Escalante Adventure 2006 – Day 2

Synopsis: Climb “River” north of camp. Monday, May 29.

There was critter rustling around outside my tent all night. I think I invaded its territory. I never did figure out what it was, even though it was there almost every night and always seemed just beyond the beam of my light. It sure sounded big, about the size of a dog. But, I think it was more likely to be squirrel-size.

Breakfast was low-key. Everyone took care of themselves. I had cream of wheat... hmmm. We eventually got under way and trucked out of camp around 10:15. Destination unknown, no plan other than a “moderate” hike.


Climbing up the first slope from camp.

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Jan, Elizabeth, and Dennis above camp.

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Once on top of the initial slope above camp, we buddied up. I was with Kim, which was good because we both moved fast. We spread out across the mixed rock and sandy pinon-juniper. There was a big ridge north of us, so somehow we decided to try to climb it. One possibility was a direct route to the summit (oddly tagged “River” on the map). Talus slopes led nearly all the way up, but seemed to peter out near the top. An indirect approach up the crest of its right-hand ridge, a huge lump of white sandstone jutting southeastward.

Kim and I quickly outpaced the others, heading for a likely looking crack. Once on the rock, it turned out that the crack was too sketchy, but parallel to it was a passable friction slope. Dave, Kathleen, and Marilyn followed, but the others rounded the foot in search of easier slopes.


Kim, Dave, Kathleen, and Marilyn (obscured) starting up to “River” via the long friction slope.

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The five of us beginning the climb. This is a very good representation of the actual steepness of the slope. An angle like this is actually pretty easy, but given the exposure, this is about the limit of what I would do unroped.

Photo by Bill Priedhorsky.
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The rest of the party 200 feet below.

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I am not really sure what is going on here.

Photo by Bill Priedhorsky.
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The top of the ridge was an undulating, wide landscape of yellow and white sandstone. The five of us sat down for first lunch — gorp and a keg of beer. The rest didn’t find any way which was much better. Eventually Petey and Melissa headed back for camp, and the rest started up the slope.


Jackie climbing the foot of “River”, Dennis belaying.

Photo by Bill Priedhorsky.
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Once they appeared above the difficult part, we kept going towards the top. We passed a few large, wide basins: dry potholes. Were there frogs hiding beneath the dessicated mud, waiting for the next really big rain?

The terrain changed, and a bright red talus slope and some angrily fractured limestone later we were on top of “River”. As expected, the view was amazing. I took a 360-degree panorama using my new digital camera’s panorama assist mode.


Dave photographing at “River”.

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360-degree panorama from “River”. Center of the photo is approximately south. On the horizon, you can see the Aquarius Plateau, the Henry Mountains, Navajo Mountain, and the Straight Cliffs.

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We sat down for a second lunch. There were fenceposts and old wire lying about, and under any sizeable flat rock pieces of decaying plastic sheeting. Soon my dad and the rest joined us, but my group didn’t wait too long. Of course, we waited to leave until one of us was behind a bush taking care of some business.

(Bruce Puckett of Woodside, CA writes: “The posts and wire were used by the USGS survey team to erect a pole at the benchmark, for triangulation.”)

The plan was to head for a bouldery slope and proceed downward, searching for a way back down to the flat. We aimed for the pouroff of a large basin. It went, and we scrambled down to the next level, then criss-crossed ledges and slickrock slopes to reach a big fault. One way was steeply downhill, aimed towards camp, the other less steep. We decided to go down the gully; my dad’s group, not far behind, took the other way.


Our path home.

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The Bowling Alley started out with a downscramble through a section of broken, loose rock. There was only one really urgent cry of “Rock!”. After this section, the fault transitioned into a somewhat more stable boulder slope. On the left wall was a huge flake of rock, two hundred feet high and maybe more across. Certainly it had been there for thousands of years, but it sure looked ready to come tumbling down on top of us.


About two-thirds of the way down the Bowling Alley. Kathleen and Dave are visible.

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400 feet below, we reached the bottom and bushwhacked our way out of the cleft. A huge yellow butterfly fluttered around me. I suppose I looked delicious. We wound our way down the sandy wash, which eventually turned out to be the gully coming into the Escalante just by our camp.

Once we got close to camp, it was clear that the wash would dryfall. I left the others to find a way around it, heading for the trail which had led us up. I was the first to arrive in camp and chatted with Melissa and Petey for perhaps twenty minutes. The others didn’t show — odd. I left, wondering what was up. Turns out they were at the bottom of the dryfall, roped up, taking turns climbing it. I succumbed to peer pressure and tried it. It was much more fun than I expected, and I found a new hold that previous folks had missed.

We returned to camp. Around six-thirtyish my dad’s party came in from upstream. Apparently they had had quite an adventure, returning via a sketchy downclimb that required a rope. My dad took a lot of ribbing over the “moderate” hike.


Karen (left) and Elizabeth descending from River.

Photo by Bill Priedhorsky.
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Karen on the sketchy downclimb my dad’s party went over. I suspect this is the spot where my dad offered Jackie a beer if she made it all the way down without using the “F Word”. She didn’t get the beer. Seeing this photo, I think perhaps she deserved about three anyway! :)

Photo by Bill Priedhorsky.
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(Incidentally, I’m rather skeptical of bringing ropes on non-climbing trips. It is true that they allow you to do things that you otherwise couldn’t. On the other hand, I think they lend a sense of overconfidence and make it easy to get into sketchy situations that one has no business being in.)


My dad.

I am now older than he was when I was born. Ack!

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We relaxed in camp. My dad had brought chips & salsa, but he wasn’t back yet, so someone broke them out. It was my night for dinner: famous enchiladas! I had gone all out. I think that fully half of my food weight on this trip was enchiladas. Four cans of beans, four cans enchilada sauce, fresh onions and tomatoes, two large bricks of cheese. It filled a 10-quart stock pot to three inches below the rim. Melissa assessed it as appropriate for twenty people. Big thanks here to everyone who helped with chopping!

But, only one serving remained when we were done.


Marilyn hanging out.

Note how the chairs are all on a slope. They had originally been set a few feet away on a flat place, but they immediately migrated over to the slope. The whole trip, this was the place the chairs accumulated: repeated attempts to move the circle somewhere more level mysteriously failed.

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Dish duty!

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Petey working on his hole. He and I spent some time digging in it after supper.

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I brushed my teeth and went to bed listening to the critter crashing to and fro in the bushes. I suppose that he was looking for food or something like that, but it sure sounded like he was having a party.

Please continue reading on Day 3.

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