Sunday, August 27, 2006

Starting early is a GOOD thing!

Adventure Report: Eric Godfrey is reminded once again that when it comes to dropping down unknown slot canyons, the earlier you start an adventure, the less time you spend chasing the sun!

After a LONG summer semester, I finally got a break from school and it was time for some adventuring. Unfortunately my work schedule can be sporadic, and although I get a lot of time off, it doesn’t always correlate with the Monday through Friday crowd, but I did manage to get in a few trips including a quick weekender down south to hit a canyon. Summer is generally the “off season” for most Utah canyons, the desert just gets too stinking hot, but there are those select few canyons that are almost always full of water that never sees the sun, which makes them ideal for doing in the blistering heat (hypothermia can be a real concern in some canyons, even when it’s 110 degrees outside).

Down to Southern Utah we went for an excluded from guide books and web site’s canyon that very few people have the opportunity to descend. I didn’t really take any video because of reasons you will learn as you read on, but I’ve attached my finally finished video of Misery Canyon from a trip a month or two ago, here:

I had good information including GPS coordinates on how to get to the drop in, got a strong group together and off we went. The route required a shuttle vehicle which we dropped off LATE the night before, and we were going off about four hours of sleep, but we were determined to knock this thing out. The route started following an old washed up atv track that was slowly fading into nothingness. Before long we were supposed to locate a faint hiker trail leading to the top of a prominent knoll… we never found the trail, so off through the thick bushes we went. Sometimes we would find nice openings to keep ourselves from getting too scraped up, other times we went head first into the brush.

After fighting our way through the bushes we made it to the top of the knoll and had a good view of the route to the head of the canyon. Down the knoll, around another drainage to the base of a smaller knoll, then drop in and we are good to go.

The bushwhacking from here wasn’t too bad, we found a lot of openings and the “extreme” stuff was short and pretty infrequent… until we got close to the drop in. We reached the end of the lower knoll and thought’ “ok, we skirt around this next drainage then we should run into the canyon we want to drop into.” Sounds easy enough, right? Wrong! It took us about an hour to move the next ¼ mile, it was the worst bushwhacking I’ve done to date, if only we had any idea the drainage we were working so hard to pass, was the one we actually wanted to drop into.

On we forged and finally made it to the other side. It was getting really hot, and we had discussed earlier if we didn’t make it to the drop in spot by 1:00, we needed to turn around because we probably wouldn’t make it to the other car by dark. It was now nearly noon, but luckily we were only a mile away… so we thought. Down the drainage we went… it is going to turn west any minute now and take us to where we want to be… after about ten minutes of walking down this drainage it became clear that it was going the wrong direction. A quick look at the GPS and sure enough, ever since we bypassed that last drainage we have been getting further from the spot we want instead of closer. We were all very tired and seriously considered turning back, but by now we were starting to run low on water and we knew the canyon would provide us with filterable potholes.
Straight up the side of the mountain we bushwhacked some more, down another drainage, up the side and across a plateau. It’s almost 1:00, our turn around time, and we still aren’t even in the drainage we want. Finally a steep drop and we all agree, if this isn’t the one we want then it’s time to give up and hike back to the truck. Fortunately this was the right canyon, but it was about 1:30 before we reached the first rappel. What to do? Do we have enough time to make it through before dark? Do we have enough water to hike back to the truck in the heat of the day if we need to? Which would suck more, turning back and running out of water, or doing the hike out in the dark? We decided we still had a chance of making it out before dark if we hurried, and we had all done portions of the hike out before and thought it reasonable to do with headlamps if we really had to (but we still REALLY didn’t want to). We each had emergence bivy gear and so I tucked the video camera in my pack, and whoosh we went down the rope.

The canyon turned out to be very nice, lot’s of fun problems and really beautiful scenery. The ending was best with multiple waterslides into deep pools of water. The final rappel was nearly 200 feet and quite beautiful.

After reaching the end it was time for the hike out, we had about 2 ½ hours of daylight and six or seven miles of difficult terrain. We hiked fast and efficient and made it to our destination with only a small amount of light to spare. We all celebrated our accomplishment; VERY glad we made it out before dark.

All in all it was a great day, awesome canyon with good friends. It was nice to see that there is still a lot out there to be discovered. Hope you enjoy the Misery Canyon video, and watch for my review of La Sportiva’s new canyoneering shoe available at, coming next month.



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