FreezeFest V: Escaping Shenanigans Canyon in Winter, North Wash, UT


I woke up feeling mean. The sky did not look so friendly either, so I ducked out and headed home to rest up for a few days. Ram and crew headed off to do Shenanigans Canyon, a canyon near and dear to my heart. Photos by Hank and Bruce.

Ram leading the team across the tundra… uh, desert.

Malia handlines the entrance to Shenanigans.

Bruce downclimbing the awkward place I really hate.

El Ramoo, downclimbing the place I hate.

Malia in one of the wide, warm-up slots.

Little Robby downsliding one of the many drops in upper Shenanigans.

Tim, with a few gentle snow flakes coming down.

The ‘break’ before the fourth (final) section. Tim and Rob can be seen exiting up the unstable rockpile on the left.

Tim: Well, since Ram asked...

Here's my take on our Freezefest escape from Shenanigans.

First of all, I was plenty nervous about trying to get through the fourth narrows even before we started. At what I thought was 195 pounds (measured to be 201 when I got home) I knew it would be a nightmare, and given my mild claustrophobia, I was having serious commitment issues. Luckily, the first 3 narrows and Ram made my decision for me. The first 3 narrows completely shredded my pants to the point where they were literally being held together by 4 inches of seam at the crotch. Had I continued, it would have soon been in my underpants. As to Ram, he gently suggested that my frame (read 'gut') might be just a tad large for a comfortable descent. OK - decision made. Escape it is.

At that point Rob and I headed up the escape route. Our first minor mishap occurred when Rob had a foothold disintegrate under him. Using my best 'bug on a windshield' spotting technique I was able to arrest his fall after a brief mutual tumble. No harm done, but it did set the tone.

Rob: Yikes! I think they said it best in "Ghostbusters": "Many people will know what it is to feel the wrath of Gozar that day, I tell You!" Bug on the windshield is an apt analogy. I full on splatted on you. Glad I only sent you 6 feet or so. A superb job of dynamic spotting.

Tim: Once we reached the slickrock portion things got significantly worse. Here there were no holds, only (and I use the term loosely) friction. By this time everything had at least a thin coating of snow. Despite the low angle, progress was very difficult. Some combination of snow, lichen, and crappy rock made every step a crapshoot. The phrase that comes to mind is "Slippery as hog snot on a hot doorknob". Any slip would have been very difficult to recover from. Well, we made it to within about 20 or 30 feet of a large ledge at which point we chose separate paths. I can't speak for Rob, but I know I was just about at my limit. After a minor slip, I had serious doubts that I would be able to get any higher, and I certainly couldn't go back down, nor stay where I was. A conundrum if ever I were in one.

Rob: And I was a little freaked. The whole victim nomenclature has things a bit backwards. It's those that are left behind that carry the true scars.

I saw Tim's foot slip at least a foot, and he came to a precarious stop some two or three feet down. I was freaked. Not sure if it was different rubber, or the different route chosen, but at this point we were some 300 or 400 feet above canyon bottom. A slide might be survivable, but would not be pretty. And knowing that the first slip generally turns the brain into useless mush, I was plenty concernced about the wellbeing of my good friend Tim.

Tim: Rob was making somewhat better progress and offered to try to help me up with a long sling once he got to the ledge.

Rob: You missed the part where I decided to pull a little bit on a knobby handhold. i knew it was worthless. Sure enough, came off cleanly in my hand, but I managed to stick the landing onto the foothold I had just departed. What to do with a handhold? Six souls in the canyon below, and a half-fist sized rock hurts as it bounces off the helmut. I spied a somewhat reasonable ledge twenty five feet down, and managed to stick the throw. Nice how good karma adds to a sense of well being.

Tim: As conditions were deteriorating rather rapidly, I decided to just go for it. Believe me, those were a LONG 20 feet to the ledge.

Rob: When I first tried to drop Tim my etrier, he was some 40 feet down. AlaS, it was only 13 feet. Close only counts in horsheshoes and handgrenades. Tim did a great job in very shitty conditions making it up to the sling. Aaron stuck it fine, but I'm not sure if do more to skill or the brashness of youth. At first he wasn't sure why he was trailing a rope, but he was crystal clear he didn't want to arrive on my ledge without it. Well done, and timely.

The rest of the group, grabbing a bit of lunch. Ram, Nancy, Aaron (suspicious look), Malia, Hank.

Ram handlining up as conditions turn “full”.

Canyon down there, somewhere.

Tim: Once at the ledge I largely lost track of the rest of the crew (who were also baling by then). I spent most of the time with my eyes screwed shut chanting "There's no place like home".

Rob:Tim was cold. When the going gets interesting, I tend to focus hard and slow down. Tim had already implored me to keep moving and get out of there before his slip. Different strokes . . . but this time, Tim was right. It was definitely time to move, and I stepped it up. Under the deteriorating circumstances, a well timed nudge that I needed.

Tim:The rest I spent trying to scope out the remainder of the escape route as we were still only on a ledge and still had a short way to go to the cap.

Meanwhile, Aaron had managed to get himself and a rope close enough so that Rob could establish a belay for the rest of the group. In retrospect, I'm somewhat embarrassed by this. I think I should have stayed more tightly coupled to Rob as a backup anchor. Even though Rob is a big strong guy, those slopes were really slippery and he was probably in some danger of being pulled off with only a fairly moderate tug. So Rob, if you're reading this - nice job, and I owe you one.

Rob:You owe me nothing. Trust me, I'll ask. My stance was truck stop. Solid feet on a low angle ledge, stealth rubber doing its magic. My butt was on nothing, but the feet were beyond secure. If it had been sketchy in the slightest, I would have been telling people "I'm good for only 50 pounds" instead of "I've got you." Not much room for any assistance in terms of a backup. But if I needed any, rest assured I would have asked. You did good. I told you to hit the ledge and pace yourself warm, and that happened. Well, mostly. I think it was a bit until you were truly warm. But all the right moves.

Tim: Well, that's my story, and I'm sticking to it! - Tim

Rob:You're still quite the trooper. I always feel better with you along. We get by with a little help from our friends. 'Til next time, my friend.

Rob "still the solid anchor at 240" Heineman

Malia walking, snowstorm, kneepad I hope.

Couple-a Yuccas in the fresh snow (art shot).

Back to the campfire that night…