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Family Fun Off Hole in the Rock Road

Discussion in 'Trip Reports' started by Canyonero, Oct 25, 2019.

  1. Canyonero

    Canyonero

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    So we had a wonderful Fall Break trip in the Escalante area this year and since you all provided some useful advice, I figured I owed you all a trip report.

    This was a crew of 13- 4 adults and 9 kids ranging from 3 to 15, mostly clustering in the 10-12 range. Our first stop on Day 1 was Peekaboo and Spooky. Knowing that EVERYONE and their dog would be doing this canyon, we prepared the night before by trying to figure out how to avoid the crowds. We figured with daylight and temperatures as they were, most people would show up at 10 am. So we planned to get up early to beat the crowds. Well, that didn't work out so well and we showed up at the trailhead at 10 am sharp, along with about 6 other vehicles of people.

    It was still fine as we were the first ones down. One couple played through us quickly and one group played through between the canyons, but overall a pretty pleasant 3 hour jaunt through the two canyons. The kids had great fun on the big sand dune at the mouth of Spooky, of course. It was a wonderful warm up for the rest of the weekend.

    Arches.

    After Peekaboo and Spooky, we went to visit The Devil's Garden, which is pretty cool if you've never been there. You can even test yourself on some challenging and sketchy up and down climbs there.
    karate.
    The next morning, we took the whole crew to Egypt 1. Imagine my surprise when we pull up at 10 am and find @Rick Green there with four or five clients from Tennessee dropping in. We tried to give them a little space, but kids being kids, we probably weren't the best folks to share a canyon with. We may also have made the clients feel a little silly on their first rappel as all our smaller kids rapped down next to them on meat before the oldest fiddled the tree for her descent.
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  2. Canyonero

    Canyonero

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    Katie and Afton.JPG
    The youngest of the canyoneers:
    Kiddos.

    Rick was gracious enough to shoot a group pic for us lower in the canyon when we caught him again.
    Group Egypt1.JPG
    My four year old decided she doesn't want to smile in pictures anymore. But she sure loved the slide at the bottom of the canyon. I bet we spent an hour there.
    slide.JPG
    Last edited: Oct 25, 2019
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  3. Canyonero

    Canyonero

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    We hiked back up for lunch, then about half the kids elected to join us for Egypt 1.5, which was slightly more technical, a little bit shorter length, and also good fun. We also ghosted it, except for one drop where it seemed just using the sling that Rick had so graciously placed at every drop in the canyon would make for less rope grooving than fiddlesticking a big rock that already had a groove in it.

    Here's the kids horsing around:
    Bridging.
    Being captured:
    Capture.
    And doing some capturing themselves:

    Capture2.

    After Egypt 1.5, we thought we'd cross over Egypt 2 and go up Egypt 3 to complete the day. Unfortunately, I overestimated how far down Egypt 2 we would be. When we got over there, we were looking down a 400+ foot cliff into the canyon and decided we didn't have the required daylight for that project, especially with our big objective looming the next day.
    Last edited: Oct 25, 2019
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  4. Canyonero

    Canyonero

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    Camp.JPG That evening we made big lunches and packed up all the bags for the big canyon of our trip, Neon Canyon. Everyone was excited and, as usual, I got much less sleep than I would have liked. We were up before dawn and arrived at the trailhead at 27 degrees as the sun started coming up. We were 3 adults, 2 ten year olds, 3 12 year olds, and a very grumpy 15 year old.

    Sunrise.
    We took Tom's "almost direct" route, which was WAY easier downhill than the Fence Canyon approach. I highly recommend it. It took us about two hours to get to the river, which was less than knee deep. I took my boots off and rolled up my pants. I made 5 crossings including my pack and 4 kids on my back, just to save them the hassle. However, by the fifth crossing I thought I was going to die. It was so cold my ankles were in serious pain. It took a while to get feeling back in my toes, even after drying my feet and putting my socks and boots on. Although the day was reasonably comfortable by that point (I did a decent part of the approach just in a T-shirt), I was worried the canyon water would be just as cold.

    After leaving a few items at the climbout in Neon Canyon, we hiked up past the Sport Entrance and the Standard Entrance to what is called the "Chop Fork" entrance in the Bluugnome beta.

    This is my family, minus the 4 year old, on the approach:
    Above Neon.JPG

    This is my third time to Neon, including one trip where we went WAAAY up the canyon before dropping in (3 hour walk from Fence) and I'm convinced this is the biggest bang for your buck place to enter. The kids love the 2 or 3 captures and the thin little stuff at the beginning before you drop into the main drainage.

    The best part was just as we finished dressing a crew of four walked up, saw those six kids and a big group of nine and asked if they could play through. I told them, "No problem. I'm sure you'll catch us in just a few minutes."

    They clearly had no idea that I no longer consider a group of 9 to be big and have plenty of experience moving big groups through canyons efficiently, nor that these kids were on their fifth canyon of the week.
    Last edited: Oct 25, 2019
  5. Canyonero

    Canyonero

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    Here's a photo from near the end of the Chop Fork:

    Squeeze.
    And of course, sometimes it is easier to go high, and sometimes low.
    Stemming.
    This is actually my second favorite part of the canyon (hard to beat the end sequence). It's really great and not to be missed.
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  6. Canyonero

    Canyonero

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    Our next big obstacle was the first pothole. The water level was WAAY lower than the last time I was there. We actually had to rappel into it instead of just downclimbing this time. The water was knee to thigh deep, like much of the canyon.
    IMG_6604.JPG
    These two first attempted a pack throw, but after forgetting to tie ropes on to the packs, realized they would need a new technique. A difficult boost and climb did the trick, while I waited with the kids above to see if they needed us to throw potshots from above. With one adult out, the kids were rapidly moved through the pothole and helped pull the rest of us out.

    We had a quick second lunch (canyoneers, especially young ones, are like hobbits that way) a bit further down the canyon at the rappel that I always forget is actually a down climb for LAMAR:
    Lunch.
    We found one swim, only for about 5 feet, before arriving at the final sequence. The kids loved the little holes above the second pothole, which was in "swim-out" condition, but still pretty cold. Nobody felt like jumping in (and in fact my spare neoprene shirt came in handy for the shiveriest member of the party), so we all rappeled in off a fiddlestick and swam across.

    There was nothing left at that point but the Golden Cathedral. Our call of "Rope, rope, rope!" was greeted by a barking dog, followed by a splash. Surprisingly, after 5 canyons, one of the kids was still pretty uncomfortable with the rappel. Sometimes after we've been doing this for a while we forget what a difference exposure can make!
    IMG_6629.JPG
    Here's the kiddo being talked over the edge into the free hang by her dad. Sorry for posting a picture of an unhelmeted canyoneer. The kid left her helmet in camp so dad gave her his when this faux pas was discovered later in the day.

    And of course the obligatory Golden Cathedral shot:

    Golden Cathedral.

    The best part was that the group of four men behind us never caught us. I was all packed up in the cathedral ready to hike out when their first guy rappeled down.

    "I thought you guys were gonna play through?"

    "You guys hammered that thing!"

    It's amazing how fast you can go, even with a big group composed of mostly newbies, when you only rappel when you have to and use multiple ropes off meat at each drop.

    We decided to hike out via Fence Canyon. Yes, the footing is better, but I don't think it's worth going to Fence if you're only doing Neon. Everything was going just fine though until the 15 year old, at the back of the group, sat down to get her water bottle out, then stood up, couldn't see anyone, and proceeded to miss one of the switchbacks. After a half hour of looking for her at the bottom of every cliff in Fence Canyon, we eventually discovered she had found her own way to the rim. We left the traihead at sunrise, and arrived again at sunset for a pretty epic day for the kids.

    We took a 120, a 95 (plenty long for every drop as currently rigged), and two 50s. All drops (and I mean all) had good sling on them already. The Golden Cathedral had only twice as much brand new sling as was needed and thankfully was rigged so far out that no grooving was occurring. The Fiddlestick was very handy for preventing rope grooving at each of the four rappels we did though. We captured everything else. Although the swims were short and there were only a few wades, nobody regretting hauling a wetsuit. My 4/3 was very comfortable.

    Hope you get a chance to do Neon Canyon and know that October certainly isn't too late in the year to do it, even for mere mortals.
    Last edited: Oct 25, 2019
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  7. Jolly Green

    Jolly Green

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    Awesome trip Jim. And a great read. Kind of seems like you've written a book before or something. That picture of the 3 girls capturing you guys is pure gold. Thanks for sharing.
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  8. Jeff Randall

    Jeff Randall

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    Awesome writeup and pics!
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  9. Ram

    Ram

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    Awesome trip report. The little ones are sooooo cute, although the medium aged one doing the fireman of Katie looked very distracted. Was it Whitney that was being grumpy? They become teens, at some point, do they not? I LOVE the collection of all the blue Edelrid helmets. You have a fine fashion sense. All parents viewing this trip report are aware or can imagine of how much work is involved in pulling this off. Kudos
  10. Canyonero

    Canyonero

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    Yes, it turns out the fireman belay from a 70 lb 10 year old is worth about what you pay for it.
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  11. Kuenn

    Kuenn

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    @Canyonero Very nice report! Great looking family out having fun together! What an adventure for the young'uns - of all ages!!

    So, why was Afton short rigged in pic#3... isn't the time-out corner a better behavioral modification measure??;) (Oh right, top belay)

    She looks like she's ready to take charge of this sport!
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