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Etta Place Canyon and Sphinx Canyon

Discussion in 'Archives - Yahoo Canyons Group' started by sarugo, Nov 6, 2012.

  1. sarugo

    sarugo Guest

    This is a combo trip report and beta so I apologize if it gets really long. Big thanks to Ram for offering his expertise and consulting with us pre-trip. If these canyons already have names I don't know of them, we named one Etta Place Canyon(after a companion to The Sundance Kid) and the other Sphinx Canyon.

    A month or two ago I was checking out the Robbers Roost area on Google Maps when I noticed a canyon draining into the South Fork of Robbers Roost Canyon from the north about half way between Robbers Roost Spring and the Dirty Devil River. The canyon appeared to drop about 600ft over the course of about a mile. It appeared to be about 4 miles from the nearest drivable road. After lots of armchair scouting and map making I rounded up two competent buddies, Will and Brandon, and we headed down to the Roost on Halloween evening for some exploring!

    Our plan was to backpack in the 4 miles, setup camp for a couple nights and explore this unnamed slot and maybe another unnamed slot located about 1 mile directly north of it. This other slot drains into the Middle Fork of Robbers Roost and it didn't look like much on a topo map, but I could see a slot on Google/Bing maps, so we figured that if we had time we'd investigate.

    Early thursday morning, we drove into the Roost and past the Not-Mindbender trailhead. When we got to a fork in the road, we took a right and headed west towards Shane's "Optional Not-Mindbender Trailhead" instead of taking a left and heading south towards the Robber's Roost Spring. After about .5 miles from the fork, the main road heads north and an old overgrown road continues straight. We continued on this old overgrown road for about 100 yards and then took a left onto an even older and more overgrown road that Kelsey calls an "Unused 4wd Track". We drove this for about 1 mile(which we had anticipated hiking) and we parked where the track drops down from the rim onto slickrock.

    In our packs we had 6 ropes of various lengths along with LOTS of webbing, biners, rapides, four potshots, pulleys, ascending gear, way too much neoprene, hooks, and a whole shitload of other technical gear. We also had cold weather gear(low 30's at night) and food and 3 gallons of water per person. Our packs were the heaviest I've ever felt... we really struggled getting them off the ground and onto our backs... this was gonna be a painful 3 mile hike.

    About a mile and half in we were in pain but still super excited for our impending first descent when off in the distance we saw something. People? Cows? People, and they were coming our way. When we met up with them they told us that they were backpacking for 30 days in the Roost, needless to say we were impressed! When we told them why we were there, their response was "Oh, that's probably the canyon we did yesterday". After comparing topos we were heartbroken to find out that the "undescended" slot that we were here for was in fact the same on they had done the day prior... what're the odds? Feeling dejected we continued on to the head of the slot and damnnnn was it impressive. We set up camp on the rim and explored the next day.

    Etta Place Canyon. Friday Nov 2nd 2012. 38.341548, -110.449279 After breakfast and organizing, we headed into the canyon around 10am. Our plan was to fix ropes at each rappel and then ascend them... no one wanted to do the many mile hike out of the South Fork of Robbers Roost Canyon. This canyon was a blast. Not too easy but not too treacherous. Immediately we encountered a rappel(that can be bypassed on the right side{LDC} via a low angle slickrock climb/walk with exposure). After that was a little low stemming, some higher and difficult non-mandatory stemming over a long pool to stay dry then a fun 25ft downclimb/rappel. After some more beautiful narrows we ran into another 25ft downclimb that was easier. Finally, after some more walking through nice narrows(the kind that narrow to inches at your feet, but are about 3 feet wide at your shoulders) we came to the final 70ft(?) rap into a wide box canyon that led to the So. Frk. RR Canyon. Someone had slung a small Hueco with accessory cord and it was quickly sawing it's way through the hueco, so we set a deadman. After building the deadman we noticed the obvious and bomber large arch just to the right of the rappel, we slung that as well and rapped off the backed up deadman. After eating lunch in the South Frk of RR and ascending the canyon, we were back at camp just after 3pm... damn we got that done quick.

    Upper Sphinx Canyon. Friday Nov 2nd 2012. After exploring Etta Place Canyon we still had some daylight so we decided to hike a half mile north from camp to the rim overlooking the other canyon that I had seen on Google Maps(Sphinx Canyon). Standing at the rim we were looking directly at(perpendicular to) a unique feature that we named The Hallway. We weren't sure if there was a slot in it, but the wall closest to us was only between 20 and 40 feet high. Instead of starting at the top, we decided to enter Sphnix Canyon from what appeared to be an entry midway through the canyon and just below The Hallway feature. The entry/exit requires some low stemming and a moderately exposed downclimb through a small(15ft?) fluted dryfall. When we got to canyon bottom I was awestruck... looking up at The Hallway I saw an amazingly beautiful slot. It had grey, undulating parallel walls and a sandy bottom. It was about three feet wide. Incredibly excited because we expected it to be a dud, we rushed upcanyon. We encountered a moderately difficult upclimb of about 20 feet then immediately after that the canyon opened up and there was a big pothole holding what looked like lots of water. We bypassed it on our left side(right LDC), I'd say the bypass goes at 5.9 maybe easy 5.10 with minimum exposure(see pic). After that it slots up again and is a spectacular slot once more. We then came to a difficult upclimb of about 15 ft with two chockstones at the top blocking the finishing move, then the narrows ended. On the hike back to camp that night we were all re-invogareted an determined to explore the lower half of the canyon the next day. Unfortunately I don't have any video of this Hallway exploration.

    Lower Sphinx Canyon. Sat Nov. 3rd 2012. After taking water inventory in the morning, we realized that we only had 1.5 liters per person to explore this canyon, ascend it and then make the 3 mile backpack trip back to the car... uhh this was gonna be interesting. We entered the canyon at the same entrance point, but instead of heading up The Hallway, we continued downcanyon. It alternates between beautiful shallow slot and wide open canyon for a while. As we neared the final 200ft rappel(according to the topo) we were nothing but contented and we were sure that we had the canyon in the bag. The wide open canyon that we were walking in took a sharp right and as I rounded the corner I couldn't believe my eyes... I wasn't looking at a 200ft rap... I was looking at a canyon of a much different nature than anything we had seen this trip. It very quickly narrowed up to where it was way too tight to fit though. To stay above the constriction would have meant to stem gradually about 20 feet up from eye level... this wouldn't have been too bad except that the canyon also immediately dropped from eye level into a deep and dark silo... we couldn't see the bottom. It would have been possible to full body stem over the silo and then stay really really off-the-deck but Jesus Christ... we really didn't want to do that. We decided to send someone into the silo to see what was at the bottom. We used a meat anchor to send Will down instead of taking time to build a deadman because I was sure that once down it would be too tight to continue and Will would have to come right back up the rope. Sure enough Will shouted back up "Yup it's too tight to pass down here!".. my heart sank... "wait a minute" I heard from the depths "it actually might be possible, but it's really really tight. I'm gonna explore, send someone else down!". I really can't explain what is down in this chamber and most of it isn't in the video because it was pitch back... but I'll try. After the 30ft rappel, you low-stem of a little, then you reach canyon bottom. From there it pinches to about 5 inches at head height so you need to remove your helmet and get low and make yourself small and just push through. After that we were stemming kinda high up with our left knee and elbow on one wall and our right knee and elbow on the other... at this point you're stemming/crawling through a small tunnel and it's super tight below and above you. Finally it spits you at at a very small perch above a 170 ft(?) rappel into a wide box canyon, about 150 ft(?) of this is a free rappel. We all completed the rappel, drank to our hearts desire from a spring at the bottom of the rappel, then proceeded to jug back up the 170ft rappel using Tiblocs and Bachmann/Prussik hitches... talk about nerve racking. We finally made it back to the car just before sundown, we were all on the verge of exhaustion and glad to enjoy the relative comforts of car camping(calories, water and fire).

    Etta Place Canyon is a fun full day... I highly recommend it. Sphinx Canyon is a very unique and special place. It is PG rated and may be R or R-, I don't know. If you go there please treat it right. We left if the way we found it... with no webbing/bolts/rope grooves or trash of any kind. Please do the same. -Sam

    Etta Place: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fpTiXULlnJo

    Sphinx: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b5D0Kja8GT8
  2. Luke

    Luke Guest

    Sam thanks for sharing. Looks like some fun stuff in there and fun vids too. I may check em out one day.

    Luke



    From: Yahoo Canyons Group [mailto:Yahoo Canyons Group] On Behalf Of sarugo Sent: Tuesday, November 06, 2012 7:31 PM To: Yahoo Canyons Group Subject: [from Canyons Group] Etta Place Canyon and Sphinx Canyon





    This is a combo trip report and beta so I apologize if it gets really long. Big thanks to Ram for offering his expertise and consulting with us pre-trip. If these canyons already have names I don't know of them, we named one Etta Place Canyon(after a companion to The Sundance Kid) and the other Sphinx Canyon.

    A month or two ago I was checking out the Robbers Roost area on Google Maps when I noticed a canyon draining into the South Fork of Robbers Roost Canyon from the north about half way between Robbers Roost Spring and the Dirty Devil River. The canyon appeared to drop about 600ft over the course of about a mile. It appeared to be about 4 miles from the nearest drivable road. After lots of armchair scouting and map making I rounded up two competent buddies, Will and Brandon, and we headed down to the Roost on Halloween evening for some exploring!

    Our plan was to backpack in the 4 miles, setup camp for a couple nights and explore this unnamed slot and maybe another unnamed slot located about 1 mile directly north of it. This other slot drains into the Middle Fork of Robbers Roost and it didn't look like much on a topo map, but I could see a slot on Google/Bing maps, so we figured that if we had time we'd investigate.

    Early thursday morning, we drove into the Roost and past the Not-Mindbender trailhead. When we got to a fork in the road, we took a right and headed west towards Shane's "Optional Not-Mindbender Trailhead" instead of taking a left and heading south towards the Robber's Roost Spring. After about .5 miles from the fork, the main road heads north and an old overgrown road continues straight. We continued on this old overgrown road for about 100 yards and then took a left onto an even older and more overgrown road that Kelsey calls an "Unused 4wd Track". We drove this for about 1 mile(which we had anticipated hiking) and we parked where the track drops down from the rim onto slickrock.

    In our packs we had 6 ropes of various lengths along with LOTS of webbing, biners, rapides, four potshots, pulleys, ascending gear, way too much neoprene, hooks, and a whole shitload of other technical gear. We also had cold weather gear(low 30's at night) and food and 3 gallons of water per person. Our packs were the heaviest I've ever felt... we really struggled getting them off the ground and onto our backs... this was gonna be a painful 3 mile hike.

    About a mile and half in we were in pain but still super excited for our impending first descent when off in the distance we saw something. People? Cows? People, and they were coming our way. When we met up with them they told us that they were backpacking for 30 days in the Roost, needless to say we were impressed! When we told them why we were there, their response was "Oh, that's probably the canyon we did yesterday". After comparing topos we were heartbroken to find out that the "undescended" slot that we were here for was in fact the same on they had done the day prior... what're the odds? Feeling dejected we continued on to the head of the slot and damnnnn was it impressive. We set up camp on the rim and explored the next day.

    Etta Place Canyon. Friday Nov 2nd 2012. 38.341548, -110.449279 After breakfast and organizing, we headed into the canyon around 10am. Our plan was to fix ropes at each rappel and then ascend them... no one wanted to do the many mile hike out of the South Fork of Robbers Roost Canyon. This canyon was a blast. Not too easy but not too treacherous. Immediately we encountered a rappel(that can be bypassed on the right side{LDC} via a low angle slickrock climb/walk with exposure). After that was a little low stemming, some higher and difficult non-mandatory stemming over a long pool to stay dry then a fun 25ft downclimb/rappel. After some more beautiful narrows we ran into another 25ft downclimb that was easier. Finally, after some more walking through nice narrows(the kind that narrow to inches at your feet, but are about 3 feet wide at your shoulders) we came to the final 70ft(?) rap into a wide box canyon that led to the So. Frk. RR Canyon. Someone had slung a small Hueco with accessory cord and it was quickly sawing it's way through the ! hueco, so we set a deadman. After building the deadman we noticed the obvious and bomber large arch just to the right of the rappel, we slung that as well and rapped off the backed up deadman. After eating lunch in the South Frk of RR and ascending the canyon, we were back at camp just after 3pm... damn we got that done quick.

    Upper Sphinx Canyon. Friday Nov 2nd 2012. After exploring Etta Place Canyon we still had some daylight so we decided to hike a half mile north from camp to the rim overlooking the other canyon that I had seen on Google Maps(Sphinx Canyon). Standing at the rim we were looking directly at(perpendicular to) a unique feature that we named The Hallway. We weren't sure if there was a slot in it, but the wall closest to us was only between 20 and 40 feet high. Instead of starting at the top, we decided to enter Sphnix Canyon from what appeared to be an entry midway through the canyon and just below The Hallway feature. The entry/exit requires some low stemming and a moderately exposed downclimb through a small(15ft?) fluted dryfall. When we got to canyon bottom I was awestruck... looking up at The Hallway I saw an amazingly beautiful slot. It had grey, undulating parallel walls and a sandy bottom. It was about three feet wide. Incredibly excited because we expected it to be a dud, we rushed upcanyon. We encountered a moder! ately difficult upclimb of about 20 feet then immediately after that the canyon opened up and there was a big pothole holding what looked like lots of water. We bypassed it on our left side(right LDC), I'd say the bypass goes at 5.9 maybe easy 5.10 with minimum exposure(see pic). After that it slots up again and is a spectacular slot once more. We then came to a difficult upclimb of about 15 ft with two chockstones at the top blocking the finishing move, then the narrows ended. On the hike back to camp that night we were all re-invogareted an determined to explore the lower half of the canyon the next day. Unfortunately I don't have any video of this Hallway exploration.

    Lower Sphinx Canyon. Sat Nov. 3rd 2012. After taking water inventory in the morning, we realized that we only had 1.5 liters per person to explore this canyon, ascend it and then make the 3 mile backpack trip back to the car... uhh this was gonna be interesting. We entered the canyon at the same entrance point, but instead of heading up The Hallway, we continued downcanyon. It alternates between beautiful shallow slot and wide open canyon for a while. As we neared the final 200ft rappel(according to the topo) we were nothing but contented and we were sure that we had the canyon in the bag. The wide open canyon that we were walking in took a sharp right and as I rounded the corner I couldn't believe my eyes... I wasn't looking at a 200ft rap... I was looking at a canyon of a much different nature than anything we had seen this trip. It very quickly narrowed up to where it was way too tight to fit though. To stay above the constriction would have meant to stem gradually about 20 feet up from eye level... this wouldn! 't have been too bad except that the canyon also immediately dropped from eye level into a deep and dark silo... we couldn't see the bottom. It would have been possible to full body stem over the silo and then stay really really off-the-deck but Jesus Christ... we really didn't want to do that. We decided to send someone into the silo to see what was at the bottom. We used a meat anchor to send Will down instead of taking time to build a deadman because I was sure that once down it would be too tight to continue and Will would have to come right back up the rope. Sure enough Will shouted back up "Yup it's too tight to pass down here!".. my heart sank... "wait a minute" I heard from the depths "it actually might be possible, but it's really really tight. I'm gonna explore, send someone else down!". I really can't explain what is down in this chamber and most of it isn't in the video because it was pitch back... but I'll try. After the 30ft rappe! l, you low-stem of a little, then you reach canyon bottom. From there it pinches to about 5 inches at head height so you need to remove your helmet and get low and make yourself small and just push through. After that we were stemming kinda high up with our left knee and elbow on one wall and our right knee and elbow on the other... at this point you're stemming/crawling through a small tunnel and it's super tight below and above you. Finally it spits you at at a very small perch above a 170 ft(?) rappel into a wide box canyon, about 150 ft(?) of this is a free rappel. We all completed the rappel, drank to our hearts desire from a spring at the bottom of the rappel, then proceeded to jug back up the 170ft rappel using Tiblocs and Bachmann/Prussik hitches... talk about nerve racking. We finally made it back to the car just before sundown, we were all on the verge of exhaustion and glad to enjoy the relative comforts of car camping(calories, water and fire).

    Etta Place Canyon is a fun full day... I highly recommend it. Sphinx Canyon is a very unique and special place. It is PG rated and may be R or R-, I don't know. If you go there please treat it right. We left if the way we found it... with no webbing/bolts/rope grooves or trash of any kind. Please do the same. -Sam

    Etta Place: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fpTiXULlnJo

    Sphinx: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b5D0Kja8GT8
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