Kaleidoscope Canyon (aka Choprock Canyon) Escalante Area, UT


Let's jump right in... The Escalante River was up, so Ram and Hank had rigged a rope the night before. Now, early in the morning, most stripped naked to hand traverse the rope across the river, body hanging downstream in the current. It was cold. Better than coffee.

Aaron Ramras crossing the river, 5:45 AM.

Climbing up the slab escapes the gorge of the Escalante River, allowing us to traipse across the topland to the start of our canyon adventure, the South Fork of Choprock, aka Kaleidoscope, Chopslot or Moe Slot.

Up on top, we face into the rising sun. Now that I hang with Ram, I have seen more sunrises than in my prior 40 years in the outdoors. Companions on this trip are Roger Arhart, Aaron and Steve Ramras, Hank Moon and Katie Couric (background).

Slickrock paradise up near the start of the canyon.

In the Riparian section. After walking the slickrock down into the canyon, we wander downstream a few minutes to where it slots up. We suit up. A quick downclimb, a couple swims and a rappel, and we are in one darn beautiful spot, the Riparian Ballroom, and the beginning of a remarkable riparian section unique in my CP canyon experience.

We wade and walk through the jungle. Hank, Aaron and Katie admire the corpse of a Jerusalem Cricket.

Hank and Aaron in the jungle.

Lots of water. Good water, nice water, warm water.

Such a beautiful place.

In the Riparian section, one of the dominant plants is this lovely ivy, noted for the reaction many people has to its oil. Poison Ivy.

The canyon starts to narrow up, and fresh springs appear. This signals the end of the Riparian Section, and the start of the Happy Section.

We break to filter water and eat an early lunch.

Hank found a snake, of course.

In the Happy Section. Lots of wading in clear, cold water. Some fun downclimbs, one rappel.

After the Happy Section is the Grim Section. By now, people are tired, cold and cranky. We weren’t, but people in general are. The canyon narrows further, and wood jams appear. Travel becomes more difficult. Roger squeezes into a slot under a wood jam.

Narrow slots with water, avoided by dancing the rock on both sides. Dancer: Aaron.

And a couple places where we just walk. Lots of nice, long corridors, sometimes dry, sometimes flooded.

Here’s a wide swim, Ram holding the camera out of the water.

Ram swims a narrow corridor under a wood jam. There were a couple of these.

Katie climbs high above a wood jam. Lots of these.



Difficulties in Kaleidoscope Canyon

There has been some chatter lately about whether Kaleidoscope is an R or an X canyon. But it does not fit into these categories, really, kinda sorta.

Most CP canyons are easier when they have more water in them. Kaleidoscope Canyon is the opposite. It has several long, narrow corridors of a Mae West shape. When water is low, one strolls through them, and admires the closing of the roof overhead.

When water is medium (what we found), one swims through the narrow slot, sometimes removing the helmet in order to get around stuck logs, contemplating the difficulty if the water was a little higher. In a few places, we found it necessary to bob DOWN a couple inches to fit through the slot.

When the water is higher, the canyon becomes much more difficult. The slot is too narrow to swim through, so the canyoneer must climb up through the slot, and chimney across the top. The problem being, how to get up above. Not only are the walls flared away at leg level, the walls are slimey, too. Ascent is difficult. Skill and calmness are required.

Difficult conditions will usually coincide with the colder water, too.

If our ill-prepared canyoneer enters the canyon in high-water conditions, they will rappel in, enjoy the Riparian Section, then get thoroughly chilled in the Happy Section by long sections of swimming. About this time, they are thinking and hoping they are near the end, when they hit the Grim Section. Now hypothermic, climbing over woodjams and up through narrow slots is even more difficult by the loss of muscle strength and control.

Don't have this be you.

And then… finally, the rappel into the land of the living! After the grimness of the Grim, the verdant growth and relaxed atmosphere is reinvigorating.
(Rope illustrated in to show line of rappel).

Nowhere else have I seen such vigorous and extensive Poison Ivy.

Clowns to the left of me, Jokers to the right, Here I am, Stuck in the middle with you.

On the way back, Katie and Hank led the way – hopping in and floating the river. Faster than walking, for sure, and though the water was not REAL cold, after the 10-minute float back to camp, we were plenty chilled.
Here we can see Roger and Aaron getting ready to plop into the current, avoiding that stick on the left.

Ram, Aaron, Hank and Katie packed up and left that night. How they had the energy for the hump up the hill, I have no idea. Roger and I hung out, had a pleasant dinner and turned in early. We awoke at 5:00 am with plans to do a Full Neon, but the weather was not cooperating. After some hemming and hawing, and a good breakfast, we packed up in a rain shower and departed as it tried to clear. Still one heck of a hump to get up the hill. It rained on and off all day, at least on the drive home. Looks like we snuck in a great canyon on the only weather window of the week.