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Sandthrax 2/1/2020

Discussion in 'Trip Reports' started by Austin Farnworth, Feb 2, 2020.

  1. Austin Farnworth

    Austin Farnworth

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    Location:
    Mapleton, Utah
    Six years ago, an employee at a climbing shop recommended that I do a canyon called Sandthrax, claiming that it was easy to free climb the crux, and that I would do fine without cams. It took me a couple more years to get into canyoneering, but Sandthrax has always been on my list. The main thing preventing me from doing it, was not having the cams or aid climbing experience to get up the crux. The opportunity came this last week to put a crew together and give it a run, expecting the crux to not be as bad as some have made it out to be, but prepared for the worst. After our struggles with the crux, I’m glad that we had the gear!
    [​IMG]
    Left to right: Josh Allen, Austin Slade, Colby Wright, Enoch Hardin, Christian Felger, Thomas Allgaier, and me
    5 out of the 7 people in our group had not done an X-rated canyon before, though everyone had high stemming experience. No one in the group had done Sandthrax before, so it was fun to route find ourselves, though I found Sandthrax to be straight forward from a route finding perspective.
    [​IMG]
    PC: Josh Allen
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    PC: Josh Allen
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    PC: Josh Allen
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    PC: Josh Allen
    With a high of 45 degrees that day, the conditions felt perfect, especially since most of the route is exposed to the sun. The canyon gradually became more difficult after the first rappel, but no one seemed to have a problem with it. Much of the high-stemming consisted of long hallways of repetitive movement, punctuated with small silos to work through. I found the movement to be similar to Upper PINTAC, which had long stretches of repetitive stemming between upclimbs.
    [​IMG]
    PC: Josh Allen

    VC: Josh Allen

    VC: Josh Allen

    VC: Josh Allen

    VC: Josh Allen

    VC: Josh Allen

    VC: Josh Allen
    There really wasn’t that much exposure in Sandthrax when I compare it to other X-canyons i’ve done. The most exposed part was the silo before the down-climb into the crux. Josh and I crossed the silo first, which seemed a lot like the crux silo in Psycho D, but more exposed and a bit more awkward. The rest of the group used the bolts to belay the silo crossing, since it was their first time encountering a true X-rated silo.

    VC: Josh Allen

    VC: Colby Wright
    Downclimbing to the crux, I looked at the high route over top of it, and really couldn’t wrap my head around how people pull it off. I was going to go for the over-top route if it looked doable, but quickly decided to go for the aid climb instead. I belayed Christian while Josh gave him a boost into the crack. Christian placed a #5 and clipped it right away. As he started to move up on the two #6’s, his cam blew out, causing him to fall backwards into the silo. I was able to stop his fall, with the #5 luckily holding for both our sake. With a bruised tailbone, Christian was able to climb back out of the silo and send the crux, which was impressive considering the gnarly upside-down fall he had just taken! Slade and myself hand-lined up the crux with a Petzl basic to capture progress. After we had three people up, we did a two-man-haul with a micro traxion, pulling the rest of the group up with relative ease. We spent over an hour at the crux, which held-up to the hype as far as I am concerned.

    VC: Colby Wright

    VC: Josh Allen
    [​IMG]
    PC: Josh Allen
    [​IMG]
    We did the rappel after the crux into the dark section on ground level. The only water encountered the whole time was found here, which was only ankle deep and easily avoidable. The final section of stemming was very different from the rest of the canyon, and a fun way to finish things out. We made it car to car in 4 hours and 45 minutes, and finished off the day by doing the Moqui Queen 300ft rappel near Hog Springs Rest Area.
    [​IMG]
    The consensus was that outside of the crux, Sandthrax was not a very hard X. If you take the crux away, Sandthrax would be easier than both Psycho D and Glaucoma in my opinion. It was basically just a longer version of the nearby Upper Stair Canyon, with a few silo’s thrown in. However, the crux is no joke, and I would be interested in going back again and watch how others pull it off more efficiently. Overall, everyone loved the canyon, which actually made for a great first X-canyon for 5 of our group, who definitely get after some more X-rated Canyons.
    Last edited: Feb 2, 2020
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  2. Anthony Dye

    Anthony Dye

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    Location:
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    Fun stuff! Glad Christian wasn't seriously injured. Great pics and write up! The video labeled "silo crossing on belay" was hard for me to identify. Was it the last silo that most do as a rappel down to the ground near the end?

    Yeah, stemming over the crux had me second guessing myself when I did it, but I'm sure I could repeat it much easier now. That obstacle is no joke, well done!
  3. zul

    zul

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    Location:
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    Can anyone chime in that's done the 'high over the top' of the crux?
  4. Austin Farnworth

    Austin Farnworth

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    The silo crossing on belay is the silo right before the downclimb to the crux. It has bolts on both sides of it

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  5. Anthony Dye

    Anthony Dye

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    Hey Zul, I've done the high over the top route. What would you like to know? You can see a dish on the left DC wall that holds sand. That is about the height you cross over. The move across the gap isn't bad, but getting your weight forward and into the off width was a little difficult because my feet were spread so wide at that point, it was difficult to push off.

    Here is a video.

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  6. zul

    zul

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    I guess I'm looking for someone to say it "isn't bad", how far off the deck at that top point?
    Are you a climber?
    I have a partner that would be comfortable with the over the top. If he goes over, would he then be able to re-set to assist the rest of the group through the crux? By adding protection via belay?

    Disclaimer: I would never consider entering Sandthrax without the big cams and proper tools / team. If fact, after watching the new beta video, I am considering not entering Sandthrax at all ;) !!
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  7. Anthony Dye

    Anthony Dye

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    If you're looking for an "it's not bad" recommendation, I'm not the one to give it. I have some climbing experience. I do not regularly climb. I'd guess you're ~12' above the base of the crux which is another 15' off the ground, though I dont know if you'd fall all of the way, but it would not be a gentle flat landing regardless. From the point I crossed, there was still 8 feet to climb up before I could anchor/belay/continue down canyon. Once in the offwidth, I felt very secure. The hard part was getting to it. More height or flexibility would have helped me here. Once at the top wedging in as an anchor or placing pro is fairly straight forward, albeit flared.

    There are a million climbers better than me, that would just start at the bottom and offwidth solo no problems at all. I'd like to try starting from the bottom the next time I do it.

    There are also a lot of people that are better canyoneers than me, but not very many with the same risk tolerance. For me it was a little spooky but not THAT bad... but to tell someone else that, without knowing their skill level, would be irresponsible. If you have high stemming and stemming endurance, don't get scared off. Sandthrax is a terrific canyon!
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  8. Canyonero

    Canyonero

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    I spent a lot of time staring at the over the top variation and while I agree it is doable, the penalty points are quite high. And when you compare it to what I consider relatively easy aid climbing on incredibly solid gear, I see little reason to do it other than style points and not having to carry a couple of big cams. I'd guess 5.11? It's probably just as hard (although less strenuous) as free climbing the crux with a lot more penalty points.

    There actually isn't some awesome belay stance on top. You just kind of stem yourself in and hope for the best. Quite a difficult place to do a 2-1 lift actually because you're just pulling the person tighter into the offwidth rather than up.
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  9. Canyonero

    Canyonero

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    That fall looks terrible. Glad he's okay. The cam placement gets better the deeper you stick it. Of course, the deeper you stick it the harder the climbing gets.
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  10. Ram

    Ram

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    Have not done it. In April 2007, I was halfway down the downclimb to the crux when........A flash of motion overhead.....At near full sprint, Stevee B flew by. Foot to the left wall, lunge, foot to the right wall, lunge, foot to the left wall, lunge and over into the corner on the right of the off width. He quickly stood straight up, facing the off width and fully erect, leaned toward the crack, until he was 60 degrees past vertical. He "winged" both arms into the crack and his lower body swung over into the crack too. Now vertical and still erect, inside the crack, he produced 3 rapid movements up and he was on top. A wild eyed huge smile on his face. Total elapsed time? Under 10 seconds for the whole sequence.
    Stevee B. is perhaps 5 foot 4 inches tall. Did I just see that? Yes I did. Did that REALLY happen? Unbelievably, YES!!!

    [​IMG]
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  11. Ram

    Ram

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    Nicely done. Thanks for sharing it. Makes my day.
    Never heard of the Moqui Queen rap. You devise it or is it a known thing? Access via Hogwart's approach?
    I agree that Thrax is not that hard aside from the crux. I agree too that it just has perhaps two real silos, supplemented with several "gapers." Personally, I think it is a little harder than Psycho, if Psycho is done the easiest way. Definitely easier than Glaucoma, IMO, but such things are so subjective. I find it great fun to discuss these opinions and experiences. Good on all ya.
    Ram
  12. Austin Farnworth

    Austin Farnworth

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    Location:
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    We had always seen the moqui queen alcove on our hike back from Hogwarts, so we showed up with a 300ft rope and did it in 2017. You take the Hogwarts approach up the chute, but take a left after doing that first slickrock scramble. You then just walk the cliff band around to the top of the alcove. The approach only took us 15 minutes this time around. At the top of the alcove, there is a good sized natural arch back from the edge that we have always used to fiddle the rappel. This time we saw that someone had tied off a boulder near by, and extended webbing to the edge, though using the arch makes for easier start. Since we first did it, I've talked to other people who have also done it. I'm sure a lot of people have seen that alcove and wanted to rappel it. Most of the rappel is free-hanging, and due to the easy approach and start, I've brought a lot of people there for their first 300ft rappel.[​IMG]

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  13. zul

    zul

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    I guess that I would consider myself a "Higher skill and lower risk tolerance" sorta person. To that, I would add, "If you can't be great, than bring someone who is great."

    Self assessment: I am a confident R or R+ canyoneer in the skinnies. Done plenty of high stem and off the deck stuff. A few X canyon moves but no real X rated canyons. Overall, I am at the decision point to advance into X canyons (with great partners) OR happily stick with R+ canyons? That is the question.
  14. ratagonia

    ratagonia

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    Darn. I was driving through the snow today so... couple of random comments.

    1. I have done only a few X canyons, and none of the hard X canyons. But I was a climber for a LONG time, am a guide book non-writer (at the moment) and have a keen interest and a lot of experience with rating systems.

    2. Sandthrax is an X (minus) canyon, same rating as Psycho Damage. But different. It is an ENDURANCE X canyon. The X is in the Quantity of off the ground stuff, while it does not really have any real X moves. YMMV. And that the crux is not canyoneering, and needs to be shown special respect.

    3. Stevee B is a truly talented canyoneer. I admire his work.

    3B. Us mere humans must be very careful judging difficulty by the actions of the truly talented.

    4. The team I did SandThrax with was a great team, despite not having Stevee B along. I recommend having a great team.

    5. Some dude at the climbing store? He is "responsible" for a large number of epics. Thankfully, no deaths or major injuries to date.

    Tom
  15. ratagonia

    ratagonia

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    What is the current bolt situation in SandThrax?
  16. Austin Farnworth

    Austin Farnworth

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    The dude worked at mountainworks in Provo. he would go to the North Wash to work on a 5.13 crack climbing project he had there. He had ran Sandthrax quite a few times from what it sounded like, and thought that it was funny that people aided the Crux since it was a "basic" off-width climb. I was often recommended climbing routes that turned out to be way over my head when talking to the dudes in the shop, so I did my homework on Sandthrax and decided on a hard pass.

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  17. Canyonero

    Canyonero

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    Offwidth climbing is a skill in and of itself. Being a 5.11 faceclimber or even a crack climber doesn't mean you can climb 5.9 offwidth. And that offwidth is definitely harder than 5.9. But it might not be harder than 5.10. I wouldn't know. I can't climb 5.10 offwidth.
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  18. Helo-ops

    Helo-ops

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    Based on the conversation I have to share this pic of Pamela Shanti Pack. She is a total bad a** at off width and crack climbing

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  19. ratagonia

    ratagonia

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    Here's a Pamela trick that might work in Sandthrax... (minus the bolt, of course)
    Pamela.
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