Thursday, August 13, 2015

Tour of the West: Slot Canyons Part 2 -- Medium

Slot Canyons Par 2: Medium (I say medium, but this one was relatively easy as well, given that we stopped before the section buried in sticky mud.)
Wire Pass into Buckskin Gulch

AKA the consolation prize for not getting a permit in the lottery for the Wave

One of the places we had wanted to hike was to a rock formation known as "The Wave" in Vermillion Cliffs National Monument.  Despite the fact that the hike is across the backcountry, lacking a real trail, the formation is exceedingly photogenic and has gotten quite a bit of press in recent years, so the BLM limits the number of people per day into the area to 20.  Ten of these are allocated four months ahead of time by an online lottery; the other ten via an in-person lottery the day before.   So many people try to get permits that your chance of success is reportedly only about 5%.

I tried the online lottery.   Fail.  Bummer.

When we got into the area, it was exceedingly hot, and I figured we oughtta try the walk-in lottery because, after all, how many people want to do backcountry route-finding in the hundred-plus degree heat?  

At 8:30 am (the appointed hour), the walk-in lottery room was packed.  Standing room only.  At least a hundred people.  Even after the rangers spent half an hour talking about the hazards of the area, pointing out that they don't patrol to rescue people, there is no water, and basically saying it would be stupid to be out there in the heat of the day when it was forecast to be 105, everyone still put their applications in.  

Needless to say, the odds were against us, and we didn't get a permit.  Bummer.  But it was going to be bloody hot the next day, so maybe it was just as well.

Fortunately, I had a backup hike in the same area scoped out -- there is a short slot canyon (Wire Pass) that connects into Buckskin Gulch, alleged to be the longest slot canyon in the world.  I figured we would enjoy the narrows in Wire Pass, and then explore as much of Buckskin Gulch as we felt like before heading back out to our air-conditioned motel room and the pool (oooh-- a splurge!).   And while it was going to be hot, there was no sign of rain anywhere upstream, so we didn't have to worry about flash floods.

Because it was going to be so hot, we took lots of water with us (a gallon per person!), and left the motel in Kanab while it was still dark, so as to get to the trailhead and start the hike right around sunrise.  We also knew it would be considerably cooler in the shade of the canyon than out on the bare rock up top.

Trailhead in the desert.

Long shadows attest to the early starting hour.

The light is awfully nice at this time of day.

Chad, near the beginning of the first short set of narrows.

I love this stuff!
 It opened up,

but soon enough got narrow and interesting again.

It's very fun to come around a corner to find another chasm.

There are petroglyphs at the confluence of Wire Pass with Buckskin Gulch.

We headed into Buckskin Gulch,

where we found the fun-to-play-with mud mentioned in an earlier post.

Eventually, as the sun got higher in the sky, we headed back into the Wire Pass drainage to head back to the car.

The biggest obstacle we encountered was a minor chokestone that created a five-to-six-foot barrier.  Not too difficult, as Nimue demonstrates:

First, hand pack up to Dad. (notice her pack is small; Chad and I had the extra water...)

Try to stem.

 Is there a good handhold here?

 Try that stem again.

Oh, here's a handhold!

No, I don't need help!

Patented tummy smear.

I'd love to do the whole multi-day Buckskin Gulch backpacking trip sometime, as it looks to be every bit as jolly as the Tonto Canyon trip I did back when I lived in AZ.  There are many other canyons in the area too.  Clearly this area needs more exploration.

No comments: