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TR: Escalante - DFCG/King Mesa

Discussion in 'Archives - Yahoo Canyons Group' started by jddiener, Oct 15, 2012.

  1. jddiener

    jddiener Guest

    I don't write up TRs very often, but here's one. Nothing too exciting with respect to the story, but it covers some areas that are less frequently TRed, so it may be of interest.

    Escalante - DFCG/King Mesa - 10/5-8/12

    Back in spring, Mike, Luke and I had talked about an interest in some canyons down in Escalante, in the Dry Fork Coyote Gulch & King Mesa region. We worked dates, conflicts came and went, but then we got it firmed up, overlapping Mike's birthday - what a great reason to be out playing in some quality canyons. By the time the event rolled around, we also had Adam sign up for all 4 days, and Carol, Heather and Malia set to join for the last 3 days. I had spent a bit of time in the area over the years, but the others had spent less or none. In summary, it was a superb trip - perfect weather, 8 canyons, 3 snake rescues, 1 birthday, and most importantly good times with good friends. Even the Hole-in-the-Rock road condition was as good as I've seen! (to the Chimney Rock turnoff at any rate) Pictures can be found at http://tinyurl.com/8mnrzro (sorry, quite a few).

    After meeting up the night before, on day 1 we drove out HITRR to the heavily visited main Dry Fork trailhead, the destination being lower Brimstone AKA "The Beast" (where did The Beast name come from? - one of the best canyon stories ever, see http://tinyurl.com/9bcsr4q). Indeed, from the rim it looked like a beast. I was already resigned mentally to going high over the ultra-narrows, and after a few tight pinches, I fled the depths to a more comfortable level. Luke joined me as he too was not feeling the love down there. Beautiful place down in the depths, no doubt, but no place for me. Resting up top we heard our 140-150lb teammates grunting, groaning and making slow progress below. Maybe 100-200 yards down the canyon we re-joined them at ground level in a wider spot. A short, but tight pinch ahead beckoned, but after a couple of goes at it, Luke and I were forced up, over and down again. A few manageable squeezes, and then before we knew it we had popped into a big subway/blimp chamber, for me sparking a 15 year old memory. Success! Two Beast Masters, two, uh, Beast-light descenders. More nice canyon below, and then it was time to re-gather our packs and hit neighboring Little Canyon. We weren't sure what to expect on this one, as it is indeed little, to the point of barely showing on a topo map... but a quick glance from the rim showed this thing wasn't likely to play little. In we went, forced high multiple times early on walls that were not the highest quality. In one brief walking section I unknowingly stepped by a baby rattler, but the next person spotted it. Our "wildlife handler" Adam stepped forward and bagged him in a small drysack, for carriage to safety, the first of three snake-saves he made on the trip. After about a third of the canyon, Adam was able to stay low essentially the rest of the way. The rest of us stayed high a good bit, some trying brief forays below only to fail and have to go back up. But again, the canyon relented and we were out soon enough. Short but pretty sweet was the consensus on Little. It was also agreed the name needs work… Mike has suggested AKAing after the killer rabbit (RoC) from Monty Python… so little and cute (on the map), but then look out! On the return to the cars, we did a quick Spooky, Peek-a-boo loop to round out the day, since a few of the gang had never been. Fun as always, then it was off to base camp out near Chimney Rock.

    On the morning of day 2 birthday boy Mike awoke feeling a sore throat coming on, but reinforcements arrived, spirits rose, and off we headed to the canyons Raven and Headless Hen. They are forks of the same canyon system, but they sure have different characters. We headed up to the top of Raven to start things off. Some water right off the bat had us almost backing out. Huh!? Are we canyoneers or what? Finally we committed and rolled along, completing the pretty but moderate warmup slot. At the entry to the main slot section, we split up with some in, and others relaxing in prep for Hen. This part of the canyon is a bit more serious. It has nice variety - some high stemming, the black raven section, and finally some tricky potholes. Good stuff, and confirmed to be solid at its rating. Then after a nap, it was on to Headless Hen. This one takes you a bit by surprise, as the potholes start rather small, and then just when you think you are about out, they build into some pretty good-sized monsters. Water levels were reasonably low, especially near the end. We used potshots, sandtraps, partner assists and a jump to solve the problems, and back to camp we headed, enjoying a beautiful sunset enroute. Mike's birthday was celebrated with plenty of great desserts and a very cool surprise gift from Heather - he'll be skydiving over the Zion area one of these days!

    Big Tony was slated for day 3. Mike certainly wasn't feeling his best, but he didn't want to miss this canyon. Good call! A wandering slickrock approach gave glimpses from the rim of what was to come - long and spookily deep and dark. The slot starts off shallow but pretty, and just keeps building, with some stemming thrown in. And then along comes a brief wider spot with a fallen boulder that provides an improbable entry/exit. What is even more improbable is that just 150 or so yards downcanyon is another amazing entry/exit. And that section in between? The hardest part of the canyon. So you can skip it and barely miss a thing - some team members skipped, while others played through. After that the canyon goes mostly subterranean for the rest of its length, and it is long. Really good stuff. When the info says to take a headlamp into this canyon? You better believe it - this is no Alcatraz. More problems to work, more canyon, and then a surprise swim right before the final rap that had us both chilled and laughing. The slot is over, but the canyon isn't. This lower canyon section, Sleepy Hollow, is some of the prettiest in the DFCG area. A great ending, then back up the hill to enjoy the sunset over King Mesa from camp.

    When day 4 dawned, most of us were feeling a little worked from the past few days. In the end we decided to try a canyon and area that none of us had ever been at all - "Scorpion East" accessed from nearby Red Well - that would make for a lighter day. It is rather a long walk out to the slot (west branch), but has its pretty moments. The slot started with some downclimb/capture/sandtrap work – Malia devised a nice entry plan and soon we were in - but then went into a long, continuous low stemmer while in the sun. Ugghh. I think I heard some bad words along the way from unhappy overheated canyoneers. Adam and I joked that this was harder (more tiring) than the hard part of Big T. But it relented shortly after the east branch joined. A little open walking led to a pothole section that apparently can be walked around, but we found it rather fun, with one semi-keeper as well as a swimmer. Last came a short final slot with a few interesting downclimbs, stems, potholes, and the releasing rap - thankfully the final big green pool was avoidable. The walk out was a bit of a slog at times, but also quite scenic. Then it was off to the Outfitters for good food, and sadly, goodbyes. Another memorable trip to canyon country in the books.

    -john
  2. RAM

    RAM Guest

    John Wonderful!! Let me be the first to say thank you for the report and pictures. R

    --- In Yahoo Canyons Group, "jddiener" <jddiener@...> wrote:
    I don't write up TRs very often, but here's one. Nothing too exciting with respect to the story, but it covers some areas that are less frequently TRed, so it may be of interest.
    Escalante - DFCG/King Mesa - 10/5-8/12
    Back in spring, Mike, Luke and I had talked about an interest in some canyons down in Escalante, in the Dry Fork Coyote Gulch & King Mesa region. We worked dates, conflicts came and went, but then we got it firmed up, overlapping Mike's birthday - what a great reason to be out playing in some quality canyons. By the time the event rolled around, we also had Adam sign up for all 4 days, and Carol, Heather and Malia set to join for the last 3 days. I had spent a bit of time in the area over the years, but the others had spent less or none. In summary, it was a superb trip - perfect weather, 8 canyons, 3 snake rescues, 1 birthday, and most importantly good times with good friends. Even the Hole-in-the-Rock road condition was as good as I've seen! (to the Chimney Rock turnoff at any rate) Pictures can be found at http://tinyurl.com/8mnrzro (sorry, quite a few).
    After meeting up the night before, on day 1 we drove out HITRR to the heavily visited main Dry Fork trailhead, the destination being lower Brimstone AKA "The Beast" (where did The Beast name come from? - one of the best canyon stories ever, see http://tinyurl.com/9bcsr4q). Indeed, from the rim it looked like a beast. I was already resigned mentally to going high over the ultra-narrows, and after a few tight pinches, I fled the depths to a more comfortable level. Luke joined me as he too was not feeling the love down there. Beautiful place down in the depths, no doubt, but no place for me. Resting up top we heard our 140-150lb teammates grunting, groaning and making slow progress below. Maybe 100-200 yards down the canyon we re-joined them at ground level in a wider spot. A short, but tight pinch ahead beckoned, but after a couple of goes at it, Luke and I were forced up, over and down again. A few manageable squeezes, and then before we knew it we had popped into a big subway/blimp chamber, for me sparking a 15 year old memory. Success! Two Beast Masters, two, uh, Beast-light descenders. More nice canyon below, and then it was time to re-gather our packs and hit neighboring Little Canyon. We weren't sure what to expect on this one, as it is indeed little, to the point of barely showing on a topo map... but a quick glance from the rim showed this thing wasn't likely to play little. In we went, forced high multiple times early on walls that were not the highest quality. In one brief walking section I unknowingly stepped by a baby rattler, but the next person spotted it. Our "wildlife handler" Adam stepped forward and bagged him in a small drysack, for carriage to safety, the first of three snake-saves he made on the trip. After about a third of the canyon, Adam was able to stay low essentially the rest of the way. The rest of us stayed high a good bit, some trying brief forays below only to fail and have to go back up. But again, the canyon relented and we were out soon enough. Short but pretty sweet was the consensus on Little. It was also agreed the name needs work… Mike has suggested AKAing after the killer rabbit (RoC) from Monty Python… so little and cute (on the map), but then look out! On the return to the cars, we did a quick Spooky, Peek-a-boo loop to round out the day, since a few of the gang had never been. Fun as always, then it was off to base camp out near Chimney Rock.
    On the morning of day 2 birthday boy Mike awoke feeling a sore throat coming on, but reinforcements arrived, spirits rose, and off we headed to the canyons Raven and Headless Hen. They are forks of the same canyon system, but they sure have different characters. We headed up to the top of Raven to start things off. Some water right off the bat had us almost backing out. Huh!? Are we canyoneers or what? Finally we committed and rolled along, completing the pretty but moderate warmup slot. At the entry to the main slot section, we split up with some in, and others relaxing in prep for Hen. This part of the canyon is a bit more serious. It has nice variety - some high stemming, the black raven section, and finally some tricky potholes. Good stuff, and confirmed to be solid at its rating. Then after a nap, it was on to Headless Hen. This one takes you a bit by surprise, as the potholes start rather small, and then just when you think you are about out, they build into some pretty good-sized monsters. Water levels were reasonably low, especially near the end. We used potshots, sandtraps, partner assists and a jump to solve the problems, and back to camp we headed, enjoying a beautiful sunset enroute. Mike's birthday was celebrated with plenty of great desserts and a very cool surprise gift from Heather - he'll be skydiving over the Zion area one of these days!
    Big Tony was slated for day 3. Mike certainly wasn't feeling his best, but he didn't want to miss this canyon. Good call! A wandering slickrock approach gave glimpses from the rim of what was to come - long and spookily deep and dark. The slot starts off shallow but pretty, and just keeps building, with some stemming thrown in. And then along comes a brief wider spot with a fallen boulder that provides an improbable entry/exit. What is even more improbable is that just 150 or so yards downcanyon is another amazing entry/exit. And that section in between? The hardest part of the canyon. So you can skip it and barely miss a thing - some team members skipped, while others played through. After that the canyon goes mostly subterranean for the rest of its length, and it is long. Really good stuff. When the info says to take a headlamp into this canyon? You better believe it - this is no Alcatraz. More problems to work, more canyon, and then a surprise swim right before the final rap that had us both chilled and laughing. The slot is over, but the canyon isn't. This lower canyon section, Sleepy Hollow, is some of the prettiest in the DFCG area. A great ending, then back up the hill to enjoy the sunset over King Mesa from camp.
    When day 4 dawned, most of us were feeling a little worked from the past few days. In the end we decided to try a canyon and area that none of us had ever been at all - "Scorpion East" accessed from nearby Red Well - that would make for a lighter day. It is rather a long walk out to the slot (west branch), but has its pretty moments. The slot started with some downclimb/capture/sandtrap work – Malia devised a nice entry plan and soon we were in - but then went into a long, continuous low stemmer while in the sun. Ugghh. I think I heard some bad words along the way from unhappy overheated canyoneers. Adam and I joked that this was harder (more tiring) than the hard part of Big T. But it relented shortly after the east branch joined. A little open walking led to a pothole section that apparently can be walked around, but we found it rather fun, with one semi-keeper as well as a swimmer. Last came a short final slot with a few interesting downclimbs, stems, potholes, and the releasing rap - thankfully the final big green pool was avoidable. The walk out was a bit of a slog at times, but also quite scenic. Then it was off to the Outfitters for good food, and sadly, goodbyes. Another memorable trip to canyon country in the books.
    -john >
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