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Bishop 9/26/16

Discussion in 'Trip Reports' started by Asmith, Mar 25, 2017.

  1. Asmith

    Asmith

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    Bishop 9/26/16

    Very little beta going into this canyon. We spoke to Rick Green who could tell us about the dark section(headlamp required), long silo section and that it was “spicy.” I had a write up that is now lost so I no longer have exact times but we hiked down to the exit point and set our rope to ascend out. Peter was using the day to scout a few things and hang out on the rim. Plan on about 1.5 hours to hike, find and set up the exit, add another 30-45 min to retrace and find the entrance to Bishop.

    Angus and I hiked back to the head of Bishop with our Lep packs, geared up in standard X fashion and headed in. The initial upper section is quite tame and hardly worth mentioning. I would lean towards an R with fairly low stemming. Middle section gets more difficult with increasing exposure(R+/X-). I remember an open section with a large boulder and that from there the canyon quickly progressed.

    High stemming, awkward climbs and everything else you would expect. There are three large drainages that enter from the LDC. As each of these enter you notice the canyon cutting deeper and features getting more bizarre as you go along. The difficulty also increases as you progress. I don’t remember any of these showing much if any promise of an exit unless someone else descended a drainage and set a rope.

    Exposed stemming will lead you to an obvious point where the crack goes over a ledge and the bottom drops out leaving you in an elevator style shaft 40+ feet to the ground. I take the packs while angus anchors in to provide a hand line while I investigate. “Better than it looks” I shout back up to Angus. A short walk presents you with a rockfall with a small hole going into darkness. It looks like a cave. Above is a very difficult looking climb that we didn’t even attempt. I wouldn’t rule out a potential alternate route higher. It would be one of the most heady climbs we have seen thus far by looks alone and unexplored territory in the canyon. Headlamps go on, into the dark we venture.

    The pinching and convoluted walls above prevent any light from entering. Walking/crawling at first but the canyon floor cuts away and now stemming in an otherwise pitch black environment. We both agreed only Sleepy Hollow has a dark section that compares. That itself is a distant second to the seriousness and amazement both felt in here. There is a turn or two that allows a very slight bluish hue of light into the canyon but not enough to navigate. There is difficult micro route finding in here through a black maze that pinches above and below at various spots. Bombays at times and a few unwelcome silos with unknown heights to cross. A few times were are shut down, have to retreat and find a higher route. I remember climbing into a passage with chest deep water that went for about 30 feet. The ceiling slowly comes to meet the water line confirming its a dead end. At some points we are barely squeezing through 25-50 ft sections. More of these go our way than not preventing some otherwise undesired retracing and climbs.

    Light starts coming back into the canyon and a ground touch is made. A long up climb ensues that is exposed with moderate moves. Very difficult to say given the illusions of distance but I think 60ft is more on the conservative side. There is lateral movement during this up climb but looking back from the top, the starting point cannot be seen due to darkness. As you get to what you think is the top, a silo to the ground presents itself. Going another 5 feet up makes this crossing less sketchy. Either way I remember this transition to be very uncomfortable with potential falls on each side of you. To exit the silo you must transition by wedging yourself into a constricting of the walls to find safety from the void below. Beyond this constriction is another few silos with difficult moves. This was the hardest section up to this point in the canyon but would be trumped by the coming silos.

    The next remarkable section is Silo Row. Convoluted walls, silos to the ground, sickening exposure and as Rick Green said, “spicy." We found ourselves climbing down into silos to seek better features for crossing, climbing back out only to have another silo waiting. They are stacked on each other and relentless. Some silos must simply be crossed with wide uncomfortable stances. Every man for himself basically, mostly un-protectable. These are no doubt the highest and most serious silos we have ever encountered. They are a level up from any other canyon. Even PINTAC or Long Branch might have a comparable problem or two but never stacked so closely and consecutively. This area is short but takes a considerable amount of time.

    In this section while attempting to get out of a silo and into the safety of the walls I made a miscalculation that left me in a precarious situation. What appeared to be a simple transition into a body wedge i found myself a foot lower than expected, 6 inches too wide for a solid wedge. I was left hugging a bulge with my back pressed against a wall that was sloping downwards and away from me. A foot placement I was counting on crumbled when pressed. It was also sloping more than it had originally appeared, now a slick and featureless wall. Below me is a now very apparent bombay. A position I could have held for perhaps 10 minutes max. A dynamic move had to be made. I’m 95% sure I can make this move, I look down and see an uncatchable fall that would only be slowed by bouncing off the curves of the walls that trailed 50+ ft below. I decide that 1/20 carries an unacceptable risk and call to Angus a few feet ahead to come back and provide some protection. He braced himself in a back to feet stem and provided a hand line which I used to improve my situation. This is why we both carry short coiled ropes in these canyons. Had I been the only one with a coiled rope, Angus would have been unable to help me.

    I find “safety” on a tiny ledge perched high above. I look down at the hole I just escaped and became quite shook up. Peering into it and the open space below I start to ponder what exactly the hell we are doing in here. The idea of retreating is more illogical than pressing forward. I know that if there was an escape at that moment I would have taken it without hesitation. Its a dangerous thing for one to consider other options when you really have none. Angus and I make small talk, dinner plans of the evening and such. Smothered burrito with fries at Cowboy Blues sounds like our best bet, shower at the Outfitters afterwords. I focus on my breathing to prevent any more adrenaline from being released. As the catecholamines taper I move from the perch to cross the next silo and into a safer position in the next pinch. Wash, rinse and repeat.

    The canyon eases slightly and begins to tease of the telltale signs that it is losing its ability to maintain its complexity. Subtle features start becoming apparent, things you notice in a X canyon after looking for them enough. Another turn and another silo section similar to the previous but not quite as bad…still very bad and only dwarfed by the previous run. My gopro battery has been dead for a while, I know I should change it to catch these sections but it isn’t a priority to me at this moment.

    I start to notice a large wall visible DC right. I’m convinced this must be near our exit given the sharp turns and big walls we noticed while setting our ropes. We let out a few shouts to see if Peter can hear us. He yells back down and we know the end is near. One last turn, touch the ground, manage the boulder field and see our rope. After a rest we ascend the rope as we escapes Bishop’s last attempts to keep us locked inside. Peter greets us with smiles and jubilation. As for the rest of the day, we respected the plan made on that tiny little ledge far above the ground exactly as it was discussed. The burrito was excellent.

    Video - I do apologize for not having the silo sections...next time!
    Last edited: Mar 27, 2017
  2. Ram

    Ram

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    WOW!!! What a read! My tummy is in a knot. Nice writing and it follows closely to the stories told by the people I know who have been in there.

    I don't know where to start. Maybe a little history. In May of 2006 Wyoming Dave and I scouted the canyon from the 40 Mile Ridge Road. The topo does not show the access road accurately. It was on that day that we found the exit by the 3 side canyons that come in as the canyon transitions from X- to the cave like area. If you return, note that by the most obvious and largest side canyon coming in, that has pothole nature to it, that you can get on the slab to the left of it looking up the side canyon. A somewhat wandering slab route can get you out here, mostly class 4 with three 5.1 to 5.3 short sections. This spot we found from above and was critical to our logistics.

    While rim walking the area (a difficult thing with steep domes causing detours), we found the exit you used. I assume it is the same one, anyway. Like 4-6 HUGE 1/2 bolts in a small pothole pocket on the edge?

    A few days later we (Dave and I) were joined by Bill Wolverton, Wade Christenson, Steve Brezovec, his friend Justin and Nat Smale. Not sure if I left someone out. We skipped the low stemming area you rate R (I agree) and entered where is goes X-, what we call section 2. That ends were the exit is I describe above. We had made arrangements to exit here and re-enter where you exited. AT this point Stevee continued down canyon to scout. He found the downclimb into the dark you describe and called up begging for a head lamp. I remember we poo-po-ed the need for one (WRONG), but it was a moot point as that spot is guarded by one of those steep domes mentioned above and we could not lower him one. He retreated and joined us for the rap back in after the third and burly (XX) section. The heat and lack of time likely saved at me from getting in over my head. There is a lovely section a few tenths of a mile long, right below your exit, rated R, to the final rap in the Navajo layer. This the the 4th section and you missed something very nice and pretty too. It has several small potholes, a foot wide, that drops in multiple repetitive round holes, a dozen feet down, or more. The only other place I have seen this is just before the Tom Fall Silo in Psycho Damage, but that one has smaller dimensions. It too ends with 4-6 huge bolts and a rap, leading into the Kayenta formation. We hiked down the pretty, flowing, but SUPER slippery section to the reservoir where a friend provided donuts, chips, drinks, as he shuttled us to upper Willow where we hiked up to our spotted car.

    This convinced me that this 3rd section was way over my head. I told super talented friends about the place. Rick Green and Steve "Spidey" Jackson expressed interest. Wyoming Dave was back to join me on rim crew for the intrepid adventurers. I believe it was May 15th 2007. They entered via the slab into the third and XX section. They described the dark section having to crawl, nearly horizontal, with the ground not always fully there. There is a flat section near a bend in the canyon, on the rim. The first half is so tight at the top I have real doubts that they could have fit thru the top to get out if they wanted to.. The back end of the flat bench area is what you describe as silo nightmare. They called it the Silo Series. Terrifying!! During this part we could hear them talking. Here was the exchange

    Rick. "This is hard!
    Spidey. "Yeah
    Dave and I look at each other mouths open. I mean for these guys to say it hard!!
    Ram. I call down "You guys OK?
    Rick. calls up "I am changing my phone number!"

    He owns a guide service but he still threatened an unlisted number so I couldn't get him into any more spots like this

    When they got to the jug out spot, I encouraged them to go to the final rap so they could see the final section, that I had visited the time before. It is reversible and they went and returned. In the meantime the sun hit the jug out spot (120 feet?). I felt guilty as it was a 90 degree day. We all went up to the top and descended the R and X- sections together. So they did the whole thing in this order.... sections 3, 4 each way, then 1 and 2.

    Aaron and Angus, my compliments on an extraordinary accomplishment. As far as I know, only the 2nd descent and almost a decade after the first one.
    For many years, the sense was that these two canyons (SOS and Bishop) were far and away the hardest but no one had done both so we openly asked? Which is harder? In talking with you and Angus, the answer I heard was...It depends...Love it. Bishop is harder for shorter folks and SOS harder for tall folks. Just perfect. Congrats on being the first known folks to see both canyons.

    I think I have some old photos, from Wade Christenson, of section 2 (X-) and the rim of section 3 (XX). I will see if I can find them and post here. I hope this doesn't feel like a hijack of the thread. I know I will read your description above several more times and with sweaty hands

    Here they are. I will describe where it corresponds to the internal sections of the canyon, as I understand them from sitting rim on the full descent,

    These are from the 2nd X- section. Remember this is the EASY part!
    Nat here
    [​IMG]

    Me
    [​IMG]

    Bill Wolverton
    [​IMG]

    Stevee leads the way
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Stevee scouting the start of the 3rd section, maybe 100-200 feet before the drop into darkness. Taken from the exit slab
    [​IMG]

    The exit slab between sections 2-3. Bottom of pothole side canyon in view left side
    [​IMG]

    Early in the dark section below
    [​IMG]

    The big flat section at the bend. Right side perhaps so narrow that escape would not be possible. Dark section below that. The left side the first and hardest of the silo sections and the "its hard" comment spot
    [​IMG]

    Second silo series in foreground
    [​IMG]

    Exit jug between sections 3 and 4
    [​IMG]
    Last edited: Mar 26, 2017
  3. Scott Patterson

    Scott Patterson

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    Great trip report!

    On the other thread, it sounds like the consensus was that it is a tie for tall people and Bishop is hardest if you are a little shorter.
    I were to rank the XX from hardest to easiest my list would be:

    Bishop, SOS, Long Branch, Pintac.

    Angus feels different as his order is:

    Bishop/SOS(tie), Pintac, Long Branch

    Bishop with its silos presents more challenges for shorter people as I am 5’7 while Angus is 6’2. Up climbs in SOS and PINTAC slightly favor someone of shorter stature in my opinion. PINTAC is the endurance canyon. It also has many off width style problems that favor those who have experience in this subset of climbing.

    There are rumors of some really hard ones on the Reservation as well.
    Last edited: Mar 27, 2017
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  4. Kuenn

    Kuenn

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    Very exciting and captivating report....especially from the comfort of one's easy chair.

    Favorite sound bites:
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  5. Ram

    Ram

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    Aaron just added a video to the original post that should not be missed. The music was perfect for how I was feeling watching it. Amazing to see a place I was so near, heard so much about, but knew I would never visit myself. Thanks for the view. See above in the first post...Just WOW
  6. ratagonia

    ratagonia

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    Awesome Vid. Love the spot near the end where you can almost hear: "Oh CRAP! I gotta go higher???!!!"

    T
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  7. Asmith

    Asmith

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    Much thanks Ram, we were grinning like idiots for few days! Not hijacked...improved, which is the whole point of this thread. The pics are great as we have none due to problems with our camera that day. I finally had time with work to finish the video up to the "hard" silo section when the battery died. We used those same bolts, wonder why so many but I didn't question on the jug out.

    These canyons are intimidating enough when you know they are possible let alone to be left wondering what is around each corner on the first descent. The dark/silo sections in Bishop or from the ejector seat to finish in S.O.S would surely make you think "What's next?"

    As for the 4th section Angus did venture down there, peered over the edge and shares your enthusiasm about it. He called to me multiple times to check it out but I was over canyoneering for the day when I got to the rope out. I was already geared up with ascenders before he returned if that paints the picture.

    I vaguely recall making a vow to not do S.O.S. and certainly never a repeat of Bishop deep in those walls. Thinking about it over the last 6 months I know it wasn't my best day through there. I desire another go in Bishop and a chance to re-evaluate my thoughts on SOS vs Bishop. Answers I was seeking with completing them all has only created more questions. XX is a confidence game and I did get worked. BFS was my first canyon back after Bishop and I was moving quite cautiously. Was Bishop harder or did my experience just make it seem that way?

    Memory can be quite unreliable especially during times of distress. PINTAC and Long Branch were done last spring, Bishop in the fall and SOS six months later. As I sit here in the comfort of my chair I imagine a trip where all 4 are done. I hope Angus doesn't read that.

    Here is my best drawing of the poor position I placed myself into. I don't recommend this to future parties in any canyon.

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  8. Kevin

    Kevin

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    Great video, thanks. I've always wondered what bishop looked like... intimidating
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