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Sphinx

Robbers Roost beta posted by Sam G
  • The Hype

    Sphinx Canyon is a true backcountry slot in the heart of The Roost. This shallow drainage has a variety of obstacles to surmount and three unique sections of canyon. There’s a fair amount of hiking required for this one, even with a 4wd vehicle and car shuttle. At one point it’s a very narrow canyon so it’s not recommended for large-frame canyoneers. Advanced natural anchor skills are critical.

    Disclaimer: This information could be wrong... canyons change and I’m not perfect. This information is not a substitute for good judgement, experience, competency and self reliance... all of which are required for this canyon. This is a rugged, backcountry canyon, descend it at your own risk. Canyoneering is inherently dangerous, if you decide to attempt Sphinx Canyon don’t exceed your skill level and don’t hold me liable for anything that happens to you.

    Getting There

    Driving:
    There are lots of unmarked roads in this area and it can get confusing. Get a good driving map and match it up with these directions before hand.

    From roughly mile marker 135.4 on Hwy 24, head east on the unpaved, but fairly well maintained Maze Road for 24.4 miles to what is known as the "Big Tee." There is an information kiosk at this intersection, and it is a significant landmark in the Roost. From this intersection, travel south on the Maze road towards the Hans Flat ranger station, arriving at another signed intersection in 7.1 miles. This is the "Little Y."

    Veer right at The Little Y and follow the sign towards Ekker Ranch.

    After a couple hundred feet make a 90 degree turn onto a road that comes in from the right(west).

    Clock your odometer and follow this road for 6 miles until you come to a 3-way junction. This junction is near Robbers Roost Spring. Follow the right(west) fork for half a mile to where the road veers north and an old overgrown road continues on straight, this junction will be the 2wd trailhead(http://goo.gl/maps/P6lbm).

    You’ll want to spot a car where the road ends, it’s about 3 miles past the 2wd trailhead.

    If you have a high clearance vehicle, spot a car then drive past the 2wd trailhead heading east/northeast on the old overgrown road mentioned above. After a few hundred feet, an older and more overgrown road comes in on your left. Take this road and follow it for about half a mile until it drops down from the rim onto slickrock. Park on the rim, this is the High Clearance Trailhead(http://goo.gl/maps/NKuPs).


    From the Trailhead:
    If you’re parked at the 2wd trailhead, follow the above directions on foot to the High Clearance Trailhead, it’s just over a half a mile walk.

    From the High Clearance Trailhead the hike to the start of the slot is over 4 miles and it’s mostly on flat ground. The old overgrown road that you either just drove or walked on for about a half a mile is the same road you’ll be following on foot for the majority of the approach hike.

    Start the approach by following the old road as it drops down from the rim onto slickrock and heads southwest, with the South Fork of Robber’s Roost Canyon on your left. You’re going to continue hiking in that direction for about 4/5 of a mile just below the rim, before picking up the overgrown road again on the other side of the rock. This short slickrock section is the only part of the approach with difficult routefinding, as it may be hard to follow/find the road, use your map and compass carefully.

    After the slickrock section, you pick up the clearly defined road as it cuts in front of you heading slightly uphill to your right(northwest). After a few hundred yards, you gain the canyon rim and the old overgrown road curves left and continues on southwest.

    Follow this road heading southwest on flat ground for about about two and a half more miles(about three and a half total from the High clearance Trailhead) until it once again drops down from the canyon rim, stop here and don't drop down to the slickrock.
    The canyon that you’re looking southwest at is Etta Place Canyon. From this point hike directly north for about 1/4 mile until you reach the canyon rim(http://goo.gl/maps/Q2WS7). You should now be looking north at Sphinx.

    The first section of Sphinx, which you’re looking at from start to finish, is called The Hallway(see picture). From here you can see the start of the slot to the north and it’s about a half a mile away as the crow flies. Routefind down the steep slickrock as you lose 400 vertical feet in a 1/4 mile. After almost 4.5 miles of hiking from the High Clearance Trailhead you’ll approach the start of The Hallway section of Sphinx, turn left and head southwest into the slot.

    The Canyon - Rating: 3B III R   Longest Rap: ~180'   # of Raps: 2-4

    The Canyon:
    Sphinx has a technical section that’s roughly a mile long and it’s mostly a walkthrough, alternating between open canyon and slot canyon.


    The first section of narrows is called The Hallway. On approach, you can see the beginning and end of The Hallway section.

    About 1/4 mile in, the canyon widens and there is an escape on the left. The escape requires some moderate stemming style upclimbing.

    At the end of the technical section is the main event, while hiking in open canyon you will come to a point where the canyon slots up just before the big exit rappel. You'll be forced to choose between crossing a silo and stemming very high up, or rappelling into the silo, this route description is for rappelling into the silo and taking the low road. This short section is tight and dark and physical and requires a brief section of stemming.

    Skills required:
    Serious natural anchor skills are required.
    Navigational skills are required.
    Being physically fit and capable of long hiking and brief stemming is a requirement.

    Rappels:
    4 rappels. We estimated the largest rappel to be around 180' based on what we had leftover from our 200' rope.

    Additional Risk:
    There is an abrupt large free rappel with few resources to build an anchor and this drop is currently(as of Nov. 2012) anchorless.
    There is a very brief section where this canyon gets narrow, only thin people(and packs) will fit... be warned. Small people and folks with experience in other "skinny" canyons shouldn't have a problem.


    Canyoneering is risky. This isn't a popular slot canyon and it's really far out there. Don't expect to find anchors or social trails to aid you. If you require rescue in this canyon, the rescue team will likely have never heard of Sphinx Canyon and will have difficulty finding any information on this canyon other than this right here.
    Water:
    Before the escape a 1/4 mile in, you’ll likely encounter some water in a pothole(see pic). It’s possible to climb around this pothole on the right side(ldc) and the traverse goes at about 5.9. If you can’t do the traverse you’ll have to go through it, which I didn’t do, so I can’t tell you much about it.

    Upon completion of the final rappel there is a spring (or seep?), the moment you touch down from the rappel you’ll notice the water. It’s accessible, clean water that I drank directly without getting sick. I was there in early november after a dry summer and there was lots of water.

    Anchor Conditions
    As of November 2012 there were NO ANCHORS in this canyon! Please do not place bolts in this canyon. Please take Leave No Trace ethics to heart and leave little to no webbing.

    Gear Recommendations
    Bring... a 60m rope, helmet, technical gear, increased friction for rappelling device, small packs, extra webbing

    Flash Flood Danger: High

    The Exit

    This section of beta is missing because when we did this canyon, we fixed ropes and jugged back up them.

    I recommend exiting up the North Fork of Robber’s Roost Canyon and using the standard Mindbender/Not-Mindbender exit where your 2nd car is waiting. I haven’t done this hike out so I can’t give beta on it, but info is readily available on multiple other sources.


    Another option would be to skip the large free rappel at the end of the canyon and go back the way you came. This would require you to fix at least one rope and jug up it.
  • Driving:
    There are lots of unmarked roads in this area and it can get confusing. Get a good driving map and match it up with these directions before hand.

    From roughly mile marker 135.4 on Hwy 24, head east on the unpaved, but fairly well maintained Maze Road for 24.4 miles to what is known as the "Big Tee." There is an information kiosk at this intersection, and it is a significant landmark in the Roost. From this intersection, travel south on the Maze road towards the Hans Flat ranger station, arriving at another signed intersection in 7.1 miles. This is the "Little Y."

    Veer right at The Little Y and follow the sign towards Ekker Ranch.

    After a couple hundred feet make a 90 degree turn onto a road that comes in from the right(west).

    Clock your odometer and follow this road for 6 miles until you come to a 3-way junction. This junction is near Robbers Roost Spring. Follow the right(west) fork for half a mile to where the road veers north and an old overgrown road continues on straight, this junction will be the 2wd trailhead(http://goo.gl/maps/P6lbm).

    You’ll want to spot a car where the road ends, it’s about 3 miles past the 2wd trailhead.

    If you have a high clearance vehicle, spot a car then drive past the 2wd trailhead heading east/northeast on the old overgrown road mentioned above. After a few hundred feet, an older and more overgrown road comes in on your left. Take this road and follow it for about half a mile until it drops down from the rim onto slickrock. Park on the rim, this is the High Clearance Trailhead(http://goo.gl/maps/NKuPs).


    From the Trailhead:
    If you’re parked at the 2wd trailhead, follow the above directions on foot to the High Clearance Trailhead, it’s just over a half a mile walk.

    From the High Clearance Trailhead the hike to the start of the slot is over 4 miles and it’s mostly on flat ground. The old overgrown road that you either just drove or walked on for about a half a mile is the same road you’ll be following on foot for the majority of the approach hike.

    Start the approach by following the old road as it drops down from the rim onto slickrock and heads southwest, with the South Fork of Robber’s Roost Canyon on your left. You’re going to continue hiking in that direction for about 4/5 of a mile just below the rim, before picking up the overgrown road again on the other side of the rock. This short slickrock section is the only part of the approach with difficult routefinding, as it may be hard to follow/find the road, use your map and compass carefully.

    After the slickrock section, you pick up the clearly defined road as it cuts in front of you heading slightly uphill to your right(northwest). After a few hundred yards, you gain the canyon rim and the old overgrown road curves left and continues on southwest.

    Follow this road heading southwest on flat ground for about about two and a half more miles(about three and a half total from the High clearance Trailhead) until it once again drops down from the canyon rim, stop here and don't drop down to the slickrock.
    The canyon that you’re looking southwest at is Etta Place Canyon. From this point hike directly north for about 1/4 mile until you reach the canyon rim(http://goo.gl/maps/Q2WS7). You should now be looking north at Sphinx.

    The first section of Sphinx, which you’re looking at from start to finish, is called The Hallway(see picture). From here you can see the start of the slot to the north and it’s about a half a mile away as the crow flies. Routefind down the steep slickrock as you lose 400 vertical feet in a 1/4 mile. After almost 4.5 miles of hiking from the High Clearance Trailhead you’ll approach the start of The Hallway section of Sphinx, turn left and head southwest into the slot.
  • The Canyon:
    Sphinx has a technical section that’s roughly a mile long and it’s mostly a walkthrough, alternating between open canyon and slot canyon.


    The first section of narrows is called The Hallway. On approach, you can see the beginning and end of The Hallway section.

    About 1/4 mile in, the canyon widens and there is an escape on the left. The escape requires some moderate stemming style upclimbing.

    At the end of the technical section is the main event, while hiking in open canyon you will come to a point where the canyon slots up just before the big exit rappel. You'll be forced to choose between crossing a silo and stemming very high up, or rappelling into the silo, this route description is for rappelling into the silo and taking the low road. This short section is tight and dark and physical and requires a brief section of stemming.

    Skills required:
    Serious natural anchor skills are required.
    Navigational skills are required.
    Being physically fit and capable of long hiking and brief stemming is a requirement.

    Rappels:
    4 rappels. We estimated the largest rappel to be around 180' based on what we had leftover from our 200' rope.

    Additional Risk:
    There is an abrupt large free rappel with few resources to build an anchor and this drop is currently(as of Nov. 2012) anchorless.
    There is a very brief section where this canyon gets narrow, only thin people(and packs) will fit... be warned. Small people and folks with experience in other "skinny" canyons shouldn't have a problem.


    Canyoneering is risky. This isn't a popular slot canyon and it's really far out there. Don't expect to find anchors or social trails to aid you. If you require rescue in this canyon, the rescue team will likely have never heard of Sphinx Canyon and will have difficulty finding any information on this canyon other than this right here.
    Water:
    Before the escape a 1/4 mile in, you’ll likely encounter some water in a pothole(see pic). It’s possible to climb around this pothole on the right side(ldc) and the traverse goes at about 5.9. If you can’t do the traverse you’ll have to go through it, which I didn’t do, so I can’t tell you much about it.

    Upon completion of the final rappel there is a spring (or seep?), the moment you touch down from the rappel you’ll notice the water. It’s accessible, clean water that I drank directly without getting sick. I was there in early november after a dry summer and there was lots of water.

    Anchor Conditions
    As of November 2012 there were NO ANCHORS in this canyon! Please do not place bolts in this canyon. Please take Leave No Trace ethics to heart and leave little to no webbing.

    Gear Recommendations
    Bring... a 60m rope, helmet, technical gear, increased friction for rappelling device, small packs, extra webbing

    Flash Flood Danger: High
  • This section of beta is missing because when we did this canyon, we fixed ropes and jugged back up them.

    I recommend exiting up the North Fork of Robber’s Roost Canyon and using the standard Mindbender/Not-Mindbender exit where your 2nd car is waiting. I haven’t done this hike out so I can’t give beta on it, but info is readily available on multiple other sources.


    Another option would be to skip the large free rappel at the end of the canyon and go back the way you came. This would require you to fix at least one rope and jug up it.
The information provided here is intended for entertainment purposes only. The creator of this information and/or Canyon Collective are not liable for any harm or damage caused by this information. Conditions in the backcountry are constantly changing, only you are responsible for your safety and well being.