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Solo canyoneering advice - San Rafael and Robbers Roost

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by Ali Miller, Jul 9, 2017.

  1. Ali Miller

    Ali Miller

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    Hi all,

    I'm planning on doing some solo trips in the San Raf Swell and Robber's Roost areas over a two week period starting at the end of July. Specifically thinking of:

    - Baptist Draw and Music Canyon in the Swell, and
    - White Roost, Larry Canyon, No Man's Canyon (North Fork), Blue John (main fork), and/or Lost Park Canyon in Robber's Roost.

    I have climbing/rappelling experience, and a fair bit of experience soloing non-technical slots in Southern Utah (including a lot of time spent in San Rafael Swell). I'm fit, comfortable DCing, carrying my gear on long hot days, etc. I've consumed as much beta about the above canyons as I can find and am hoping to avoid things like keeper pot holes, getting stuck in extremely tight slots, especially difficult natural anchors etc.

    For folks with experience, do any of the above sound like particularly bad locations for a solo trip? Any thoughts about this in general, or similar experiences to share?

    Many thanks! -Ali
  2. townsend

    townsend

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    Ali,

    Whatever others say in this thread, have a good trip and, much more importantly, leave a detailed itinerary with family, a friend, with someone, preferably checking in each day by phone, or at most every two days. (Don't pull an Aron Ralston on us.) Always take a ton of water.
    Southern Canyoneer likes this.
  3. Ali Miller

    Ali Miller

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    That's all excellent advice that I will certainly follow, thank you!
  4. Scott Patterson

    Scott Patterson

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    For folks with experience, do any of the above sound like particularly bad locations for a solo trip?

    Music Canyon is nice in summer. Do the slot in the morning and then wade down the Muddy in the afternoon. It is better to use a car shuttle though, unless you exit up Mud Canyon, but that's a really long day (or a better two day trip).

    For the rest of those canyons, late July is probably the worst time of year to do them. It will more than likely be scorching hot and when it's not, it will be flash flooding. There are better canyons in the region for summer than the ones you list. In that area, consider Upper Iron Wash, Green Pools/Green Box, or Zero G. Zero G is usually good in summer, but there can be a keeper pothole that might be difficult to solo. Crescent Creek isn't that far away and is really good in summer. In the same area is Three Canyon, which has some nice swimming holes in summer.

    Sometimes, if you hit the canyons right after they flash they can be good in summer. We did Eardly and Three Fingers right after they flashed a few Julys ago.
  5. Ali Miller

    Ali Miller

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    Thanks Scott! That was my plan for Music, though I'll be using a mountain bike shuttle.

    Regarding heat, it was 100-105F when I spent time there recently in mid June. I run cold and this is no problem for me - is late July qualitatively hotter?

    Iron Wash, Eardley, and Three Fingers are candidates I seriously considered, but folks warn of a possible KPH in each. I'm real tall and capable, but still I have no interest in getting stuck alone. An I overestimating the danger in those canyons?

    Flash flooding is definitely something I don't want to mess with. Am I foolish to think that regularly checking the forecast while I'm out will protect me? Is late July just not a safe time for canyoneering in southeast Utah, period?


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  6. Ali Miller

    Ali Miller

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    Also, my Google-fu is usually on point, but I'm having trouble finding info on Green Pools/Green Box. Does it go by another name maybe?

    Sincere thanks for all replies.


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  7. Scott Patterson

    Scott Patterson

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    Regarding heat, it was 100-105F when I spent time there recently in mid June. I run cold and this is no problem for me - is late July qualitatively hotter?

    Late July is usually the hottest time of year, and usually hotter than mid-June, but of course it varies day to day. Usually, the only time it cools off is when flash flooding.

    Iron Wash, Eardley, and Three Fingers are candidates I seriously considered, but folks warn of a possible KPH in each. I'm real tall and capable, but still I have no interest in getting stuck alone. An I overestimating the danger in those canyons?

    In upper Iron Wash, the keeper pothole is bypassable. Eardley can have a semi-keeper and Three Fingers can have a keeper pothole, but at that time of year, I'd only recommend them right after flashing. Eardley was actually quite interesting while flowing:

    [​IMG]

    If it has been dry, I wouldn't recommend Eardley or Three Fingers in July. Only do them in July immediately after a flash flood and when the weather has become safe again.

    Flash flooding is definitely something I don't want to mess with. Am I foolish to think that regularly checking the forecast while I'm out will protect me?

    In many of those areas, you would be hard pressed to find a place to check the weather forecast.

    Is late July just not a safe time for canyoneering in southeast Utah, period?

    It depends on the canyon, but heat and flash flooding are real dangers. Flash flood season peaks in August, but late July can be bad as well. If you can hit the canyons right after a flash flood, it can actually be an advantage.

    Also, my Google-fu is usually on point, but I'm having trouble finding info on Green Pools/Green Box. Does it go by another name maybe?

    A.K.A. Green Pools. The canyon isn't detailed on the internet, but it a far superior (more scenic, safer, much better) entrance to the upper Black Box than the nasty gully that has become popular in recent years.

    I do have a map in my album:

    http://www.summitpost.org/upper-black-box/948508

    Other than that, the only beta needed is to bring two 120 foot ropes.
  8. Ali Miller

    Ali Miller

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    Good to know about Upper Iron Wash; no problems getting around the KPH then? Mike Kelsey mentions it in his books, but he (greatly) downplays risk and challenge.

    Awesome photo of Eardley! I did the upper, non-technical portion of Eardley a couple weeks ago and nearly came out of a swim with hypothermia. It was early, before the sun had made it down to the bottom -- I had to strip down and climb up to a sunny ledge, lol.

    Ah I see, Green Pools is an alternate entrance to Upper Black Box. Cool, thanks for the link! I entered from the trailhead parking, which I think is different from the shortcut route you're referring to. Awesome hike, I plan to do Lower Black Box when I return (San Rafael River cfs permitting)

    As for weather forecasts, I plan on coming back out to Green River or Hanksville at least every other night to make my phone check-ins and get updated weather. Also, ice cream and pizza, my post-canyon essentials. :)
  9. Scott Patterson

    Scott Patterson

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    Good to know about Upper Iron Wash; no problems getting around the KPH then?\

    No, but the approach is kind of a pain without a mountain bike.
  10. Ali Miller

    Ali Miller

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    Got the mountain bike. Thanks for your input, Scott.
  11. Bill

    Bill ... Staff Member

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    What canyons have you done, solo and with groups?
    Canyoneering solo sound like a horrible idea especially in monsoon season.
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  12. Ali Miller

    Ali Miller

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    Hi Bill, thanks for looking out for me.

    I've been going out to Utah for summers for the past three years, and virtually all of my experience is solo. In the Swell, I've done Upper Black Box, the Muddy Creek Chute, Mud Canyon, Ding and Dang, Crack, Upper Eardley, various sections of the San Rafael River gorge and side canyons, and quite a few other slotty side canyons.

    I know a lot of folks find soloing unpleasant, but it's a big part of the appeal to me. My main goal is to do my HW and choose canyons that don't require, for example, rigging exceptionally challenging natural anchors, dangerous stemming or DCing, KPHs, or features that really require a partner assist.

    Long days in 100+ degree heat, lugging a heavy pack full of water and gear, route finding across rough terrain, etc are all very familiar.


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  13. spinesnaper

    spinesnaper

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    Camping in 90 degree weather is my favorite.
    Ali Miller likes this.
  14. qedcook

    qedcook

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    There is a shortcut route if you have high clearance that's much easier...
  15. Ali Miller

    Ali Miller

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    Hear, hear!

    Ah, rub it in why don't you. :) Lol, my poor little Honda Fit already got stuck once this summer in the Mojave. It'll have to be my fatbike for now.
  16. Scott Patterson

    Scott Patterson

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    Where? The typical approach to Upper Iron Wash is from the Iron Divide Motorcycle Trail, but it's only for 2 wheeled vehicles. A mountain bike works well.

    The only other practical approach I know of is from the mouth of Iron Wash as it exits the Reef, but it would be a really long day from there.

    Are you sure you aren't thinking of North Fork Iron Wash? That's a completely different canyon than Upper Iron Wash and the approaches aren't even close to being the same.
    Last edited: Jul 10, 2017
  17. Ali Miller

    Ali Miller

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    So in summary: heat and flooding will be the biggest obstacles in the areas I mentioned. With intermediate canyoneering skills, those are safe choices for solo adventures.

    Thanks for the suggestions all! If I'm still alive by mid August, I'll make a trip report. :)
  18. John Styrnol

    John Styrnol

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    Why not head over to Zion? Probably hotter, but there is some water at least.
  19. Bill

    Bill ... Staff Member

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    Lugging a heavy pack alone up the climb in Blue John Main would be crazy. Be safe out there.
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  20. Kuenn

    Kuenn

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    Sounds like you're doing your due diligence....tip-o-the-helmet to you! I too appreciate the therapeutic qualities of solitude, packing lots of gear is usually where I draw the line though.

    Forgive me for nit picking just a tad. But doesn't it seem almost oxymoron-ish to ask for advice given the whole "solo" genus? (I'm just kidding, of course!)

    Good luck, be safe, and leave an itinerary with required call out intervals. :thumbsup:
    Ali Miller likes this.
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