X-fest 2019: PINTAC and DDI I’ve wanted to go to X-fest since I descended my first X-rated canyon, and this year the stars aligned and I was able to make it down there with a great crew! Joining my wife Olivia and I on the drive down were Josh, Nate, Dunne, and Jamie. Meeting us down there Friday night were Mark Burnham, Brayden and Bryan from St. George, along with Tom Collins, Anthony Dye and Jessica Lawrance coming from up north. We drove down to Escalante early Friday and met up with Mark Burnham for a fun little exploration, taking advantage of dry conditions in the area. Saturday we had planned to PINTAC because it was on a few people’s lists, and has a lower X-section that would be good for those who didn’t want to jump into full PINTAC. It turned out that everyone wanted to do full PINTAC, including Dunne, Brayden, and Jessica, who had never done an X-canyon before. Olivia didn’t have anyone to hike into lower PINTAC with, since everyone was going to try full, so she sat the canyon out for some easier fare. Saturday morning we followed Mark on a more direct approach to PINTAC along the standard approach for DDI, arriving at the head after 1 hour and 51 minutes of hiking. The first slot section gave us a good idea of what was to come, with a short upclimb and high-stemming. Mark Burnham was on the lead, and keeping up with him was quite the workout. We waited at an open area for everyone of our group of 10 to catch up, Mark explained that this would be a good place to bail if anyone wasn’t so sure about continuing on. Jessica decided to hike out and meet us at the start of the lower section, which was a good call considering full PINTAC is not a good first X-rated canyon. Starting into the next section, a pattern emerged. Long hallways of straightforward high-stemming would eventually force us back onto flat ground. From there we would be forced up large upclimbs that were exhausting, but straightforward with good technique. This pattern seemed to repeat itself throughout the next three hours of continuous slot. I was shocked by the lack of silos, and what silos were there were no particularly wide or hard. PINTAC seemed to be more of a challenge of endurance rather than head-game, though those who were doing it as their first X might say it was both! Near the end of the upper slot, we could tell things were winding down, and we were tired of upclimbs, so we pushed the last bit of slot at ground level, making for some entertaining squeezing! After meeting up with up with Jessica, we started the lower section of PINTAC, which was more featured than the upper, but required more path-finding due to its convoluted and dark nature. I got to be on-point for the lower section and had a great time route-finding! The lower section lacked the big upclimbs of the upper, but did have a fantastic final downclimb onto flat ground. After crawling under a boulder, we were at the most scenic part of the canyon, with subway-like walls, and springs coming right out of the rock. We hung out in this fantastic section of the canyon for a while waiting for everyone to catch up, and appreciating the unique beauty of the place. It is similar to the section at the end of Leprechaun Canyon, but has it beat in my opinion. Following the subway section, the canyon opens up quite a bit, with two rappels leading to a lush hike out. Car to car, full PINTAC took us 9 hours and 53 minutes, which I think is decent considering our group size. For day 2, Olivia and I decided to join Tom and Anthony for DDI. Only Tom had done the canyon before, so the three of us were looking forward to a good time in a canyon that I’ve heard lots of good things about. The rest of the group opted to do the sneak route of Big Tony, which I had recommended since many of them were trashed from PINTAC and had never done it before. The approach to DDI took about an hour and a half, and another 30 minutes to get situated and rappel in. The stemming started right off the bat, with Anthony leading the high-route, and Olivia figuring out things down low. I might have been taking the low route as well, but I have built up enough head game now that I’m fine staying high, especially when it saves energy that would be used going low. Olivia’s shoes slipped out a couple of times due to being worn through on the ends, which did not help her out. After about 45 minutes of high-stemming Olivia said she needed to bail-out, she was going pretty slow and was a bit rusty on the endurance side of things since she had not been in an X canyon for more than a year. Getting her out was tricky, since the only exit spot required stemming up to the top and then doing a sketchy slab climb out. Anthony saved the day and made the sketchy moves out first, throwing her a hand-line. What makes DDI different from PINTAC is that you pretty much don’t touch the ground in DDI’s X-section. PINTAC brings you back to flat ground multiple times whereas in DDI you are up there the whole time. It was a good thing Olivia left when she did, because the next two hours of stemming were higher and harder. There was nothing crazy, just problem and problem to work through. The convoluted walls make it nearly impossible to galumph down corridors like you could in PINTAC, you had to think almost every set of moves, which slowed us down. Ample ledges and pockets make all the stemming reasonable throughout, though I did feel that the canyon challenged my head-game, when PINTAC did not. Being that high up for that long was mentally taxing, and I was surprised by the consistent exposure in this canyon that many consider not very difficult. Nearing the end of the X-section, there was an easy silo crossing with an impressive drop beneath it. It was too dark down there to get a picture, but it opened up about 3 feet below me into a very deep, dark, and impressive chamber that you would not fall into. Two other silos near the end required a full body bridge to cross over top (they could have been crossed lower with more effort), which was my first time doing that kind of move in a X-canyon. The final section of the canyon has a few rappels and is mixed stemming and potholes, which were all dry with the exception of one that was chest deep. Anthony ferried Tom and I across to the other side so that we could stay dry! The final rappel was tricky to figure-out, and I dropped our rope trying to get to the webbing in the narrow exit slot. Luckily we had a second rope, and were able to get it figured out, rappelling down into poison ivy below. The poison ivy was hard to identify because the leaves had mostly fallen off, but it was everywhere. Avoiding it was impossible, and traveling in the watercourse was the best bet. At one point the water got so deep that anthony started swimming! I managed to stay dry above the knees, but definitely ran into more poison ivy. The bushwhack out was not nearly as bad as I expected, but there really isn’t any avoiding the poison ivy. DDI overall was not as physically hard as our day in PINTAC, but requires a better head game and route-finding abilities. I’m not saying DDI is scary, just not as straightforward from a stemming perspective as PINTAC. Having done Psycho D recently, I can say that the main silo in that canyon is more technically challenging than any silo in PINTAC or DDI. It is just the length that makes those canyons difficult, and the up-climbs in PINTAC’s case. I didn’t find the upclimbs in PINTAC particularly challenging, but I can see how they might be a really big problem for some. Talking to Tom, we agreed that Glaucoma is a really good canyon to do before PINTAC. It has harder silo-crossings and a few upclimbs similar to what you’ll find in PINTAC, with only 1.5-2hrs of high stemming. Both canyons are very good, well worth doing, and probably well within the range of many who might not think so. Olivia said that she enjoyed the movement of DDI, and wants to come back and get through the whole thing, so I suspect I'll be seeing DDI again soon.