One Nasty Ass Slot Canyon, Escalante, UT


The man with the white hands denies responsibility for all that occurs on our last day in the Escalante, when fate had ordained our encounter with the dreaded canyon, Nasty Ass.

Just another camp scene. (Nasty Slot)

Early morning light finds us gazing across the slickrock wilderness, searching for a way into the slot. As usual.

We relax in the sun a few minutes before suiting up. The top of the canyon was a nice walk down a sunny slot. The day was still young when we arrived at the first drop, which would put us in the shade for the rest of the day. The canyon was reputed to be wet and nasty, whatever that means, so we expected to get wet and do some struggling.

There's some other things we expected, though our beta was spotty. The name implied a bunch of squeezing, maybe even muddy squeezing, and maybe a bunch of climbing over log jams. Being deep in the heart of the Escalante, we also expected to find the canyon boltless, and perhaps requiring a good package of tricks to get through. We looked forward to the challenge.

First Drop - short, but no obvious natural anchor. We scout around, then scurry back to the sun to suit up and prepare. A block 40' back in the wash could be slung, but... A convenient pocket right next to the drop offers a clean alternative - a rappel off the hook of the Happy Hooker, cleaned from below. I check out the length of the hooker, and it looks like with one trekking pole duct taped to the end, it will work just fine.

Now I don't want you thinking rappelling from hooks is child's play. The fortuitous placement of a huge, extremely solid pocket made this one cake - and allowed us to not leave a sling.

(Nasty Slot)

(Nasty Slot)

(Nasty Slot)

(Nasty Slot)

We took the boltless first drop as a good sign. But, as fate would have it, as we went further into the canyon, signs of traffic appeared. A few bolts were found at drops, mostly of the old, single variety. Some were "necessary" (meaning it would have take 30 to 60 minutes to construct a natural anchor in the area, but several were not, including this one.

Also kind of strange, for an obscure corner of the Escalante, were several tattered lengths of fixed rope on several of the drops. Not all the drops, just a few. For which I am grateful to be travelling with young bucks who haul that stuff out with narry a complaint.

A few nice sections and some interesting pools were interspersed with clambering over giant boulders that had fallen into the canyon.

The largest drop was this boulder pile drop. Surprisingly, there was a beefy brand new bolt at the top – surprising because of the abundance of obvious, bomber natural pinches and blocks to sling. Plus it looked like it could all be down-climbed at a reasonable standard. I guess not even obscurity protects these wild canyons from the mad-bolters.

A nice little natural bridge to descend by careful balancing…

Soaring walls in lower Nasty Slot.

A final rappel puts us back in the land of the living.(Nasty Slot)

A final rappel puts us back in the land of the living.(Nasty Slot)

A grueling hike out put us back at the trailhead. We headed into the town of Escalante for some gourmet cuisine (NOT!) with the entertaining Bill Wolverton.

The next day we rallied to try to do something else, but our fingers were so hammered... Home James!