Lake Powell: West Canyon


Went down to visit Glen Canyon with the Arizona gang in March. One of the highlights of the trip was visiting Cathedral in the Desert at low water, with the waterfall hitting the sand for the first time in forty years. It is a remarkable little spot. We motored around the puddle, did some canyons, dodged the weather, broke a prop, had a good time. Here's the story.

Lovely looking weather, eh?

While I had done 2 boat trips prior, this was the first time we were not shuttled around by a competent boatman. So we rented. They tell me, nothing drives like a rental. Well, nothing drives a rental like a bunch of engineers. After a couple days we figured out a few important things, like, what kind of beaches to try to land on, how to start the thing, how to get it properly trimmed...

Tom Wetherell of Tucson enjoying one of the many uses of the Imlay Canyon Gear Dry Keg.

We puttered up-lake, trying to get the boat trimmed (level) and navigating based on a map of the lake at full pool. Our first objective was West Canyon, high on Kelsey’s list and close to our starting point at Wahweap.

Here is some of the Arizona gang, spread out, just so I can tell you their names, from left to right:

Aaron Locander
Megan (TW’s GF)
Tom “Filthy” Gendron
Stephanie Yoong-Martin

Plus (not shown):
Captain Todd Martin
XO Tom “Bubba” Wetherell
Tom Jones (photographer)

So we landed the boat, tied it off to a rock, and began hiking.

West Canyon is noted for a large number of short waterfalls. Here’s the first one! Megan, Bubba, Captain Todd.

And here’s how you get around it – mudslide at the bottom, then a steep cone of loose sand, then kicking steps up a vertical sand wall. Interesting…

Bubba went up first and tossed down a rope. Here Stephanie is pulling herself up the wall. Awfully big packs for “Lightweight Backpackers”.

It took us an hour or so to get up to the old Lake Level. Boooooooooring. Mud walking.

Then, we got to the first slot. Todd waded in and reported "at least waist deep" and "mucho quicksand", so we decided to take the way around. We climbed up following cairns. Some went one way, some went another way. The cairns petered out. Some wandering took place. Mistakes were made. We finally, seperately, found our way back into the canyon. Wasted an hour. (Really, just bagging up the packs and getting wet would have been much quicker; but we were already a little cold and did not feel like it).

They went THAT way.

Wandering around looking for cairns…

Wildflowers were just coming out.

A lot of it was like this. We try to avoid the quicksand.

Then there are waterfalls that required climbs around. There were fixed ropes at all of these, usually of a bolt or two. We climbed up using the rope for a handline. (First Waterfall).

Stephanie pulling upward. While the anchors were generally good, the semi-rotted boating ropes did not inspire confidence.

Another pretty little waterfall. The canyon certainly delivered many beautiful waterfalls and nice slots…

…plus sections of soaring walls. Good stuff.

Another waterfall, another handline. Aaron doing the honors.

Tom Gendron on a little traverse around the water-filled slot.

More pretty walking. Avoid the quicksand.

Another waterfall. I was thinking we would jump this on the way out…

We camped just above the fourth waterfall, at the start of the Middle Narrows. Stephanie, Todd and I wandered up the Middle Narrows for a ways – it looked like this…

…and like this.

Had some dinner, tucked into our tents and it rained a bit off and on during the night. Here’s my brand new BD Lighthouse Tent. Snug as a bug.

Second day, starts rainy. With just a mild, slow (female) rain, we decided to hike up the Middle Narrows and check it out. We were not concerned with flash floods. Doing the upper Narrows would have required a pre-dawn start.

We hike up the canyon. The weather clears a bit, stops raining at least.

More walking. Not much quicksand.

Big alcove. Very cool.

Looking upcanyon from the big alcove…

…and back again.

Climb around a little waterfall and watery slot.
As usual, some go one way, some go the other.
Nothing wrong with that – don’t mean to imply otherwise – this is America,
after all, Land of the Free, Home of the Brave.

A waterfall. No volunteers for the Shampoo Commercial.

It rains some more.

We popped out of the Middle Narrows, and the canyon became brushy. We persevered upcanyon about 15 minutes, then decided it was time to hightail it back to camp and hike out.

Log and canyon walls.

Ah………. Sunshine!!

Todd leads us back to the promised land…

Waterfall closeup.

Stemming above an interesting slot.

Slots to soaring walls.

Came back to camp around noon. Had lunch, packed up, then it rained.
We started our hike out. Heavy packs cause great sorrow.

Down-handline a waterfall.

The sun comes out as we arrive at the first nasty slot, where we spent an hour hiking around.

Stephanie deploys sophisticated technology for keeping her pack dry. It works!!

Turns out the little narrows section is really nice. Yeah, a couple of belly-deep wades, and some nice stemming in a few spots.

And some stuff like this.

So we hiked…

…and hiked…

Boater trash hidden in the mud.

Finally, the boat. We hop aboard, putt off across the lake, choose a place to land, bust the prop in the shallows, then all hop out and push the boat to land. Darn!!! We make camp in a ground-blizzard, gulp down dinner and hide in our tents.