Tuesday, September 12, 2006

San Rafael Swell Canyoneering - September 9 & 10, 2006

Doug, Matt and I went for a Desert Adventure to Utah to the San Rafael Swell. We drove out on Friday night after work. When we were coming closer to Utah we saw some major lightning going on in the horizon and just hoped that not the whole desert turned into mud. The drive after I-70 on the dirt road was not too bad... there was only one relatively small wash we had to cross. But we decided to start the next day with an easier canyon just to check out the situation after this thunderstorm.

Picture 1: Getting up for the first day of desert adventure (click on pics to enlarge)

We wanted to do the Little Wild Horse Canyon near Goblin Valley. However that drive on Saturday morning turned out to be quite a challenge. A driver with a big truck told us to turn around because of a large washout. However we wanted to check it out ourselves. There were two major washouts. Doug the rally driver found a good line going down the creek bed and coming back up to the road. But the second washout was quite massive, and we already thought we had to hike another 3 miles to the trailhead on dirt road. After some long study of our alternatives and digging with the camping shovel we found a line and Doug pushed his Subaru through the mud. Worked out quite well! We got the freshies and showed all the big SUV and trucks where to go. Those people could not believe we made it.

Picture 2: Washout Number 1

Picture 3: Doug and his Subaru are ready for the challenge

Picture 4: Washout number 2

Finally after this long delay we got to the trailhead and started hiking the Little Wild Horse Canyon. There were apparent signs everywhere of thunderstorms the night before (hail, debris etc.) We had to wade through waist deep water a few times. This is just an amazing place and we had plenty of fun. Little wild horse canyon is a lot more interesting than the Bell Canyon, but even that return route to the trail head has some nice stuff to see.

Picture 5: Start into Little Wild Horse Canyon

Picture 6: Some wading required

Picture 7: Wow... some huge banks of hail from the storm last night

Picture 8: Matt is trying to avoid some water

Picture 9: Some pretty cool curved canyon section

Picture 10: Matt and Doug climbing up

Picture 11: The Bell Canyon

After a 3 1/2 hour round trip we got back to the car. Unfortunately there was some rain coming up in the area, and we decided to go to the Goblin State Park instead of doing Ding & Dang Canyon. That was not too bad either. There were some amazing sculptures to see. After that we drove north to the Baptist Draw canyon entrance and camped out right at the rim with an amazing view of the Swell.

Picture 12: Goblin Valley

Picture 13: Ooops.... that one broke. Just kidding... it was not Doug.

Picture 14: Some more funny goblins

Picture 15: Three lonely guys

Picture 16: Overlooking the San Rafael Swell

Picture 17: Nice Campsite, right at the rim

Picture 18: Baptist Draw Canyon from above

Picture 19: Matt is entering Baptist Draw Canyon

Baptist Draw canyon starts wide open but becomes narrow pretty soon. There were quite a few sections that required swimming due to the thunderstorms the last two nights. There was one short rappel and then a long rappel (about 80ft) into the fabulous Upper Chute Canyon.

Picture 20: Already getting wet for the first time

Picture 21: A swim through a narrow and long section

Picture 22: This is freaking cold!!!

Picture 23: First short rappel

Picture 24: This is quite narrow!

Picture 25: Another dude who is trying to come through here

Picture 26: The long rappel into Upper Chute Canyon

Once in the upper chute canyon we decided to continue downstream, even though we knew there are going to be quite a few wet spots. It turned out that we had to do about a dozen swims or more and at the end we were quite frozen through, but it was definitely worth it. This is an awesome canyon with very interesting, varying features. It's twisty, sometimes wide, other times really narrow and deep. Unfortunately I ran out of batteries in my camera, but I hope you got the idea from my other pictures.

Picture 27: The first swim in the Upper Chute Canyon.... many more to come!

Doug, thanks a lot for organizing this. It was a blast and definitely a repeat!

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