Friday, May 18, 2012

Canyoneering: Neon Canyon

Lower Neon Canyon (below technical section)
(Click images for larger view)

I’m just back from my spring (May) canyoneering trip.  Canyoneering, for those of you who haven’t heard of it, is descending canyons that require technical skills and creative solutions for overcoming obstacles, which can include swims through cold water, squeezes through narrow slots, climbs out of water-scoured holes, chimneying or stemming over impassible sections, rappelling (sometimes from sand anchors), standing on your friends, pulling your friends up by their arms, crawling, avoiding snakes, etc.   It’s a lot more fun than it sounds.

On this trip, we (a great group of old friends who now live all over the Western U.S.) headed to the Escalante River, in Southern Utah, and focused on several canyons there – Egypt III, Neon, and Davis.  Others in the group stayed longer than I and added Raven and Headless Hen to the list, and a subgroup also descended Ringtail Canyon.  Most of these are straightforward (not hard core).  We had hoped to do the more difficult Choprock Canyon, but there was a threat of storms (= flash floods) on the day we were going to drop in, so we bravely ran away, leaving it for another trip. 

The highlight of the trip for me was Neon Canyon, which empties into the Escalante River from the north, just downstream of Fence Canyon.  It’s not very difficult technically and culminates in a rappel though a huge hole in the ceiling of a spectacular alcove called the Golden Cathedral into a (now) shallow pool (link to a longish video of the canyon descent made by another group).  We approached the canyon from our camp at the mouth of Fence Canyon, by climbing onto Choprock Bench, into which Neon is cut, and then made our way to the Cathedral exit through slots, a couple of “keeper” potholes, and a small amount of chest-deep water. 

I’ll post photos of other parts of the trip in subsequent entries. 

Larry Scritchfield crossing the Escalante River near the mouth of Fence Canyon upstream from Neon.  Multiple river crossing are required for many approaches, but the Escalante was shallow and refreshing in May.

Larry in the upper reaches of Neon, where we dropped in to begin the technical section.

Jane Addis, in the upper reaches of Neon.

Squeezing through a narrow section.

Jane serving as an anchor for Larry while he climbs the rope out of a keeper pothole.  Jane stood on my shoulders to climb out, then I climbed the rope and waded through chest-deep water to take this photo while Larry escaped.

Larry and Jane gazing up at the holes in the ceiling of the Golden Cathedral.  At the end of the technical section of the canyon you rappel through the hole closest to the back wall into the shallow pool. During flood, water shoots out of this hole.

Greenery in lower Neon, below the technical section.  The canyon is lush and beautiful.

Jim Akers looking at petroglyphs (and more modern grafitti) between the mouth of Neon and our camp at the mouth of Fence Canyon.  

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