This is the story of our weekend in the San Rafael Swell during early April. It was a beautiful weekend with lots of variety since we did much hiking, scrambling, canyoneering and climbed the highest peak in the Swell.
Participants were Fred Genske, Justin Kuhn, Kessler, and me.
The photos will tell most of the story.
Me (above) and Justin in Eagle Canyon.
April 6: Eagle Canyon/Forgotten (Secret Mesa) Canyon
Fred Genske, Justin Kuhn, Kessler and I went for a big loop between Eagle and Forgotten Canyons. Forgotten has been in the back of my mind for a long time and I hadn’t been there yet.
We started near the bridge and hiked down the wide section of Eagle Canyon to the Kayenta Narrows. Slots in the Kayenta formation are rare, but Eagle Canyon has a pretty good one.
The first section of Eagle Canyon is wide and easy, but it will get more interesting and challenging below.
After noticing that the pool at the end was dry except for ice, we dropped into the slot. We traversed the slot with minimal problems. It was a good slot, but it would have been nice if it were a lot longer.
An interesting rock formation in Eagle Canyon.
Kessler wanted to be the first person to rappel into Eagle Canyon, so we let him go first and check it out.
Part of the slot in Eagle Canyon.
Kessler chillin' in the narrows of Eagle Canyon.
Kessler on the last drop in Eagle Canyon. You can see Fred below as well.
Justin in Eagle Canyon with Fred below.
The last drop in Eagle Canyon.
After two rappels and some downclimbs, we headed down canyon. We met another couple at the falls and they were traversing around it. It was the last we saw of them.
A giant Douglas fir just below the big drop in Eagle Canyon. The tree is 25 meters/82 feet high. It's still smaller than the trees in the Pacific Northwest, for example, but here is the Utah desert, it is huge. Douglas fir are rare in the San Rafael Swell, but this one is able to survive in the desert due to abundant shade and a pool of water that is usually present.
Kessler in the lower section of Eagle Canyon.
One of two giant Douglas Firs in Eagle Canyon. This one is even taller than the other one, perhaps about 30 meters/100 feet high.
Just down canyon was another nice slot. Not far below that, we ascended Forgotten Canyon (a.k.a. Secret Mesa Canyon). It was better than expected and was actually quite nice. There were several nice climbing obstacles to negotiate as well. We also explored several really good side slots with some great 5th class climbing and also found the large arch in a side canyon.
Lower Forgotten Canyon.
Kessler in Forgotten Canyon.
Lower Forgotten Canyon.
The mid section of Forgotten Canyon.
Narrows in Forgotten Canyon.
The 5.4 Slab Obstacle in Forgotten Canyon.
Kessler making a bypass in Forgotten Canyon.
A slot section in Forgotten Canyon.
Parts of Upper Forgotten Canyon are wide and sandy, while other parts narrow down to slot. This is one wide and sandy section.
This is a side canyon of Forgotten Canyon. We ascended it in order to view a big arch at its head.
Scrambling up a side slot in Forgotten Canyon.
Scrambling in a side canyon of Forgotten.
Kessler enjoying upper Forgotten Canyon.
Interestingly, there was a little snow in the canyon (It was quite warm outside) and the pool in the final slot probably had ice one foot thick.
The final slot section of Forgotten Canyon.
After doing an exciting ledge traverse on the north side of the slot (later we found that the standard route is on the south side) we reentered the canyon before it faded away onto the mesa. From there it was a nice and scenic walk past some impressive rock buttes and towers back to the trailhead.
San Rafael Knob as seen from the benches above Forgotten Canyon. It would be the climb for the next day.
Some of the buttes on the benchlands above Forgotten Canyon. This one is much bigger than it looks in the photo. I wonder if this one has ever been climbed?
The view into Coal Wash.
The San Rafael Swell is just chock full of buttes and towers, some of which haven't been climbed before.
It was a pretty long day, but only because we spent much time exploring all the side slots and some other side trips.
April 7: San Rafael Knob
It was a chilly morning and we notice that the waterbottles were partially frozen. I guess that this can be expected in early April at 7200 feet, but once the sun came up, it warmed up quickly.
Fred Genske joined me for a climb of the San Rafael Knob. We didn’t drive all the way to the standard trailhead so road walked to the ATV track which we hiked. We started off on the wrong track, so we had to do some backtracking and traversing, but once on the right track, we quickly made our way to the Knob.
The San Rafael Knob. Soon the approach will be over and we will be ready to start the climb.
The upper slopes of the San Rafael Knob.
The San Rafael Knob was a beautiful scramble to the top of a spectacular summit. Interestingly, there was still some snow on the north side. I was going to climb the Northeast Ridge directly, but Fred found an easier way up on the south side.
Fred on the summit of the San Rafael Knob.
Fred on a traverse along our route to the San Rafael Knob. It's actually a fairly easy ascent and the rock is really grippy.
After enjoying the great views, we descended the knob and made our way quickly back to the vehicle. It was a good climb.
Fred on the summit of San Rafael Knob.
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