IntroductionThis is a trip report/album of several scrambling or canyoneering routes in Arches National Park and Behind the Rocks over November 6-7. In that time period we scrambled to the top of several fins and rock domes as well as descended some canyons.
November 6: U-Turn, Dragonfly Canyon and Tier DropSeveral of us met at the mouth of Courthouse Wash near Moab at 8 am. After meeting, we split into two groups and the two groups went our separate ways. The group we (Kimberly and I) chose was a combination of old friends/acquaintances and new friends. AJ, Mark, Mark, Rebecca and Justin came. I already knew Justin and AJ from previous trips, but the other ones are new friends.
The first route of the agenda was a route known as U-Turn. It isn’t quite a climbing route and it isn’t quite a canyoneering route, though it is often referred to as either, but was more of a scramble up to the top of an interesting dome followed by a descent of a minor drainage via a few downclimbs and rappels.
We climbed up to and over the top of the domes near Park Avenue (rock formations in Arches National Park) and enjoyed the fine views from the summit. The route down to the north was enjoyable because we got to be close up to and “behind” some of the balanced rock formations and towers that I have always wondered about. We then downclimbed and rappelled the minor drainage to the north and then followed the rock benches back to the trailhead.
After finishing the U-Turn Route everyone was ready for more action. We decided to descend Dragonfly Canyon (also in Arches National Park). Our little group split soon after beginning. Some of our group wanted to do the entire canyon (which requires swimming several pools) while some of the group decided not to get wet (Rebecca was 7 months and quickly became known as the Prego-chick!). The ones who decided to get wet crossed over to the north slot and descended it. Kim and I dropped into the cold water and waded through the long belly-deep pool while the others found a way to chimney above them. After that there was an interesting downclimb and traverse and other downclimb before-----more pools! We swam through the cold pools (but not quite as cold as the pool in the slot) before reaching the top of the first real drop in the canyon. We rappelled this drop and hiked downcanyon to another drop (135 feet?) and rappelled that one too. After that it was just a hike down to Courthouse Wash and then scramble up the rocks and back to the trailhead, all while trying to keep up with the speedy Prego-chick.
Still hungry for more, we headed back down to Park Avenue to try another route known as Tier Drop. Like the U-Turn Route, it also isn’t quite a climbing route and it isn’t quite a canyoneering route, though it is often referred to as either. We climbed up the same crack/gully to the top of the domes near the head of U-Turn. After that there was a dicey downclimb and a couple of rappels down to the bottom of the drainage. We traversed the ledges that looked exposed from above, only to find them to be not so bad at all. We then hiked up the Park Avenue drainage back to the trailhead.
AJ wanted to do another route known as Not Tier Drop, but the rest of us were ready to wind down. By now it was close to sunset as well. We set off to climb up to the hidden “swimming pool” tucked up in the cliffs above. We climbed some easy cliff pitches, checked out a cave after which we saw and photographed a fair sized scorpion. After seeing the scorpion we found the route up to the “Swimming Pool” and checked it out. It was dry, but still quite interesting. We finished just in time for a nice sunset painting the La Sal Mountains.
November 7: Rock of AgesToday the group split again. Kimberly and I chose to join the famous (infamous?) Dodge drivin’ Shane Burrows to do the route known as Rock of Ages. Other members were Shauna, Prego-chick, Mark, Monica, Justin and various others (names will appear later).
Rock of Ages is a very varied route that includes just a little bit of about everything, but nothing in excess. It has climbing and scrambling up various sandstone fins and domes, climbing down through short but sinuous slot canyons, big views and huge arches.
We drove to Pritchett Canyon in Behind the Rocks and set off upcanyon. We went up a sinuous side canyon and did several climbs and scrambles up to the top of the fins forming Behind the Rocks. Since the group was larger than yesterday’s. We went past Chimney Arch and up to the top of the massive Pool Arch (a.k.a. Tear Drop Arch).
Part of the group went down a route through a steep chute to reach the base of the arch, while the rest of us group rappelled directly off the huge headwall behind the arch. It took a while to get everyone down the wall! At the bottom of the wall there was a pool of water, but an experimental zip line was set up to try and get the people across dry. I was first on the experimental zip line, but landed directly in the water. The method got perfected with each passing person, so by the end it was a routine process.
After getting down the big wall we headed down canyon. The canyon slotted up good and wading, stemming and downclimbing was required. The crux of the route was a short but tricky climb over a big log wedged vertically in the slot.
After the slot, it was more hiking down the nice canyon. It was pretty routine except for two rappels. The first one was optional as it could be bypassed using a tricky and exposed ledge system. The brave climbed down the ledge system while the chickens did the rappel and after watching the others downclimb the sketchy ledges, we were glad we missed them.
The final obstacle was a high rappel with a somewhat awkward start. You either had to start while ducking and kneeling on a ledge while leading over to start the rappel, or you could downclimb down to a platform where the start was easier. After the rappel, the rest of the route out was a piece of cake.
Sadly Kimberly and I had to head home while the others stayed another night and day for more adventure. It was a great trip and we got to meet lots of great folks.