Big Rattlesnake Canyon and Fiddlesticking, Escalante Canyoneering
Victory in Midget Rattler the day before encouraged us. After the requisite post-party casual breakfast, a gang was rounded up to try the next one. Today, the gang would be Tom, Deanpaul Russell (aka Deeps), Alicia Scotter, Hank Moon, Bill Wolverton, Alane Urban and our visitor from the Great White North, Jeff from Vancouver.
We got an earlier start…by three minutes. This time we knew how to get atop Rattlesnake Bench, so we did. Then began the tedious, baking hot hike along the crest of the Bench, grabbing a bit of shade from time to time. Alane got some practice in navigating. On the map, it did not seem so far, but it took us a full 4 hours to find the canyon.
There was a brief snake encounter, close to the canyon. A nice bull snake held court, more or less undisturbed by our presence. Finally found a canyon. Wandered down it, couple of downclimbs, until our side-canyon intersected the main stem. Bill briefly lobbied for hiking up the bench to do "the whole thing" - but my enthusiasm was for getting down into the shade, and starting to deal with the canyon's unknown difficulties. So we Fiddled up a Tree, and rapped down in. Bill rapped in first so he could wander upcanyon a bit.
Well, Deeps Fiddled up a tree and asked me if it was done right. Looked good to me. After wrapping in, he pulled the Stick, and... well, the rope itself did not pull. Hank hiked upcanyon a bit to find a way back up. Found the rope tangled up... uh, Deeps? you know how to tie the knot, right???
No he didn't. He tied a Stone Knot, but a downward Stone which ... as we found out ... does not consistently release. Upward Stone, people. UPWARD. Read the Tech Tip if you don't know how that works, or ask for instruction in the field.
In this case, we lost 40 minutes: no big deal.
Finally, moving downcanyon. A second rappel was just around the corner, which we Fiddled off a bunch of mini-pinnacles. Then some narrows, downclimbs, brush to push through. A couple short raps were fiddled off trees and logs. After not too long, we finally moved into the delightful shade. Pools were avoided. The next rappel offered nothing to FiddleStick, but plenty of sand, so we set up the SandTrap and rapped down to the edge of a shallow pool. Ahead, the canyon showed some nice narrows, some bright light, and... and... a whole bunch of air! Glad we brought the 300'er, hope it is long enough!
Good news - it was! Alicia did the honors and was soon on the ground. The other folks rapped on down, leaving Hank and I last. The anchor plan was to FiddleStick this large horizontal pinnacle for this last, big rap (280 feet!) By the time Hank and I were on deck, the wind was whipping up pretty good and... well, it just didn't seem like a smart idea. The wind could mess with the pull cord, the weight of the pull cord could mess with the pull cord, etc. So I pulled out a piece of webbing and wrapped the pinnacle for a conventional pull-through type rappel. In setting up the rope, I noted that the sharp edges of the pinnacle might have prevented the rope from pulling anyway!
In any case, a spectacular rappel. Then a pretty nice hike out, with more snakes sighted, though no actual rattlers! Back to camp somewhat later than beer-thirty, but this was, after all, a somewhat BIGGER canyon than the previous effort.