Happy Dog Canyon & Poe Canyon – Oct 2009

Ram said:

Re: Poe Canyon and Homepage Photo

… We did not go in the Wart Pothole but considered that some kind of pendulum would work, once you got a fella over. We did the 1st 90%+ of the canyon with fully retrievable anchors. Then we stuck our rope by using the wrong type of anchor, at a drop that had a pothole between the anchor and the drop proper. Had to go up and get her. Once we had lost the “integral ghosting” of the canyon, we used established anchors twice more in the little bit of canyon left, including the wart. We had bad timing by getting too far along, that first day, after our late start. We had planned to do the canyon in two days and found ourselves dealing the end part, in impending darkness of the 1st day instead. We either should have started earlier, with day packs (best), or stopped and camped at the potable water 80% of the way through (reasonable). We were very surprised with how quickly the anchor building went. Both Tom’s building and teaching skills moved us along smartly. Either plan would have given us the extra time to solve those lower problems. Plans are already under way to return and do the whole canyon by ghosting, seeing that we failed in our intended goal. Ideas for all three of those drops have been proposed and planned.

The only bolts that were removed were the ones that came out by hand. Three, I believe. Most of the remaining bolts are 27 years old, 1/4 inch button heads (I think?), in the watercourse and as such, suspect. It was one of our our intentions, to demonstrate that even the hardest canyons can be done with the evolving arsenal of retrievable anchor and partner assist techniques and avoid a spat over bolts. When the full video is complete, I hope it makes an enjoyable piece of entertainment, but really hope that folks will say, when they see what we did…..”We could do that.” I never considered that method. How does that anchor work? That method seems pretty easy and safe to do.” Then I would consider the trip a success and true to our original vision. A hope, that the sport evolves, in the future, toward more “leave no trace” methods. Doing it safely, through the creativity, innovation and pride of its practitioners.

Ram

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Turville said:

“L” Canyon aka Poe Canyon.

Originally called “L” Canyon for the “L” in Fold on the map, it was later called “Poe” Canyon because of its “pits and pendulums” … A difficult canyon, one of the toughest ones Bogart recalls. 5 major pits negotiated with a variety of aid moves, 5.7 climbing, removable bolts, partner boosting. Easiest when water is high. 13 raps, 11 bolts, 17 bolt holes. Severe worm work and serious downclimbing required. Wet suits required. The first descent party barely made it out in one day, very exhausted from drilling.

First descent by Mike Bogart & Jenny Hall
August 23, 1981

1/4" Split-shank buttonhead bolt - not a long-term anchor in sandstone. (Happy Dog / Poe Canyon)

1/4″ Split-shank buttonhead bolt – not a long-term anchor in sandstone.

Tom’s analysis of the old bolts:

Bogart and Hall tended to use 1/4″ splitshank buttonheads for ‘short raps’ and 5/16″ stud-tops for longer raps. We removed two or three 1/4″ers that came out with a few firm tugs. The 5/16″ studs still seemed pretty solid, as they can rust into the rock and weld into place. Might be strong, might not.

Jason and pal also set a couple of bolts, but were not experienced using this tool in soft sandstone. Their two or three bolts were mostly not drilled deep enough (so they stuck out), were at odd angles (not square to the rock), but seemed to have spun up well. They were not loose or spinners – sloppy, but probably safe. Looked like 3/8″ Powerbolts x 3-1/4″ or so. We attempted to remove one of these that was especially sloppy, but it spun about one turn, then seized up – and our wrench stripped the hex-head. Very odd behaviour, hard to explain – so we stopped frakkin’ with it and moved on.

Both setters of bolts placed them generally IN the watercourse, a location usually discouraged for bolt location, as they can get pummelled when the canyon flows – though evidence points to the canyon flowing only once every couple-a years.

Well… my take is a bit different than Ram’s (but not a lot)…

We had tagged the mysterious Poe Canyon last year – Fall 2008 – we being Ram, Steve Jackson (aka Spiderman or Spidey) and I – and were very impressed by the canyon and it’s potholes. Potholes that were giant, awesome, tight, scary, many, and mostly dry. The original descentionists, Mike Bogart & Jenny Hall (August 23, 1981), used bolts for many of the drops, and the second descent team (Jason from Bluff) set an additional 2 or 3 bolts during their descent. We used quite a few of these bolts, and some were mighty scary!

We were also mighty impressed by “Spidey-neering”, being amused and delighted; but also unsure about whether this constituted a “fair means”, human descent when bringing so much talent

Ram and I – we are radical anti-bolt-ists. Thus our 2008 descent left a bit of a bad taste. Could not this canyon be done without the dreaded bolt? If so, it was up to us to do it – and we ought to get on it.

We chatted about it, and Ram engineered a trip while I worked on anchor tricks. Aussie Steve, over the summer, developed a new, ghosting-anchor device called a “Sand Trap” (at least, I call it a Sand Trap) that offered both greater security and easier release than the Pot Shot sandbags we had been using – and I had made one up but not used it.

So we assembled a strong team. Spidey came up with a boat and brought down Caleb and Clarke, two Mapletonian climbing phenoms to help with the “talent pool”. Dan Ransom signed on to shoot video and produce a short film about the project; Jim Clery signed on to run a Helmet Cam and help with whatever needed help with; and Sonny Lawrence signed up because he’s always game for something that sounds dangerous, challenging and fun!

Check Out Dan’s Amazing Video Preview HERE

Our "Talent Pool" hit church in Ticaboo, allowing us to get a 2 p.m. start from Bullfrog on a Sunday. (Happy Dog / Poe Canyon)

Our “Talent Pool” hit church in Ticaboo, allowing us to get a 2 p.m. start from Bullfrog on a Sunday.

Landing in Halls Bay, among the tammy jungle. Packing up the Big Packs... (Happy Dog / Poe Canyon)

Landing in Halls Bay, among the tammy jungle. Packing up the Big Packs…

An Entrada bench offered fairly easy walking the couple-a-miles into basecamp. (Happy Dog / Poe Canyon)

An Entrada bench offered fairly easy walking the couple-a-miles into basecamp.

We camped for the night.     Morning found us climbing the reef (the Waterpocket Fold) for our warmup canyon, Happy Dog. (Happy Dog / Poe Canyon)

We camped for the night.
Morning found us climbing the reef (the Waterpocket Fold) for our warmup canyon, Happy Dog.

Climbing the reef - Halls Creek behind... (Happy Dog / Poe Canyon)

Climbing the reef – Halls Creek behind…

Our talent pool, with the Henries in the background. (Happy Dog / Poe Canyon)

Our talent pool, with the Henries in the background.

Fun rock on the way up... (Happy Dog / Poe Canyon)

Fun rock on the way up…

Dan Ransom, our talent behind the lens, shootin' stuff. (Happy Dog / Poe Canyon)

Dan Ransom, our talent behind the lens, shootin’ stuff.

At the top of Happy Dog is a CRAZY arch - so we spent some time admiring and picture-taking. (Happy Dog / Poe Canyon)

At the top of Happy Dog is a CRAZY arch – so we spent some time admiring and picture-taking.

Sandstone swirls on the roof of da arch. (Happy Dog / Poe Canyon)

Sandstone swirls on the roof of da arch.

The gang, in the window of the Happy Dog Arch.     We suited up and headed downcanyon. (Happy Dog / Poe Canyon)

The gang, in the window of the Happy Dog Arch. We suited up and headed downcanyon.

Happy Dog is a mighty fine canyon. Didn't take many pictures, as it seemed we were in a hurry, but took a couple. Here, Dan is doing an "assisted Matrix move", using momentum and a helping hand to dash around the side of a pothole. Thank you Caleb for your fine assist! (Oh, and thank you for helping Dan, too). (Happy Dog / Poe Canyon)

Happy Dog is a mighty fine canyon. Didn’t take many pictures, as it seemed we were in a hurry, but took a couple. Here, Dan is doing an “assisted Matrix move”, using momentum and a helping hand to dash around the side of a pothole. Thank you Caleb for your fine assist! (Oh, and thank you for helping Dan, too).

There was less water than last fall, which meant the wetsuits were largely superfluous, and we had too much stuff. The Dog has some physical sections which we paid for in sweat. Here's one of them. (Happy Dog / Poe Canyon)

There was less water than last fall, which meant the wetsuits were largely superfluous, and we had too much stuff. The Dog has some physical sections which we paid for in sweat. Here’s one of them.

Ram, looking at a deep pothole. Passed using a potshot toss and much grunting. The scale of the Dog is tight and friendly, mostly, with a fair amount of stemming and a couple high-stemming spots (PG+?). We were able to descend the Dog without using any of the several bolts from the "Golden Age" descenders. (Happy Dog / Poe Canyon)

Ram, looking at a deep pothole. Passed using a potshot toss and much grunting. The scale of the Dog is tight and friendly, mostly, with a fair amount of stemming and a couple high-stemming spots (PG+?). We were able to descend the Dog without using any of the several bolts from the “Golden Age” descenders.

Final rap, into a marvelous alcove. Lots of Poison Ivy getting out of here. (Happy Dog / Poe Canyon)

Final rap, into a marvelous alcove. Lots of Poison Ivy getting out of here.

Last Man Down: Sonny, being a lightweight, gets to go last on the questionable anchors.     Then we hiked back to camp, ate dinner and slept. (Happy Dog / Poe Canyon)

Last Man Down: Sonny, being a lightweight, gets to go last on the questionable anchors.
Then we hiked back to camp, ate dinner and slept.

7:00 am is early, this time of year... (Happy Dog / Poe Canyon)

7:00 am is early, this time of year…

Even with the sun up, it still seems early. Climbing the reef with big packs...     Caleb and Clarke returned to Bullfrog to prepare for the coming week of youth-group leadership - we missed them! (Happy Dog / Poe Canyon)

Even with the sun up, it still seems early. Climbing the reef with big packs…
Caleb and Clarke returned to Bullfrog to prepare for the coming week of youth-group leadership – we missed them!

A complex route leads up to the edge of the Poe Canyon, crossing this wash (a branch of Poe Canyon, so far undescended as far as we know). (Happy Dog / Poe Canyon)

A complex route leads up to the edge of the Poe Canyon, crossing this wash (a branch of Poe Canyon, so far undescended as far as we know).

We need to cross that watercourse, but not here. I lead Dan astray and cost the group 20 minutes. (Happy Dog / Poe Canyon)

We need to cross that watercourse, but not here. I lead Dan astray and cost the group 20 minutes.

Ram's talented route-finding last year found this entry to the Poe Canyon - a rappel for us - a downclimb for Spidey. (Happy Dog / Poe Canyon)

Ram’s talented route-finding last year found this entry to the Poe Canyon – a rappel for us – a downclimb for Spidey.

"We're IN for it now!" (Happy Dog / Poe Canyon)

“We’re IN for it now!”

Again, not too many pics in the canyon as there was much to do and many pixels being burned...     Spidey up - maybe with an assist, probably not. Ready to assist us "straightbacks" out of the pothole. (Happy Dog / Poe Canyon)

Again, not too many pics in the canyon as there was much to do and many pixels being burned…
Spidey up – maybe with an assist, probably not. Ready to assist us “straightbacks” out of the pothole.

We arrived at the Monster Pothole with plenty of time. Spidey assumes the position, Ram fills Pot Shots, Dan and Jim set up the Video. Spidey launches a Pot Shot across the pothole... (Happy Dog / Poe Canyon)

We arrived at the Monster Pothole with plenty of time. Spidey assumes the position, Ram fills Pot Shots, Dan and Jim set up the Video. Spidey launches a Pot Shot across the pothole…

"Boo-Ya!". Victory Dance! (Happy Dog / Poe Canyon)

“Boo-Ya!”. Victory Dance!

Last year, we used two Pot Shots 1/3 full, and they held but were a little spooky. It was also over water, making failure somewhat safer.     This year, we chose two Pot Shots 1/3 full, plus one about 1/2 full. I think this is the third one going over... (Happy Dog / Poe Canyon)

Last year, we used two Pot Shots 1/3 full, and they held but were a little spooky. It was also over water, making failure somewhat safer. This year, we chose two Pot Shots 1/3 full, plus one about 1/2 full. I think this is the third one going over…

.. over and - Boo Ya! - across the neck!     Spidey then hand-over-hands up to the other side. We zip packs, establish a dubious anchor on this side, wade across the Monster Pothole and get towed up the far wall. (Happy Dog / Poe Canyon)

.. over and – Boo Ya! – across the neck!
Spidey then hand-over-hands up to the other side. We zip packs, establish a dubious anchor on this side, wade across the Monster Pothole and get towed up the far wall.

Here's another deep pothole, where Spidey ran up the other side. Ram rapping in, Spidey starting to pull someone out. (Happy Dog / Poe Canyon)

Here’s another deep pothole, where Spidey ran up the other side. Ram rapping in, Spidey starting to pull someone out.

"Two-man Lift" (Happy Dog / Poe Canyon)

“Two-man Lift”

Here’s how the “Two-man Lift” works:

A: a Fig-8 on a bight is lowered to the liftee;
B: Liftee clips the knot to their harness;
C: Lifters grasp rope and pull the liftee out. Liftee should use hands on the walls, rather than grasping the ropes.

While lifting the full weight of a canyoneer is out of the question for most of us, we do quite well lifting HALF.

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It started looking like we would be getting through the canyon that day – so we entered the state of mind called “smelling the barn”. Carrying the bivy gear made me (at the least) kinda grumpy and tired. We could feel the end approaching…

And then we made a mistake. A complex rappel anchor problem offered several iffy solution, and I selected what I thought would work. But it didn’t. The potshots had to pull from the back pothole, empty, and cross a large pothole with water in the bottom. The bags did not empty, and landed in the pool loaded with sand, filled with water and there was no chance of pulling them over. We thought our rigs had snagged on the bolt at the lip of the second pothole, but when Spidey batmanned up there (mixed metaphor? Still amazing!), he found two 100-lb bags in the pothole.

We were in a hurry, and people were tired and wanted to camp in camp. We had not found pumpable water except in one spot – which we had passed up. So, we ‘tainted’.

Spidey cleaned up the mess and rapped off the bolt back down to the rest of us. I was dissappointed. We blew it.

Then there was the “Wart”, which involved zipping the packs across a gaping pothole, a dicey climb up to and then rapping off a rotten ‘wart’ of rock. Then an odd sandbag anchor using gravel instead of sand (hurts more when it dumps above you), and we were looking at the final rap – which in the rapidly darkening gloom looked like a LONG way down. Anchors? There was an oddly placed bolt and… well, not really anything else. The smooth, rapidly-steepening slab offered zero creative possibilities.

We set up the rap off the bolt in the gloaming, and rapped to the finishing jungle. Tired, and unsatisfied. By headlamp we marched through thick vegetation back to basecamp…

Hiking out, we followed the Entrada bench, which was really easy except for (ahem) a short section. (Happy Dog / Poe Canyon)

Hiking out, we followed the Entrada bench, which was really easy except for (ahem) a short section.

Clouds for the exit hike were appreciated. (Happy Dog / Poe Canyon)

Clouds for the exit hike were appreciated.

Waiting for the boat. Hanging out allowed Dan to shoot head-shot interviews. Where were we at? Attitudes were wide ranging... (Happy Dog / Poe Canyon)

Waiting for the boat. Hanging out allowed Dan to shoot head-shot interviews. Where were we at? Attitudes were wide ranging…

Where I’m at is dissappointed, and not done yet. We made a few technical mistakes (I made a couple of technical mistakes) which cost us a clean descent. Yes, in hindsight, we think we know how to do it. A few modifications to the Sandtrap, a few different choices, etc. Yeah, we CAN do it, but it is dissappointing to not have it DONE!

Back in the 70’s and 80’s, Jim Erickson was one of the leading free-climbers in Boulder CO (and in the USA). He was a stickler for good style, to the extent that if he FELL on a climb, it was over for him – the ascent was ‘tainted’ and he did not return to that route.

The alternative is called ‘hang-dogging’ – the climber falls up the climb enough times to get everything figured out (‘projecting’), then finally ‘red-points’ the route by climbing from the ground to the top without weighting the gear. A lesser accomplishment.

To me, it seems like we are ‘projecting’ this thing, and even when we complete it clean, it is not the highest level of accomplishment. The HIGHEST, is the clean on-sight. We’ve got some of those off Lake Powell and they feel good, really good. Clean, and with nothing left behind (‘ghosted’).

Poe Canyon is a harder canyon, however, and would be quite an accomplishment to on-sight, ghosting. It will be a decent accomplishment WHEN we get the red-point, but the disappointment is that it takes several descents to get it figured out clean. I aspire to a higher standard than we can now attain here.

Spectacular sunset near Bryce, on the way home. Makes up for it, some. (Happy Dog / Poe Canyon)

Spectacular sunset near Bryce, on the way home. Makes up for it, some.

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About Tom Jones

Tom is the progenitor of Tom's Utah Canyoneering Guide, Utah's premier canyoneering information resource, and Imlay Canyon Gear, America's #1 maker of canyoneering-specific gear. If he's not canyoneering, he's probably snuggled up with a good book.
Posted on Oct 3rd, 2009 Canyoneering, Tom Jones, Trip Report  ,  ,

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