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UT: Escalante Neon, Ringtail, Choprock, and West Baker

Discussion in 'Trip Reports' started by Austin Farnworth, Jul 24, 2020.

  1. Austin Farnworth

    Austin Farnworth

    Messages:
    140
    Likes:
    330
    Location:
    Mapleton, Utah
    3 days, 4 canyons, and 40 miles over Memorial Day Weekend 2020 in Escalante. We were able to hit Neon, Ringtail, Choprock, and West Baker, which are some of the most scenic canyons I've done, only having done Neon before. Arriving Friday morning, I backpacked in with Josh Allen and Trey Jackson, setting up camp near the mouth of Neon Canyon. We took the shortcut approach straight across the bench to the mouth of Neon, which did get us there faster, but decided that it wasn’t really worth it due to the sandy, hilly, brutal nature of that route while carrying massive packs.
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    PC: Josh Allen
    That same day we were able to do both Neon and Ringtail canyons in the afternoon. We walked into Neon using the first major side fork, which was about 30 minutes up-canyon from the top-out on the rim of the canyon. Water levels were moderate to low in Neon, with the first pothole in keeper mode, but still allowing for a challenging beached-whale move out of it.
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    PC: Josh Allen
    I had previously done Neon twice before this trip, so it wasn’t anything new for me. However, the all too short canyon was redeemed by the classic final rappel through the cathedral, which never gets old. It ended up taking us 2 hours and 53 minutes camp to camp.
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    PC: Josh Allen
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    After eating lunch, we set off for Ringtail Canyon, which was a 25 minute hike downriver from our camp. From the bottom of the approach near the mouth of the canyon, it took us 25 minutes to reach our drop in point, though we dropped in higher than we needed to. 10 or 15 minutes from the bottom of the approach, you can walk in right before the best part of the canyon, which is the way to do it in my opinion. Dropping in higher up only adds some wash walking and some shallow slot. After reaching the meat of the canyon, we were impressed with a good keeper pothole and a very scenic dark section. The only water we encountered was in the keeper pothole, which was waist deep during the partner assist out. This is also where the only rappel is, which was 20 or 30 feet off a log jam into the pothole. If water levels were high enough, you’d need to do a pack toss, which would be easy from the log jam you rappel off of. The rest of the canyon was very dark and impressive in the evening light we had. Ringtail took us 2 hours and 15 minutes camp to camp.
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    PC: Josh Allen
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    On day two we were joined at our Neon camp by Enoch Hardin, Steven Dunne, and Andrew Moreland.
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    PC: Josh Allen
    Our goal for the day was Choprock, which we approached via the Neon Canyon approach before cutting cross-country and connecting with the standard Choprock approach. From camp to the canyon floor it took us 2.5 hours and wasn’t too difficult due to the limited amount of cross country travel we had to do.
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    PC: Josh Allen
    The Happy Section of Choprock was flowing, and incredibly scenic. Each section of the canyon has its own distinct nature, which makes it stand out among many other canyons. The first part of the Happy Section is fairly open with high walls and a lush canyon floor. Wading through the creek in this section seems to be the easiest, and most fun way to get through. The last bit of the Happy section narrows into many subway-like passages, which are elevated in beauty by the spring water flowing through them. This section was the best by far, with many crystal clear pools to jump and wade through on the way to the Grim Section. It's also worth noting that Enoch broke his helmet right off the bat when we started Choprock, and got to enjoy the rest of the trip without one as a result.
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    PC: Andrew Moreland
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    PC: Josh Allen
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    The Grim section was very straightforward in the water conditions we experienced, with more wading than swimming. I was comfortable in a 5mm wetsuit on a 75 degree day, and might have wanted more neoprene if the canyon was in full-mode. I could see how the Grim Section could be more difficult in higher water, but I did experiment by high-stemming about 30 feet over some of the sections that could cause problems and found it to be pretty straightforward R-rated stemming.
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    PC: Josh Allen
    The final rappel was stunning with its hanging fern gardens and spring fed pool at the bottom. It was certainly a fitting grand finale for a canyon as scenic as Choprock. Our in-canyon time was 4 hours, with the return back to camp taking 3.5 hours. We floated sections of the Escalante river on the way back, which ended up making our hike back a lot longer than we expected. All in all Choprock was incredible, and easily made it in my top 5 favorite canyons of all-time.
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    For our final day, four of us did West Baker, while the other two did Neon Canyon. Josh, Trey, Enoch and I approached West Baker from the Ringtail approach and cut cross country, which saved us a lot of time by cutting out the river miles. From the bottom of the Ringtail approach to the drop-in of West Baker, it took us 1 hour. I was hoping to keep my wet-suit dry for the hike back to the cars later that day, but early on in the canyon I gave this up as we encountered deep pools. A few of the rappels could be jumped, which made the canyon go quick. Enoch got away with only doing 2 rappels during the entire canyon, while the rest of us did one or two more.
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    West Baker was short, but very scenic, especially at the confluence with the East fork, which is worth walking up, containing the most scenic section of canyon I saw that day.
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    The final rappel is similar to Choprock, along with many other features in the canyon.
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    PC: Josh Allen
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    Our in-canyon time was 2 hours, with a long and brushy hike back along the river to our camp at Neon taking 1 hour and 40 minutes, making our camp to camp time around 5.5 hours. After meeting up with the rest of the group who had just finished Neon, we packed up and made it back to the cars before dark, closing out a fantastic trip!
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    (Evidence that we don't understand the concept of ultralight backpacking)


    ROUTE DETAILS: by Josh Allen

    Day 1:

    Neon Shortcut approach hike from Egypt Trailhead. (3mi, 1:15)

    Neon canyon from camp (Neon/Escalante confluence), 2:53 camp to camp (3ppl, 2-80’ ropes)

    Ringtail: 25 min from neon camp to climb up.

    25min from river to high drop (just drop at lower slot, maybe 10-15 min total)

    1 hour in canyon.

    1:50 +25 min back to neon = 2:15 total time. (30’ rope)


    Day 2:

    9 am - Choprock overland approach, 2.5 hours (1:30 to rim + 1:00 to canyon floor).

    11:30am - 3:30pm - From canyon floor to last rap = 4 hours

    3:30pm - 5:15pm - Exit from last rap to neon camp = 3.5 hours.

    Total time: 8:15 min from neon camp


    Day 3:

    7am start - 30 min to Ringtail overland approach, + 1 hour to first drop (1:30 total approach)

    8:40 began descent of canyon. 2 hours in canyon from first drop to River

    10:40am arrive at river.

    11:15-12:25 hike back to ringtail. 1 hour and 10 min

    12:50 arrive back at neon camp (30 min from ringtail).

    TOTAL TIME: 5.5 hours from Neon Camp
    2065toyota, Ram, Jenny and 6 others like this.
  2. utahpow

    utahpow

    Messages:
    2
    Likes:
    13
    Awesome TR! Love the photos and congrats on the successful adventure
    Austin Farnworth likes this.
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