Tuesday, April 25, 2006
Popular Utah guidebook author Mike Kelsey and one of his companions Scott Patterson set out one hot afternoon to descend what looked like a short narrow slot canyon in a remote area of Utah. Mr. Kelsey had scouted the canyon from the rim and found an exit but what the slot had to reveal was still left to be seen. What they found was a deep, dark, very narrow slot that proved to be a little more than they had planned on. Had they been more prepared the canyon would have brought less challenges, but due to their unpreparedness for the obstacles the canyon presented, they opted to escape. Escape was extremely difficult and ended in using hooks to aid their way to a bench that brought them to a spot they could finally work their way out. Free from the canyon that had trapped them, they dubbed it Alcatraz. Alcatraz has now seen many descents from canyoneers, who thanks to our compadres, have dropped in knowing what was ahead of them.
My group consisted of four newbie’s to canyoneering and me. The plan was to have another experienced guy along, but the group was getting large and everyone was pretty comfortable with navigating through the deserts of Utah. Shannon was an experienced climber; Jason had been down a few technical slot canyons and knew some of the basics. Ian and Tammy were experienced outdoors-people who moved to Utah from Michigan just to be able to do this sort of thing. Everyone had proven themselves in an easier canyon the day before and I felt we were ready to step it up a little by doing this incredible slot.
Fortunately for us we were able to make a descent of the canyon and escape via the conventional way, out the bottom rather than back up the top. One of the biggest charms of the canyon is the fact that you can drive directly to the rim where the slot begins. You can skirt around the rim and make your way down to a spot about thirty feet above the slot then rappel in from there, but you get style points and have more fun by backing your vehicle up near the rim, tie a rope to it, and rappel 160 feet to the canyon bottom from there. The canyon proved deep, tight, really narrow, and a romping good time for everyone. The slot section is only about a half mile long, but it takes between two and three hours to navigate because of the many “problems” encountered. It’s fun to observe from the rim on the hike back where the slot ends, and how long it takes to walk back to your car from there (about 15 minutes).
The weather was perfect, the conditions were great, none of the water was above our knees, and the canyon was as incredible as ever. Enjoy the video and photos.