IntroductionThis is a brief report for a trip my son Kessler, my brother Richard, my dad Russell and me in the North Wash Hanksville area in Southeast Utah between January 15 and 18, 2010. During that time period, we climbed several buttes and domes as well as completed some technical canyons.
January 15: Sandpipe Butte and un-named buttesToday was our first in a four day adventure. Kessler and I were originally planning to explore the area around the Gilson Buttes, but there was 6-12” of snow there so we headed farther south towards Hanksville where there wasn’t as much snow.
In the area of Hanksville there are many interesting buttes, so we decided to see how many we could find routes up. We explored around two buttes and found them to be too difficult.
After that, we explored around Sandpipe Butte to where we thought there might be a route up. We climbed up the steep sand and talus which was mostly covered with snow, to a promising looking crack in the caprock. After climbing to the crack, it was obvious that it wouldn’t be that easy. The pitch was 5.7 feet in difficulty. I climbed the pitch first and had a good look around before climbing back down. I lifted Kessler up the first six feet and he climbed the rest of the 25 foot pitch to the top to where I soon followed.
After reaching the top we spent several hours exploring around before heading back down an easier, but snowy route. We climbed a few other highpoints before it was getting dark after which we headed for Hanksville.
January 16: Stair Canyon, Marinus Knobs and Bailout CanyonsRichard and I planned to hike up Stair Canyon to the head of navigation, climb over the steep and high ridge over the Marinus Domes and to descend Stair Canyon. Dad and Kessler were to hike up Stair Canyon with us and return the same way.
Right off the bat, there was quite a bit of snow in Stair Canyon which slowed us down quite a bit. It took the four of us quite a while to hike to the head of navigation in Stair Canyon. Somewhere along the way, Richard had a handhold break off and suffered a minor ankle injury.
Once we reached the head of navigation in Stair Canyon, Kessler and my Dad parted ways with Richard and me. Richard and I found a steep and difficult route up to the rim of Stair Canyon. If dry, it wouldn’t have been that difficult, but this time it was covered with snow and ice. All the ledges and the many boulders had a thin layer of ice under the crusty snow, making travel much more difficult. We struggled for hours across treacherous ledges and rocks just to reach the dome-lands between Stair and Marinus Canyons before finally finding ourselves on a steep dome with no route down the other side. We took a rest and talked about the next course of action. Looking at the watch we only had 2.5 hours of daylight left and we were still not even in Marinus Canyon.
Though disappointed, both of us decided to bail and save Marinus for another trip. We decided to descend a SW Fork of Stair Canyon to reach the vehicle where Kessler and Dad were on the way too. We knew the canyon was technical since I had been to the bottom of the falls on another trip, but it didn’t look too difficult. After the initial difficult route in, the upper ¾ of the canyon was a wide and easy canyon (other than 6-8” of snow in much of it) before the canyon dropped into a technical slot. The slot had some slippery ice and the walls, but we went through it without too much difficulty. After the technical slot, we headed down canyon and found the final drop into Stair Canyon to be 7-8 feet or so. Even so, we had to set up a rappel since the drop was icy and we couldn’t bypass it. After the drop it was just a routine walk out and we met Kessler and my Dad right as it was getting dark.
It was a cold and gloomy day, with little sun. It was a challenging trip and we were not successful, but we will be back when conditions are better!
January 17: Death Canyon and Turkey KnobAfter yesterday we were about weary of conditions in the technical canyons, but Kessler still wanted to do one. Members of the group were Kessler, Richard, Dad and I. We decided on the ominously named Death Canyon since the technical section is pretty short so we would be able to check it out easily before descending the most difficult section.
We hiked up Death Canyon to the falls, finding a fair amount of snow, but pretty easy conditions. We climbed up a low 5th class route on the west side of the canyon. Kessler and my Dad were belayed while Richard and I climbed rope-less. We walked around the west side of the canyon until we found a climbing route down in. Kessler was lowered by rope into the canyon and my Dad was belayed while Richard and I climbed down free.
After dropping into the canyon, we explored downcanyon. We got to the technical section and set up the ropes. Richard went down first, but Kessler began to get nervous about rappelling off the drop. I lowered him off the first drop and we went downcanyon to the next rappel. This one was into a shallow pool of water and Kessler was nervous about this one too, but he survived. Everyone except Kessler got wet, but it was a fairly nice day-for January.
After eating lunch, we found a climbing route to the east wall of the canyon. All of us headed towards Turkey Knob, but Richard stopped once we reached the ridge since his ankle hurt from a minor fall yesterday.
Kessler, Dad and I struggled our way towards Turkey Knob. In some places there was a fair amount of snow, in other places there was a bit of loose scree and sand, but overall it wasn’t too difficult, though it was strenuous. We reached a sub-peak before finding ourselves on an exposed knife-edged ridge.
Kessler and Dad stayed put while I tried to find a route to the summit. I traversed over to the north side and found a loose chimney allowing access to the base of the summit block which I also climbed quickly. I found a better route down via a steep and dirty gully, but the route was suitable for Dad and Kessler so I went back and got them.
Kessler and I made it to the summit of Turkey Knob while my Dad stopped 10 feet short of the summit due to some exposure. We found some incredible views from the top on a clear day. It was a climb well worth taking.
January 18: Lucky CharmsToday Kessler, Richard, my Dad and I were headed back home so we needed a shorter route to do. Kessler still wanted something challenging, so we decided on Lucky Charms Canyon in upper North Wash. There was some very light snow falling in the morning, but the weather wasn’t that bad.
All of us walked up the canyon to find some snow, but little ice covering the canyon walls which made for good conditions. The canyon becomes more challenging as you head up canyon. My dad stopped at the first short 5th class climb, while Kessler, Richard and me continued up to the head of the canyon. There were several obstacles to get around and Kessler enjoyed the stemming. After reaching the head of the canyon, we headed back down the canyon and then headed home.