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UT: Ticaboo Mesa Psycho Damage: My First X-Rated Experience

Discussion in 'Trip Reports' started by Austin Farnworth, Nov 30, 2017.

  1. Austin Farnworth

    Austin Farnworth

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    Location:
    Mapleton, Utah

    Before I was a canyoneer, I was an avid climber, and naturally have sought out canyons with stemming and down-climbing challenges to satisfy my climbing bug. Though my wife, Olivia, thought I was a little crazy, I told her as we started canyoneering that my goal was get into X-rated canyons. She made sure that we took it slow and put lots of canyons under our belt before giving a X-canyon a shot. We were able to get out almost on a weekly basis this year and were able to do 50 canyon descents, with 5 of them being R rated canyons. I was feeling pretty good with stemming and wanted to try a X-canyon, so I talked to a few people on the forums and decided on Psycho Damage as a good first X-canyon experience.

    Psycho Damage has quite the reputation in the canyoneering community, so I was surprised to find out that it sat on the easiest tier of difficulty, as far as X-canyons are concerned. The crux silo sounded a bit intimidating from the stories I read, but I figured that we could handle it. We planned a trip down to Ticaboo Mesa over thanksgiving weekend and invited Thomas, Scott and Jake, who all had some R-canyon experience with us.
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    We drove down to Ticaboo Mesa from our home in Utah County early friday morning and got out to the Smith Fork area early enough to do Psycho Damage. I had never been out to Ticaboo Mesa before, and the scenery as we hiked down into Smith Fork was impressive. We got down the mouth of the canyon and hiked up Psycho Damage to check the water level of the final down-climb, and found the water to be deep and cold. We stashed as much gear as we could at the edge of the pool and started off hiking up and around Pothoez Canyon to the large open area where we could enter Psycho Damage.
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    A short break was taken and we put on our pads, helmets and harnesses. My wife’s brother, Thomas, got impatient and started off on his own down-canyon. We all eventually got our crap together and followed him in, getting warmed up on the low stemming sections in first section. A few good up-climbs and down-climbs were encountered in the first section and Scott, the least experienced member of our group, was sweating profusely and moving a bit slower than the rest of the group. Scott definitely had the mental and physical game for a canyon like Psycho Damage, but lacked the ability to move efficiently through the slot and was using up a lot of energy. I hung back and helped him smooth things while the rest of the group went ahead and waited for us at the bivy flake. When Scott and I arrived, a short break was taken and we all started off into the final section of slot where the canyon deepens and the X-rated territory begins.

    Pictures: Scott working through the first section.
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    The first section does a good job of preparing you for the final X-section and all members of the group including Scott were doing good as we got higher up into X-territory. The first silo was soon encountered and was easily spanned across by all in the party, including Olivia who is 5 feet 4 inches tall. Height hadn’t really played a significant role in the canyon, though it’s always nice being a bit on the taller side. This section got us pretty high off the ground but was fairly secure and had no major up or down climbs.

    Picture: Scott Crossing the first silo
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    I had told everyone before we started that when the big silo was reached, they had to enter the silo with their right shoulders facing down canyon. I had read that going into the silo the wrong direction would cause you some issues and it ended up causing us some as Thomas and Olivia got ahead of us and started into the Silo.

    Picture: Jake preparing to enter the crux silo
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    The plan was to cross the silo half way down using some ledges and Thomas made it across saying that “it wasn’t bad”. Olivia was right behind him, but had entered the squeeze before the silo facing the wrong direction and was in a scary spot trying to turn around in the silo’s entrance. She had a close call when her bag slid out of its resting position and took her feet out from under her. Luckily both of her hands were in good spots and she didn’t fall into the silo. I climbed above the narrow silo entrance and gave my wife a confidence belay from above as she made the moves across the silo, still shaken up from almost falling into it. I then gave confidence belays to Jake and Scott and they were able to cross the silo without much issue.

    Picture: Looking down into the crux silo from the exit side
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    I slid down into the tight slot at the mid-height entrance and started the silo crossing. The start is a little insecure but I took it slow and used the ledges. Setting up for exiting the silo was also a little difficult and I once again took it slow and made the right moves into the tight slot waiting on the other side. The crux silo is definitely serious but not an issue if you enter with your right shoulder facing down canyon. I actually felt pretty relaxed during the crossing and the moves were straightforward. That being said, you do have to star bridge across the silo, facing down canyon, which can feel very insecure to some people, even with the nice ledges in place.



    After exiting the silo you have to gain back all the height that you lost getting down to the silo and it will get your heart pumping a little bit. When we all got up to height, we crossed a small silo that was probably the most difficult in the canyon other than the crux silo. It gets a tad bit wide and is a little awkward but yields to a simple span. I suspect that some people cross that silo lower down where it’s easier to cross, but no-one in our group had an issue with it.

    Picture: Scott crossing the awkward small silo after the crux silo
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    We could tell that we were getting near the end of the the canyon and we down-climbed into the first pool, which was only knee deep. On the other side of the pool there was a nice area flat area where we could prepare for the final 20ft down-climb and swim. By this time, Thomas had already made it down and dropped into the pool with thick jeans and a heavy flannel shirt on. He made unholy sounds as he swam across, and we knew that if tough as nails Thomas was having a hard time, that the water must be way cold! The rest of us stripped down and ziplined our clothes and packs across the pool because none of us wanted to get any of our stuff wet on this November day.

    We slid down the last 20ft down-climb into the pool, which was elevator style and was not kind to our stripped down bodies. I eased into the water slowly, and when the water reached my chest, it literally took the breath out of me. I am a wuss when it comes to cold water but this was honestly the coldest water I had ever been in without a wet-suit. The desperate swim across the pool lasted about 7 seconds for me and was longer than expected. What a crazy little finish to a psycho canyon!
    Picture: Final down-climb and pool
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    After exiting the pool, we grabbed all of our stuff and quickly ran out of the slot and into the sunshine. High-stemming and cold water sure takes it out of you, everyone but myself was ready to head back to the car and end the day. I had wanted to do Wormhole Canyon after Psycho Damage, but I sided with the rest of the group and started hiking back to the car. The hike up and out was not that bad and in no time we were back at the car, completing the canyon car to car in 5 hours.
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    Psycho Damage was a fun, challenging and beautiful canyon. The canyon was not as difficult as I was expecting and I likely would’ve been fine descending it earlier on as a canyoneer. The 50 canyons that I had done previously definitely made it a much more enjoyable experience and I wasn’t ever worried for my life in any part of the canyon. We had plans to descend Glaucoma the next day, and Psycho gave me a good idea of who in the group could handle it.

    We found a fantastic campsite about two miles down from Psycho Damage trail-head, on top of a hill overlooking the massive area. We were lucky enough to have Tom Collins make it out to our campsite that night and I was able to descend Glaucoma and Tinnitus Canyons with him the next day. It was a fantastic trip and I look forward to getting out to Escalante to try some more X-canyons. A big thanks to Tom Collins for joining us on the second day, those canyons were amazing!

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    Jared Robertson, Ram, Kevin and 6 others like this.
  2. Bootboy

    Bootboy Atwood Gear

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    Well done!

    You've got the X bug now eh?

    We'd better see you at X-fest III.
    Ram likes this.
  3. Austin Farnworth

    Austin Farnworth

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    Plan on seeing me there, X-canyons are ridiculously fun!
    Ram likes this.
  4. Ram

    Ram

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    Congratulations Austin and crew.

    A fine effort and I am impressed by the depth of your research on the canyon. You were very prepared for the experience....well, aside from some folks lacking armor. OUCH;);)!!!

    Considering how much you knew of what was coming, I will add a few notes. I am guessing you entered the canyon at the top of the 2nd section. Further up canyon, separated by an open area, is the top section, which is harder and more vertical than the 2nd section. It can be seen here in Tom's Rave. All the pictures to the black and white one. It is easy to miss, coming up from the bottom. I recommend this fine R section to all that do the canyon.
    http://www.canyoneeringusa.com/rave/a-night-to-remember-apr-2005/

    Also, at the crux silo, after crossing with the right shoulder forward, one can descend into the silo from the down canyon side. It does not look reasonable, but it really is. You don't go to the very bottom, but squeeze down canyon 5 or so feet up from the bottom. This saves the rigorous up climb and lands you below that mini silo. Done this way, it makes the Tom Fall Silo, at the beginning of the third section, the crux of the canyon. That final down climb, into the water, bells just a little and the walls are polished and we have seen that final down climb descended faster than the person intends. You found the solution to this by going with skin, forcing better control. No thanks on that :joyful::joyful:

    Again, a fine effort. Kudos
    Ram:twothumbs::twothumbs:
    Kuenn, ratagonia and Austin Farnworth like this.
  5. cjhaines

    cjhaines

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    Location:
    Orem, UT
    Looks awesome! Wish we could’ve made it down for Glaucoma. I’m putting these at the top of my list for spring. Or, if the weather doesn’t cool down maybe even this year :)


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
    Ram and Austin Farnworth like this.
  6. Austin Farnworth

    Austin Farnworth

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    Location:
    Mapleton, Utah
    Thanks for the info! I had previously thought that there was nothing of interest in the first section, but I guess I missed out! Psycho Damage was a good enough canyon that I would definitely do it again, and include the 1st R section. I'll probably pass on doing the 20ft down-climb on bare skin next time, because I feel lucky that I didn't need to get any skin grafts this time around;)
    Ram and ratagonia like this.
  7. Austin Farnworth

    Austin Farnworth

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    Well it's going to be in the low 60's and sunny this weekend out there, probably the last warm day in a long time.
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