North Wash Canyons and the Black Hole for FreezeFest
Upper Stair Canyon
We selected Upper Stair Canyon as our first target, working to complete exploration of the Butlers and related canyons. It also had the honor of being avoided by Mr. K when he was in the area - usually a good sign that something of interest was at hand. The weather was, well, cold, windy, overcast. Traipse across the topland as fast as possible, and get into the canyon to get away from the wind.
The slot gets going right away.
Ryan Cornia gave me the great gift of taking my pack around the narrow section, thus allowing me to Mae West without baggage. A long section of Mae West was great – not too hard, not too easy. Slabs allow the less-interested to climb around the section fairly easily.
We continued down the canyon, doing a couple of rappels and a short swim, all the way to Three Forks. Since I dropped my camera, I have no pictures of this. Duh! Thankfully, I found the camera in good shape when I went back two days later.
Notes: The Upper Slot of Stair is really good, but is fairly difficult and involves some high chimneying. Probably the best way to do it is as a quick sport route, without packs. The narrowest, closest slot can be bypassed on slabs to the right, and the canyon can be exited back to the top on canyon left at the bottom of the section. The chimneying is about 40 feet off the deck, probably about 5.8, depending on height, and even the smallest canyoneers will not be able to go down. Enter at your own risk.
And we spent a lot of time sitting around the campfire, drinking Cream Soda and bubbly water.
Lots of this. Yeah, really bad pictures when the flash suddenly goes off. (North Wash Slots and Black Holes)
A new tradition. The Black Hole for New Years. We did a few other things, then onto the Black Hole.
As usual, the warning sign was flattened, lying in the sand.
For those not familiar with it, the Black Hole is usually a romp, with a couple of long swims. Usually done without a rope, it makes a great, low-technicality canyoneering adventure. Or DID. A flash flood in September, 2003 stacked a whole bunch of loose wood debris into the deepest, narrowest part of the Black Hole. This creates considerable difficulties, and we ended up doing a 50 foot rappel (good thing we brought a backup rope, eh?).
No trip to the Black Hole would be complete without the presence of Mr. Black.
Getting ready to hit the water.
Ram climbing down into the first pool.
And into the good stuff we go.
We had heard a bunch of wood had been washed in, and made the canyon more difficult. What did that mean?
Wood Jam #1. We were able to crawl under this.
Mr. Black brought along some fresh fodder, er, new friends from Blanding.
The actual Black Hole was choked with wood. To the point that the swimming was incredibly difficult and strenuous. We swam through debris, climbed up unstable piles of wood, and ended up rappelling 50 feet at the end of the wood stack. More swimming, etc. Very cold.
The Black Hole is no longer a romp. It is now strenuous and dangerous. The wood is very unstable, the swimming demanding. This increases the cold water exposure two to ten times, and will lead to numerous rescues of unprepared parties this next summer. We are hoping that the wood piles will quickly break up and get washed away, but experience would indicate that it will be at least a few years before the Black Hole is a romp again.
Next day, I took the day off while the kids did a local slot. This sign on a county road seems to have less to do with the actual road, and just a bit to do with politics.
And then it snowed, so I went home, over the swell.