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UT: Cedar Mesa Freeze Fest XII - Black Hole - Jan 1, 2014

Discussion in 'Trip Reports' started by ratagonia, Jan 5, 2014.

  1. ratagonia

    ratagonia

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    The big day was upon us. Yes, the night was cold and we rang in the new year at the appropriate hour — for New York. Off to Hite it was, fairly early. Sort gear, prep the clothing, make decisions. EAT FOOD! Drink water. Then off to Milepost whatever for the start of that grand, silly, canyoneering adventure traditions ever – The Black Hole of White Canyon on New Year’s Day. The Stupid Idea that Caught On.

    People assembled at the trailhead. Final count was 30. Questions about choices and preparations bounced back and forth. The weather was pleasant – not particularly cold, not windy, sunny. Energy levels were high. The traditional group picture taken, the mob surged down the trail to the second sign, where a second group picture was taken. We enjoyed the sunshine and strolled down the trail to the canyon bottom.
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    Fun ensued. There’s a bit of a hike to the suit-up point, which varies from year to year. Seemed kinda dry this year. We found the suit-up spot and spent a half hour eating, peeing and then suiting up with lots of suit. Off we went into the icewater.

    What more is there to say? Another uneventful trip, really, just as it should be. Good teamwork made safe work of the obstacles. There were swims, and some sections of breaking ice. Some careful walking upon the top of the ice, in places. My clothing and gear worked a LOT better than last year, and I was warm the whole time. The mob broke into smaller groups, who bounced back and forth through the day. Late in the afternoon we came to exit and we climbed out of the canyon and back up to the road.
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    It was great.

    A few more pictures at the Latest Rave
  2. Ram

    Ram

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    After celebrating the New Year in Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, New York, Peoria and finally Sandthrax, off to bed I went. It was in the teens the next morning but the forecast promised temps in the 40's. Off to Hite for preparations, then to the car shuttle. Jared Hilhouse made his cameo from Blanding. He and friend Aaron were waiting for us and upping the number of people who decided to show up, to 30!

    The Hole was drier than usual, but not super low. Some areas were frozen solid from the cold spell back in December. Water is slow to freeze and slow to thaw, thus some swims were walked over. The open areas had more ice, the constriction were wet and ice free. There was still a ton of water to swim and I think water temps were a tad lower than normal in places. Air temperatures were warm enough that wet spots near edges were freezing over in only a spot or two and that was early in the day. Thankfully, there was little or no wind. There were two somewhat long swim/wades that involved thick broken ice. This can be quite challenging. One must move the large plates around to make progress. Sometimes you can slide a plate under another plate. Smaller ones can be tilted up to 45 degree angles, allowing one to get by. Other plates must be turned, opening passages in and around, like passing through a maze. All these methods are slow, get hands wet and usually involve extended time in the water.

    The larger whole, broke into smaller units. I passed through the canyon, mostly as part of a group of 8 souls. Others told similar stories of forming groups. Hot tea and soups in a sunny spot, most of the way through was a memorable break. The canyon was beautiful, as always. Ice forms such pleasing images. Our groups passage was a tad slower than our norm, at 5.5 hours, but that was mostly due to it being comfortable, thus allowing the beauty of the place to sink in.

    In twelve straight January 1st Black hole's, we have seen, snow cover eliminating bypasses. Icing of all wet spots turning passage treacherous. Learned that cupping water on frozen rock thaws it for several seconds, allowing one to use the holds safely. Seen temperatures of 55 and 5 degrees. I remember the first sub freezing Hole, I tried to change out of the suit and my shoes and socks froze almost instantly and without water to dunk them in, I would have been in a pickle. We have seen it near ice free. We have seen it flowing from one end to the other at about 3 cfs. We have seen it clogged with logs and swam through nearly impossible log soup. We have seen it require digging out a spot or so to continue and we were able to move massive logs, weighing tons, delicately balanced, with one finger. The place has a lot of faces and moods and I am honored to have been granted safe passage.

    A final request for a donation to the Great Old Broads @ greatoldbroads.org/. They do great work helping us all having places like this to play

    Select pictures then the whole album in slide show form

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    Slideshow
    Impossible to find the RSS link
  3. dweaver2130

    dweaver2130 Canyoneering Duo from AZ

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    Awesome conditions, beautiful scenery, and great friends to enjoy it all with!

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  4. cirrus2000

    cirrus2000

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    My son, Perrin, and I were both at FreezeFest last year, but we bailed on the Black Hole at the last minute (went for the hot springs option, instead!). This year, we were determined to follow through, and we're sure glad we did! Neither of us had been through the Black Hole before, in any season.

    The hiking, the swimming, the camaraderie - they were all fantastic! And the cold wasn't as bad as I'd feared. What a beautiful place, and what a great experience to do it like this.

    Ram - Thanks for the reminder - I'd forgotten about the Broads! Donation now made.

    Impossible to find the RSS link
    ratagonia and Ram like this.
  5. ratagonia

    ratagonia

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    Sweet pics, Kev.

    Tom
  6. Deagol

    Deagol too many hobbies

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    Is there a general rule about what time of year that water levels are highest in The Black Hole ?
  7. ratagonia

    ratagonia

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    Like most canyons in the desert, no.

    Water levels are controlled by the sand dams. At the end of each swim is a pile of sand, that determines the depth of the water in the pool. Where and how deep the sand dam is often determines how much swimming there is. Sand dams get moved around in an unpredictable manner by floods, especially violent flash floods. Sometimes they sweep them away, sometimes they build a big dam.

    That determines the setup.

    It also requires water to fill the setup. So you can watch the precip in the area, but this can be hard too. After an extended period of no rain, the canyon will dry out. But it is hard to predict when it rains what that means in a particular drainage. Thunderstorms especially tend to be local.

    This recent snowstorm resulted in snow in a lot of places, but not a lot of water at least in the canyons we did. Snow followed by cold and sunshine results in sublimation rather than melting (mostly). Snow followed by warm temps will result in melting and flow.

    Tom
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  8. Ram

    Ram

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    This canyon drains one of the largest areas of any major system. It is wettest after a major storm has flowed thru. It might tend to be wetter in the spring, but that is not certain at all. Aside from right after a storm, the variable between high water and low water is just not that large. Lots of swimming, no matter what and the canyon shows well in all conditions, but perhaps less so on a gray day. Remember that flow through the Hole can occurs 1-2 days after storms in the upper gravel, natural bridges, Bears ears areas.
  9. Bootboy

    Bootboy Atwood Gear

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    As if canyoneering in warm weather isn't al ready a ridiculous endeavor...

    Haha. Looks like a freeze fest indeed!
  10. Deagol

    Deagol too many hobbies

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    Thanks Tom & Ram,

    Interesting info.
    I did Fry Canyon a few years back (September 2010) and it was the morning after a big flash flood on parts of Cedar Mesa. We were camped at Hite and it was an epic rain & lightening show there the evening prior. Fry Canyon was probably flowing just a few hours before we got there and there was a lot of water in the canyon, but I don’t remember any flow or even standing water in White Canyon proper. The first time I was in the bottom of White Canyon was in the mid ‘90s, but sadly I have never done the Black Hole. If/when I do get a chance, I am hoping for high water.... but not ice.
  11. Ram

    Ram

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    Fry flowed and White was dry? Wild. The power of the localized storm. The downside with recent flow is mud. It can be most unpleasant. What I like least is the concentration needed to keep balance. Muscles tense, keeping that balance. No fluid motion, but the mudscapes are gorgeous and make great photos.

    Cedar Mesa is a bit different than other venues on the "water holdeing" front. This type of Sandstone holds water pretty well. The White Canyon system is really one massive gravel conveyor belt, endlessly heading down toward the Colorado River Basin. Every flood moves the gravel, miles and miles of it, a bit at a time, further down the wash. The gravel is very large compared to most gravel I have observed, littered with thousands and thousands of pieces of petrified wood. Tom description of sand dams and their importance to the water you encounter, is an under appreciated factor and spot on. In the gravel of Cedar Mesa, it perhaps plays a slightly less important role, as there is less sand and the gravel tends to lay flatter. It can form higher plateaus which do add water depth, but don't readily form mini mountain shapes that sand does when it is pushed by flow, into dam shapes.

    Something I have noticed in the gravel of Cedar Mesa.....I don't know the proper term, but there seems to be a height that the wash wants to be. It will do it with water, or gravel or sand, but it wants to be at or close to that same height with something. Fill, scour, fill scour and on and on. The log jams of 2004 seemed to make this pattern more readily observable in shorter cycles, as the flushing of the logs over the next few years created new temporary hydraulics. Anyway, it is great fun for lay person with a good memory to observe. There was a rock just before the Hole proper that was out of the gravel for the 2nd time in the last ten years. BTW the Neon pothole was buried under large gravel, for who knows how long, before emerging in 2003. One wonders what is under foot in White Canyon and so many other places. Stories are told that the Black hole section was a dry walk through from the 1920-1950's. change seems to be the constant.
    Ram
  12. Deagol

    Deagol too many hobbies

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    Ram,
    I think the sand/gravel angle you are referring to is "Angle of Repose"..

    It can be influenced by the shape (roundness) of the grains: smoother grains = less friction = less holding power = lower angle of repose
    My degree is geology, but not my profession, and sadly things get rusty when not used. Fortunately there are great examples of structure, faulting and sedimentation, stratigraphy, and erosion all over the Colorado Plateau that keeps one's observational skills somewhat honed.

    Edit: I am going by memory and I destroyed my 1st camera on that same trip through Fry Canyon, so have no photos of White Canyon, but neither canyon was flowing (Fry probably was a few hours prior). White Canyon seemed pretty dry to me. It was interesting and seemed to imply the storm must have tracked south of the bulk of White's catchment area. But, I suppose it may have been possible that White's catchment basin did get rain and perhaps the flow from that hadn't reached Fry by the time we went through ???? I'll never know.... but the lightening storm the night before was the most amazing one I've seen in my life.

    Edit #2: I misread your post the first time and the phenom you describe may be something altogether different than Angle of Repose, sounds more like sediment load equilibrium
    Ram likes this.
  13. Ram

    Ram

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    Sediment load equilibrium huh? I like it. Thanks
  14. ratagonia

    ratagonia

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