Upper Spooky and Brimstone Canyons, Coyote Gulch, Escalante


How should we start our week in the Escalante-Dominguez? While the lower Dryforks of Coyote Gulch (Peekaboo, Spooky and Brimstone) are one of the most visited spots in the area, the upper sections of these same canyons have escaped common noteriety. So we pulled out our Steve Allen #3 book and drove out the Cat's Pasture / Early Weed Bench road and set up to drop into upper Brimstone.

The head of Brimstone Canyon is a complex maze of slots and buttresses. Steve's directions are good as usual, and we soon find ourselves climbing down into the slot.

Upper Brimstone is remarkable - perhaps the longest section of sideways-dragging-the-pack narrows I've ever been in. Here's a few pics from in there, but of course, pictures are only taken where it is light, meaning where it is wide. Be sure to wear long sleeves and long pants, and gloves are really useful too. Carry as little gear as possible. Recently, I've found it useful to wear a stout belt and drag the pack behind using 3 slings - a Mae West Bunny Strap.

And more narrows...

Eventually, we pop out into the open air again, and soon come to a short drop. Since we were not prepared to continue down the very difficult Middle Brimstone Canyon, we backed up a few hundred yards, and found an exit to canyon right, then traversed across the slickrock to the Spooky drainage. Dropping into Spooky Canyon near a 3 way intersection, we decided to explore the interesting side slot, codename "Spanky".

An interesting slot, with huge walls on both sides.

Eventually, Spanky narrows to a slot with a pool in the bottom. Since we did not want to get wet, and time was running short, we turned around thinking perhaps we could drop into this slot from the top, on the morrow.

Done with Spanky, we head back to the main fork of Spooky Canyon, and upcanyon. It starts out pretty mellow, but soon slots up to more of that sideways stuff. At this point, it had lost it's charm... Racing the looming sunset, we continued upcanyon, thinking if it did not end soon, we would have to go back to the intersection and walk around (in the dark).

Finally Upper Spooky Canyon ends in a short dryfall. Ooops, uh, ahem. Some concern was expressed, given the late hour and... While the dryfall itself did not yield easily to our climbing skills, by backing up 30' or so, we were able to chimney up, then slab climb out at a reasonable level (5.8?). A faded sling on a juniper shows that this short drop is often rappelled. We clamber up the upper basin, satisfied with a long day of sideways shuffling. Here's a fine view of the start of Upper Spooky.

And up the interesting slickrock back to Early Weed Bench, and our camp.

Morning found us up early and poking our noses into the top of Spanky Canyon. Because the top was close to camp, we decided to fix a rope into the canyon and retrieve it at the end of the day. Here's the head of Spanky.

We climbed down to a large ledge on canyon left, and tied our rope off to a tree. A 200′ rappel put us on the canyon floor. Taking a shorter rope with us, we proceeded downcanyon, soon finding footprints from a previous party climbing up from below.

And Spanky is a cool slot, this time with some light in there, it photographs differently.

Spanky slot.

Larry boulders up where a sidecanyon comes into Spanky slot. Hmmmm, this one looks interesting too. Might have to check it out next year.

Back in Main Spooky, the plan for the day was to descend Spooky to Coyote Gulch, then return up Brimstone. Surprisingly, we found another section of cool narrows in Middle Spooky, before getting to the oft-visited Lower Spooky. Excellent!

Amazing narrows alternate with wide open washes. This land is full of surprises.

Larry Halford entering Lower Spooky.

More sideways shuffling in Middle Spooky.

Neat rock and narrows in Lower Spooky Canyon.

Arriving at Coyote Gulch, we stroll upcanyon, making our first social contacts in two days. Bouldering up the 'moki' steps in Peekaboo, we hustle up the most playful of the three slots, and tramp northward, following the now wide open wash. Where Peekaboo starts penetrating the big sandstone bluffs near the head, we take the rib to the right, visiting the top of Spanky and retrieving our rope.

Looking into the top of Spanky. And then we went somewhere else.