The Squeeze & Quandary Canyons, San Rafael Swell, Utah
Some good canyons can be found at the south end of the San Rafael Swell. They are especially good, especially fun when full of water - as we expected to find them, thanks to storms tracking across Utah these last two months. But, as the late, great canyoneer Tip O'Neil stated succinctly - "All Canyoneering weather is local." At this end of the Swell, the catch-basins are small, and storms need to make a direct hit to fill them up - and sometimes they fill one up but leave the canyon right next door dry. I was down at Hidden Splendor as part of the annual SUWA Roundup, and Saturday we took a total of 13 people through Quandary Direct. While large groups can be a disservice to other people in the canyon, since we were the only group there that day we escaped the opprobrium of leading "too big" of a group. Still, it was kinda slow or really, kind of pleasantly relaxed. 12 hours camp to camp. My thanks to the experienced canyoneers who helped keep the crowd psyched up and moving along: Scott Patterson, Rick Demarest and LeRoy Anderson.
The surprise was, the canyon was NOT full. The first keeper was down only a foot or two, but the two big keepers near the end were down about 5 feet, making for interesting escape problems. We used a SandTrap in two places, and I took out one new bolt (drilled angle, really) that seemed odd and out of place. There was also a second drilled angle for the last in-canyon rappel - which I left alone.
Sunday was for Eyedropper Canyon, a first descent in the area, with Louis and Everett from St George, who were also in for Monday.
Sunday night, Doc Fetters and Alane Urban rolled in for a Monday Squeeze.
The Squeeze is a really nice canyon, the best canyon in the Swell. At this point in history, it is all bolted up, and I can only imagine what it was like before there was a bolt at every 4th class downclimb. It makes me sad. I have fantasies of restoring it to a much-more-natural condition - but given that many people expect it to be a clip-and-go sport canyoneering experience, it is far from clear that removing more than the most obnoxious bolts in there would serve the community. So I refrained, for now. Elsewhere on this blog, I have posted a survey of the anchors found in The Squeeze - this posting is the trip report, with less editorial.
With the new approach, the Miner's Trail, we dropped in quite a bit higher than I had been before. We saw water, so as soon as we saw a significant pool, we suited up. BIG mistake. A half-hour later, with everyone totally over-heated, we took the wetsuits off. Fifteen minutes later, we put them back on for the first REAL pool. Oh well!
The Squeeze has many, many short drops. Anchors are not needed for quite a few of these, as the rope (with a meat anchor) can be used to send a few people down, and the last person can safely descend into the loving arms of their companions. Since our group was up on this technique, there were many bolts we did not use. Quite a few bolts, the people in front did not even see, because they recognized the drop as a downclimb, and went to work on it, never looking around for a rope-retrievable anchor. Some of the bigger drops would be challenging to do without a SandTrap and/or a WaterTrap.
We cleaned a bunch of crap out of there - skanky webbing and a few manky fixed handlines. Please please please - don't fix handlines in canyons: it is litter - leaving stuff behind is littering plain and simple.
Anyway, again a 12 hour day car to car - at a relaxed pace. We used the Miner's Trail approach someone turned me onto last year - and it put us higher in The Squeeze than I have been before. Always fun to see new terrain. (Details of the approach can be found on the Eyedropper Canyon page.)