Spring Canyon Adventure 2007 – Day 7

Synopsis: Explore upper S— Canyon. 8 miles. Sunday, March 18.

Today was a day for adventure: we would explore S— Canyon as far as we could.

After breakfast and the usual fooling around, we were off.


Me not too far above camp.

Photo by Charles Yeamans.
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The part of S— Canyon above camp proved to be extremely scenic.


Another ice patch.

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These strange, conical mounds of gravel were common in some parts of the canyon.

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We speculated what caused the mounds. Eventually it became obvious that they were probably caused by rocks falling into the streambed: that certain kinds of red rock broke apart in contact with moisture, disintegrating into a cone of gravel.

The following two photos (taken later in the day) seem to bear out that hypothesis.


Disintegration in progress.

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Just beginning to disintegrate.

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We continued on up the canyon.


Just below the first major tributary split off to the left. We went right.

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Just before the next major fork, we came upon some very fresh rockfall.


Charles and Andy going through the rockfall. Note the sharp edges and the dust still everywhere.

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Still-leaved plants smashed under the rocks.

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Source of all the trouble.

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(More rockfall photos on our return through this area later.)

The water had become intermittent, but above the last major fork we came to a large area of springs, filled with brush and causing tricky footing and navigation.

At the head of this, we came to a fall and had to backtrack for several yards before finding a way up the right side. Once on top, the character of the canyon changed totally, becoming bone-dry and floored by slickrock rather than sand.


Rest stop in the slickrock wash right above the fall.

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Andy in the wash.

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A few hundred yards up, we came to a second fall.


Under the second blocking fall.

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We first tried to bypass it by climbing a crack on the left. The crack was fine and a good bypass for the second fall, but once up there we could also see an enormous third fall towering above and no hope of bypass on the left.

The guidebook suggested bypassing it on the right, and even that a route all the way to the top was possible. We scoured the far slope by eye and picked out a single likely possibility.

We downclimbed the crack, backtracked, and headed up.


Possible bypass?

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Charles climbing the slickrock.

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Andy’s butt.

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Once up the slope, the crux we had seen turned out to be easy, and we were quickly up it and onto the next bench.

Unfortunately, the following bench was well-guarded by an eight-foot cliff. There seemed to be two possible routes to further progress. One, objectively easier, was a few slickrock moves hanging over rather big air — a no-go without good protection. The other was a doable, but tricky, crack without much exposure. After some debate we decided rather gloomily that we didn’t want it that much and turned back.


The giant dryfall blocking progress. The pile of large, red boulders on the left side of the canyon lies above the smaller fall that blocked us earlier and the crack that we climbed to attempt a bypass.

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Instead of going straight down, we angled over in order to bypass the second fall and perhaps see the bottom of the third.


Approaching the huge fall.

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Dropping the last few feet down to the level above the second fall was a bit of an adventure. Charles made it down, over some rotten sandstone that had a thick scattering of pebbles on it, but Andy slipped and earned a few scrapes. I started down but then changed my mind and backed up, which was pretty squirrely in itself. Backtracking and trying a different way resulted in my slipping and falling a couple of feet anyway. Being above the edge of the second fall, this was kind of scary, though quite a few other things would have also needed to go wrong before I went over.

We regrouped and walked up around the bend.


Another obstacle, and a good time for lunch.

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Lunch break.

My own little adventure was on the other side of this boulder — rather far back from the lip (which is immediately out of the frame to the right), but it seemed much closer at the time.

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After lunch, we climbed four overhanging feet to a ledge on the left side using deep wind-scoured potholes and kept going. Alas, there wasn’t much further to go.


Head of navigation in S— Canyon.

A chimney over the water seemed possible, but quite tricky and potentially soggy anyway.

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We returned via the crack used for our original bypass attempt.


Downclimbing our original bypass-attempt crack.

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Andy and me in the crack.

Photo by Charles Yeamans.
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Returning past the spring area to the confluence, we took a little time to explore up the other fork, discovering a pretty but brush-choked pool and grotto and a very deep overhang.


On our short trip up the other fork.

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By this point, we were really sick of scrambling over rocks and other junk. We turned for home.


Returning through the rockfall.

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Panoramic view of the whole rockfall scene. My theory as to what happened is this: (a) large chunk of Wingate sandstone tips over parallel to the face, leaving the large white area and the multiple scrape marks to its right; (b) this crashes onto the Kayenta bench, breaking into pieces and destroying part of the bench; (c) the whole mess tumbles into the wash. Given the freshness, it must have happened this winter.

It must have been pretty spectacular. I wonder if we could have heard it a mile or two down the canyon in camp.

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Taking a break in the shade.

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The spectacular big walls near camp.

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Playing in the snow.

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More great scenery in the middle part of S— Canyon.

The little canyon we explored the previous day is the first gap on the left, and the furthest large butte is the one that towers more than 1,000 feet over camp.

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Arriving properly exhausted back at camp, we had spaghetti with meat sauce again.


Finally, a frog. We wouldn’t have seen this one either if he hadn’t croaked while I was walking by his rock. I must have jumped three feet.

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Again, fire for a little while and then bed.

Please continue reading on Day 8.

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