah, it was a very pretty rappel. I think the right fork has a longer one, though.

We used the autoblock for the first person down and then the fireman belay for the second person. It's funny, but after I came home, I read up more about autoblocking, and it seems that people on other forums really don't like it. But the more we talked about it, the more I think it's a good idea. That's how @Canyonbug taught me to do it, so that's how I'm going to keep doing it for now, I guess!

I was trained by Canyonbug as well! Great guy. Highly recommend his courses.

I use the auto block on rappels I think I need it. Large drops that freak me out.... yeah I use it. But, most of the time I don't' use it at all. When I do, I tend to use the VT Prusik. Love that knot!!
 

Slot Canyon

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Jul 7, 2013
Messages
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Thanks for the report. Nice to see someone reporting from my home state. I live in Birmingham and have driven out primarily to southeast Utah about 7 or 8 times. On about half of those trips I drove up to Evansville, Indiana to first pick up my brother. We have done some of the North Wash canyons you did so could identify with some of the report. I was out there solo the first week of October for some hiking and backpacking and the weather played havoc with my trip also. Took a fall trying to exit Step Canyon in Grand Gulch and busted my knee and face. It had started to rain and I was trying to retreat to an overhang I had passed about 20 min back up canyon. Climbing up a now wet pour off my feet went out from under me and I crashed. Finally limped to the overhand and it begin to really blow rain and hail. Creek about 50 ft below my camp flashed. Next morning creek had receded and I was able to limp out to my car but exit road had about a 100 foot section with 4 inches of water. I would have been there likely at least 3 days so ended up getting a wrecker pull out. (there was also a second long water/mud stretch on the road). Spent the night in Blanding and decided it would be in my best interest to get back home to "mama". Drove it in 2 days. Don't think I will do any more fall trips there due to the rain factor....spring has always been good to me. Interesting about the cows. There was a trip report somewhere about 4 yrs abo about a group coming down Short Canyon and discovering a putrid cow corps in the pool at the exit. Seems that in a narrow confine they have difficulty with reverse gear.
 

Aldaron

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Jun 16, 2012
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Man, that sounds rough! Sorry you had such a rough trip, but I'm glad you made it home okay. But, hey, don't the trips with adversity make for the best stories? :)
 

River

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Jan 26, 2012
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How long is the drive from Alabama? We used to drive about 900 miles from northern Idaho several times a year, but it always felt worth it when you stepped into that warm sun. The East Fork of Leprechaun is a fun one. That was my first technical canyon. If you head back, be sure to go down the West fork and Blarney too.
 
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