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Solutions for Chambers Canyon

Discussion in 'Accidents and Near Misses' started by Chris Benson, May 11, 2020.

  1. Chris Benson

    Chris Benson

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    On May 9th, my party was involved in an extraction in Chambers Canyon (S. Fork Bull Canyon).

    We encountered a separate party that had begun the canyon before us. A member of their group had become stuck in one of the more difficult sections of the canyon.

    They had foot loops and handlines for the stuck person, but she was very stuck.

    We initiated a response by one of our party of two climbing down the difficult squeeze chimney to help push her back up canyon, while we provided foot loops, a shoulder loop from above, and a hand from up-canyon.

    After about 1 hour of micro movements, heavy coaching, and direct pushing/pulling, we were able to free her.

    At that point, it was a tough decision as to the most prudent course of action. I felt comfortable continuing with the resources we had, although I did consider calling for outside resources, but decided not to because of the stability of the situation, the time delay involved with getting SAR on scene, and the serendipity of having ample technical gear to manage the terrain.

    Due to the difficulty of protecting the crux narrows section, we decided it would be better to go up canyon rather than down canyon.

    After returning from my vehicle with ropes etc., I was able to located some bolts placed from previous rescues, and use these to build systems to provide belays/handlines/haul the remaining members up the jumps to a confluence with a side canyon.

    The last obstacle up the side canyon was managed with natural anchors using a belayed upclimb/uphaul system.

    Soooo, my biggest thought and/or question for the community is:

    1) How can we better communicate the risks involved with this particular canyon (there are many examples of people becoming stuck in this canyon)?

    2) Would a well placed bolt protect the crux narrows section and/or help in future rescue situations in this canyon?

    Thanks for your thoughts!
    hank moon likes this.
  2. cjhaines

    cjhaines Chris

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    Location:
    Orem, UT
    Sounds like a touch situation, and glad everyone was OK.

    Having done Chambers, I feel like most sites that have beta provide adequate warning about the risk of being stuck, the upclimb, etc. Many have stories of people getting stuck, so I'm not so sure that there's more we can do. The R rating for sure applies here.

    Placing a bolt wouldn't do much, other than help people aid the crux. In my opinion, that's not needed and would detract from the beauty of the canyon. If people are uncomfortable, they should prepare for a canyon like chambers by going through other tight slots that may require stemming first (Middle Lep, Hogs, etc.)

    Again, these are my opinions, so YMMV.
    ratagonia likes this.
  3. ratagonia

    ratagonia

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    Thanks for your post, Chris, and welcome to the Collective.

    Glad you were able to help get this situation solved. I am guessing this took place at that tough up-climb above the a very narrow slot, about half-way down the second half... but no matter.

    Without context, beginners have no way of understanding what a warning / description of difficulties means, and of accurately assessing whether their party can handle it. There are numerous places in Utah that are described on the Interwebs, usually with warnings, that are "hazardous". We cannot "fix" them all, and I think it is disadvantageous to fix even some.

    As a matter of placing this all in context, where did your group get beta, was the warning there and taken heed of, how experienced was your group??? etc. etc.

    Tom
  4. sail2fast

    sail2fast

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    My last trip to Chambers I got stuck and needed some unsticking by my mates (thanks Bucky and David). I'd done the canyon before no problem, so it was a surprise to get stuck (5'8" 175lbs). This canyon is very skinny in places! I have no good advice for warning new folks or preventing problems however much of the beta stresses the "crux" upclimb (which isn't all that hard, really) and not the very skinny sections earlier on.

    To the extent existing beta can be updated, it is definitely worth stressing both the number of rescues that have occurred in this canyon as well as its unsuitability for anyone that isn't skinny. Also, of course, it is very far from rescue services...
  5. ratagonia

    ratagonia

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    But, but... some big people have been through that canyon. Especially skinny sections can be avoided by going over the top, on all of them. But yeah, there are some skinny sections.

    The crux climb-up is difficult when the place one starts the climb from is a pool... jus' sayin'... the good thing about the 'crux climb up' is that only the last person really has to do it on their own. Boosting works quite well there.

    c10b.
  6. Chris Benson

    Chris Benson

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    Hey Tom,
    I've been working in the Canyons for about 15 years, mostly as an instructor for multi-day wilderness programs.

    To BE CLEAR, this was another party. Im not sure how much research they had done.

    It seems abundantly clear that their informal "group leaders" had made a large error in judgement in taking inexperienced people in this canyon.

    Thanks for your response, I don't really want to bolt or protect every single R or PG section, just wanted to point out that this canyon and begin a discussion.

    Nice to meet you virtually!
    ratagonia likes this.
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