As we all know, life can "get in the way" of true happiness. I invite you to follow my posts as I try to reconnect with nature as often as life allows. Then,
if so inspired, pick up a paddle or pack and join me on an adventure that makes everything else fade away. -

Monday, November 5, 2012

Horseshoe Canyon Ranch Climbing Trip

One last climbing trip before it turns cold!  We got a fairly early start Friday morning and got down to Arkansas in time to send a few routes before sundown...which is now much earlier!  We started off with a couple of the newer routes put up for 24HHH and then onto Strongman.  I had attempted Strongman a year ago on my first trip to was well above my ability then.  This time I got it with just one take...should be able to get it next time if I can remember the beta.

Spam (5.7) | Scrambled Eggs (5.8) | Sin Nombre (5.9-) | Strong Man (5.9) - A, 1 | Webster Part (5.6) - L

Saturday we headed up the hill toward Titanic.  That was the plan, but half the group decided to go the other way so Forest and I climbed the new stuff behind the boulder while they climbed the new stuff on the Doomsday Wall.  We headed over to the East side in the afternoon and everyone took a turn on Man Servant.  This is a route we had been eyeing for most of the year...especially Andy.  He had tried it before at the end of the day and the start was too much when worn out.  This time though he powered through to the top and the rest of us tried it on top rope.  I was able to make it through with two takes...definitely a pumpy route!  The guidebook calls it the best 5.9 Jugbash in Arkansas.  I would say that is a real possibility.  Great route!  Next we headed up to the Roman Wall and played around on Sybarite.  Again, one take at the crux...should fall next time if I can remember the beta.  Andreas and I climbed Fesic...the last route on the Cliffs of Insanity proper that I hadn't climbed.  Then we climbed Fashion Sense with a cam placed for the belayer (due to the R rating) and finished out the day with one of the new 8's around the corner.

Poop Deck (5.6) | Little Dingy (5.5) - L | Fuzzy Buckets (5.9) | Sea Shanty (5.7) - L | Man Servant (5.9+) - 2 | Sybarite (5.9+) - A, 1 | Fesic (5.6) - L | Fashion Sense (5.8 R) | Arizona Bay (5.8)

Sunday started with a good breakfast at the Ozark Cafe and then I knocked off some easy routes I hadn't been on before.  I attempted Season of the Storm, but couldn't get the crux.  Andreas climbed it after I did and gave me the beta...should be able to get it next time!

Toys for tots (5.7) - L | Pirates Putas (5.7) - L | Season of the Storm (5.10a) - A, 3 | Perfect Hair Forever (5.7) - L | Action Hotdog (5.6) - L

[A = Attempted | L = Lead | # = Note]

1. One take.
2. Two takes.
3. Climbed to the crux, didn't finish.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Horseshoe Canyon Ranch Climbing Trip

Yes, I went down to Arkansas two weekends in a row!  My friend Andreas was unable to go the weekend before and would not be able to go until November, so I thought I'd go down again so he could climb outside for the first time.  Believe me, it was not much of a sacrifice :)  We left early Saturday because I didn't get back from California until 11:30 p.m. Friday.  Unfortunately the whole weekend was rainy so we didn't get much climbing in.  The rock was wet when we got there and my first lead attempt barely got off the ground.  We waited about an hour for the rock to start to dry out and we top roped some stuff a group from St. Louis had set up.  I lead Paul's Redemption and then lead a bit of the route next to it on trad.  Then it started raining again.

We ran into several people we knew from the gym so we all headed into town for a group dinner and then spent the evening hanging out in the shelter.  There wasn't much climbing but we had a great time spending the evening getting to know everyone better!

Cotton Candy (5.6) | Lion Tamer (5.9-) - A1 | Paul's redemption (5.7) - L | Wanted Man (5.6) - L, 2

Sunday we awoke to light rain and fog.  It looked like we would be packing up and heading home.  However, by the time we had finished our oatmeal the sun was trying to break through the clouds (it never did).  We decided to give it a try and headed up to The North Forty.  Mary Ashley wanted to climb her first trad route and I knew just the one...or thought I did.  I lead Flashbacks again but the rock was so wet I didn't like some of the pinches for placing after a couple of pieces I just kept going.  When I topped out I swear I could hear Andreas exhale.  Mary Ashley said "So, you realize you basically just free soloed that."  I looked over the edge at my runout and agreed with a wry smile.  She topped it and decided it was not a good first trad route so she moved onto Kid's Stuff (5.5).  Andreas and I finished the day topping Private Property on their rope before packing up the wet tent and heading home.  It was a wet weekend, but a good weekend!

Flashbacks (5.7) - L3 | Sundial (5.7+) | Little Manly Man (5.7+) | Private Property (5.10a) - A4

[A = Attempted | L = Lead | # = Note]

1. Went right onto Frankenberry again by accident!
2. Climbed 3/4 of the route trad then want back over to Paul's Redemption to use the anchors.
3. Totally ran it out and was accused of free soloing it : )
4. One take at the crux.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Horseshoe Canyon Ranch Climbing Trip

Finally another trip to HCR!  Left early Friday morning and headed down to drizzly a sky.  It was sprinkling on and off but we managed to get in a few routes before the rain hit.  Thankfully we were watching the radar and made it back to the cabin before the downpour hit!

Summer Rain (5.6) - L | Stiff Naked Fools (5.8+) - 1 | The Greatest Show on Earth (5.8)

Saturday we headed into town for breakfast and then hit the crag for a great day of climbing with beautiful weather.  With Jeff and Andy training for 24HHH I worked on climbing moderates with John and Drew.  The highlight of my day was climbing my first Trad Route (Flashbacks).  This was the route I had seconded last trip so I knew it was an easy route.  I had good gear placement and really enjoyed myself!  Throughout the day Drew learned to clean and even lead a few routes!  John continued to push himself as well.  After dinner we headed back up and climbed a couple routes at night.  I ended up cleaning Green Goblin in the dark, which was a bit freaky but fun at the same time.

Caught in the closet again (5.7) - L | Flashbacks (5.7) - L2 | Flashbacks (5.7) - 3 | 15-Degrees (5.7 PG) | Peaceful, but for gunfire (5.6) | Hanging Judge (5.6) | Deadman Five (5.7) | Leonid (5.9+) | The Hurricane (5.7) | Hangs a Little to the Left (5.8) - L | Green Goblin (5.8) - 45 | Cotton Candy (5.6) - 4

Sunday we were all tired and only got in a few routes...but we still got to climb so it was a good day!

The Flying Daisha (5.6) - L | Man in Black (5.7) | Montazuma's Toe (5.8) - L

[A = Attempted | L = Lead | # = Note]

1. First Rappel off a sport route.
2. My first Trad Lead!
3. Climbed again on top rope to clean after others topped it.
4. Climbed at night.
5. First route I have cleaned at night.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Current River Trip

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I had been wanting to go to the Current River for years because I had heard such great things about it but had just not made it happen. Early in the year I decided that this would be the year. I was planning on doing a 3-4 day trip, but this has been a busy summer and ultimately it didn't work out. So, when Kristin had asked when we were doing our annual family trip, I decided we should go to the Current and let her and Laura experience camping on a gravel bar for the first time!

Being that this was quite a bit further Southeast than we usually went I decided we should take Friday off and make it a long weekend.  We left our house at about 10:30 Friday, August 10, 2012 and headed toward St. Louis.  We turned off of I-70 at Warrenton and headed South toward Johnson's Shut-Ins with a stop at Elephant Rocks State Park.

Elephant Rocks was something I remembered seeing on-line but I did not remember the specifics, but since we were driving right by I thought I would surprise everyone with a stop there.  It turned out to be really cool and Colin loved climbing on the granite boulders.  You could easily spend a half day or more there, but after an hour and a half we got back on the road for the short drive to the Shut-Ins.

After seeing some YouTube videos of the Shut-Ins I knew Colin would love it.  We arrived just after 6:00 and had about an hour and a half to swim until the day use area closed.  After getting Colin changed we all headed up the trail under the impression that the water would be cold and the rest of us would just be wading.  The water turned out being really warm and I ended up taking a full dip in my clothes...luckily I was wearing my synthetics!  Colin had fun climbing up and down the small waterfalls and even went for swims in a couple of the bigger pools.  As the sun was beginning to set we headed back to the car and down the road to the campsite.

This park is almost completley new because in late 2005 the nearby Taum Sauk Reservoir failed, flooding the park, and destroying the campground.  After reaching a settlement with AmeronUE the state used a portion of the funds to rebuild the park.  The campground was relocated down the road away from the flooding danger.  It is fortunate that the flood occured during the week and in December.  Thankfully no lives were lost.  Because it has been recently rebuilt everything at the park is in excellent condition, and well designed.  The campsites have large concrete pull-ins and pads for cars or setting up your tent on level "ground."  I would highly recomend this park!

After setting up camp and having a quick dinner we headed to the amphitheater for a ranger program and the back to the camp.  Colin spent a little time playing his DS and we looked at the stars before going to bed.  It got a bit chilly at night but it was a very relaxing day!

The next morning we packed up camp and headed to Akers Ferry on the Current River.  We checked in and headed down to the shore to get our canoes.  They were very busy and we actually had to wait a bit for them to bring some more.  We loaded up our boats; a Nova Craft Prospector 17 and a Coleman Journey 17.  I was excited to try out the Prospector as it is the boat I am considering buying.  I love my Wilderness Systems Commander 120, but it does not handle as well as I would like on winding rivers.

I had heard how beautiful the Current River was, but on the first day I was not impressed.  The scenery was nice, but nothing more than what I'd seen on the Meramec.  The river was crowded with partiers and a few families out for a day float.  While the weather was nice and I enjoyed paddling it was not the experience I was looking for.  We had been looking forward to seeing cave spring, but it was crowded.  Around every bend was a group of loud obnoxious people.  As we neared the end of our 10.2 mile day that all began to change.  We were hailed by the guys pulling canoes from the water at Pulltite.  "Akers takes out here!" they said.  I proudly replied "We're heading on to Round Spring.  See you tomorrow."  They told us to have a nice trip and at that point the trip changed!

We had seen a few groups that were obviously planning to stay on the river, some ahead of us, several behind us.  This was the first main difference in this river.  On all my previous river trips in Missouri I had only seen one couple who had camped on the river, and that was on our last trip of 2011.  There was a pair of fathers and sons.  There was a large group of 20 somethings...whom we later learned do a 3 day trip together once a year (Good for you guys!).  There were also a few couples.  We, however, were the only group with a seasoned 4 year old!

I knew I wanted to camp just past Pulltite.  It was just over half way, and it was just over 2 hours to sunset.  Just enough time to make camp and dinner!  So, as we rounded the bend I wondered how many gravel bars lay ahead?  How many would be taken?  How much daylight would we actually have when we found somewhere?

The first spot we came upon that looked good was at Pulltite Spring.  It was occupied.  The couple was nice and said there would be plenty of spots ahead.  Sure enough, we rounded the next bend and found one of the nicest spots I've camped at yet.  It was just past Pulltite Springs and had a small waterfall across and down river.  Just loud enough to give a nice ambiance.  We setup camp, made Mac and Cheese and Hot Dogs, and then played video games before bed.  Kristin opted to try out my new Big Agnes Seedhouse SL1 rather than sleep with us in the "snoring" tent.  She said it was nice...I hope to try it out someday ;-p

I was expecting the usual cacophony of wildlife but was surprised at how peaceful it was.  Even in the middle of the night the only thing I heard when I got up was a few insects...other than the distant howl of coyotes once in the night.  Now this might be simply because we were within walking distance of the Pulltite campground, or it might say something about the health of the ecosystem.  I suppose I will have to make some more trips before that can be determined.  That being said, it was one of the most peaceful nights on a river I've had...except for being cold.  I was not anticipating it getting into the 50's and had brought my Deuter Dreamlite 500.  Don't get me wrong, this is a great bad...I am just cold blooded.  Seriously, I use a down comforter all year long.  This bag is great for those "hot" nights when you need to cover up slightly at 3:00 a.m. but it doesn't work for me at colder temperatures.  Good to know!

Sunday morning we work up to a light rain on our tent.  I went outside and picked up a few things I didn't want to get too wet and took some video of the river and our campsite.  This is by far the best video of the trip and is the opening shot in the video below.  The lighting was perfect with the sunrise on the river!  Heading back to the tent I decided to let everyone sleep in for another hour and see if the rain passed.  The river had been easy so far and I decided we would have no trouble making good time.

Sure enough the rain stopped and we got up around 9:00.  I made oatmeal for breakfast and we worked on getting packed up.  We were on the river by 10:30 and it had warmed up enough that shorts and a t-shirt were perfect.  We paddled the remaining 9 miles only running into a few groups that had camped on the river, and a pair of Kayakers.  It was cloudy, less crowded, and much more peaceful.  I had seen another side of this river.  Take away the crows and though the scenery is still not much different from some of the other rivers in Missouri the river takes on a whole new life.  You do begin to notice, and appreciate, the lack of development along the river.  I came to realize that to truly get everything out of the Current River you must spend time on it, and spend time on it when others are not.  This is an excellent river for long trips, and the outfitters are well equipped to meet your needs.

As we neared the end of the day the rain began to fall lightly once again, though no one complained.  We briefly stopped at the upper landing of Round Spring before learning we needed to continue to the lower landing.  After another 1/4 mile we arrived about 25 minutes past the 2:00 pickup.  Thinking we would have to wait until 4:00 we were pleasantly surprised to find a driver waiting patiently.  A short shuttle back to our truck and we were on our way home...once again relaxed and ready for another week.

(2012-08-10) - 0027 (2012-08-10) - 0036 (2012-08-10) - 0062
(2012-08-10) - 0078 (2012-08-10) - 0139 (2012-08-10) - 0120
(2012-08-10) - 0116 (2012-08-10) - 0088 (2012-08-10) - 0121
(2012-08-10) - 0130 (2012-08-10) - 0119 (2012-08-10) - 0150
View entire gallery

Monday, July 30, 2012

Elk River Trip

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This trip to the Elk River on July 28th-29th started out as a bit of a gamble as I had not been able to contact the outfitter prior to our departure.  Their message said to "come on down" but driving three hours without having a reservation left me a little nervous.  The funny thing is it was the easiest shuttle I have arranged yet.  We drove in to Cowskin Canoes and within 10 minutes were headed up river to the Mt. Shira Access.

Mt. Shira is the access point I had taken out at on my solo day trip the year before.

We unloaded the car and watched our car drive off.  I loaded the boat while Colin practiced casting his fishing pole.  We paddled downstream through all of the day floaters.  There weren't nearly as many as last year, but maybe we just got out ahead of them.  Our first real stop was at the houses along the river in Noel.  We stopped to swim in front of the Cabin that belongs to some old friends of ours...though we have not talked to them in years.  Some of their neighbors were out and I had a nice talk while Colin played.  After 45 minutes or so we headed back down river to our big obstacle.  The Dam.

As we passed under the DANGER sign I hoped that it would be and easy portage.  No such luck!  I knew the water was low because of the drought, but there was virtually no water below the dam, just a bunch of pools.  I saw a small stream on the opposite side, but it wasn't even floatable.  We walked down the road through the River Ranch campsite until we found a part of the river that had enough water in it to continue.  It was about 1/8 of a mile down from the dam.  It took two trips carrying gear and one with the boat.  Colin was very helpful and took the water bottles the first trip and his paddle and fishing pole the second.  After 3/4 miles of walking we had the boat re-loaded, but were exhausted.

As we continued the water got really low and I had to walk the boat for quite a while.  The cool, but dangerous, part was that most of the riverbed was not gravel, but bedrock.  Unfortunately this was extremely slick and I fell right on my back once!  Made me wish I had some of these to try out (J/K)!

Our next challenge...after all, floating rivers is just a series of challenges...involved livestock.  We came upon a low and narrow section of the river that was blocked by about 30 head of cattle.  There was no part of the river that was open, and I was not about to portage around a bunch of cows!  I knew that cows were both dumb and that they were afraid of people.  I had Colin walk behind me and I let the boat float in front.  Most of the cows moved...until we cam to the calves.  There were 3 calves that didn't see why the should have to move from the perfectly cool waters of the river.  As the boat approached with me 10 ft behind their mother decided to let me know she was not pleased.  I tried to reassure her but they were not budging.  I pulled the boat back and walked out in front of it, instructing Colin to stay by my side.  As I started to approach they finally moved and we were able to pass.  Once we got to the other side she calmed down.  We soon came upon the owners of the cows and they suggested a place about a mile down river called Cedar Bluff for camping.

After paddling for a bit more we came upon the bluff.  There were three people swimming there and we introduced ourselves.  Colin swam and played fetch with their dogs as I setup camp.  After while they headed home and I began to cook our Mac and Cheese for dinner (Yum!)  Colin helped me gather some firewood and we had a small campfire.  He said he wanted a hot dog and I asked him if he was still hungry.  He said no.  I asked if he just wanted it because it was cool?  He said he did so after whittling the end off a good stick I roasted a hot dog for him.  We let the embers die down and he headed off to the ten to play his DS.  I doused the embers and finished preparing camp for night time.

As the sun set we laid in the tent and played.  He played DS for a while and then we watched part of Star Wars.  I was practically asleep before him!  It didn't feel too bad outside with a nice breeze but it was hot in the tent, even without the rain fly.  He dozed off shortly after turning off his movie, but I tossed and turned for a while.  I finally dozed off but kept waking up most of the night.  At 2:00 a.m. I heard a large pack of coyotes not more than 1/4 mile away.  Though a bit unnerving, I soon could tell they were headed away from us.  At 3:00 a.m. I heard them again, this time well down stream.  By 4:00 a.m. it finally cooled off enough that I needed to cover up and I slept soundly until about 6:00.  I managed to go back to sleep once more, but by 8:00 it was already too hot in the tent...and time to get up anyway.

I started packing up and Colin opened his eyes and told me he was still resting.  I finished packing as much as I could and began the oatmeal while he swam.  After breakfast I joined him for a quick swim to cool down and then loaded the boat.

A short paddle down the river led us to another beautify bluff and a great swimming hole with large fish jumping nearby.  Colin droped some of his granola bar into the water and soon the minnows were fighting over it.  It was a good experience for him to connect with the wildlife a bit.  The rest of the river was fairly shallow and wide surrounded by low farmland.  We came upon two people fishing who had put in at the 3 mile float.  Other than a family playing with their dogs along the banks they were the only people we saw on the river all day.  We stopped for one more swim and he enjoyed playing with the dragonflies.  They kept landing on his hand and he got a real kick out of it.  We even saw a beaver out gathering sticks, but he scurried off before we could get too good of a look at him.  It is these kinds of experiences that I hope will stay with him!

We cam upon Cowskin Access and there was a large group of people swimming.  I asked one guy if he would watch our boat while we walked up to get our car.  He suggested that I would probably get stuck and offered to haul our boat up in the back of his truck!  We greatly accepted his offer and were soon at our car and on the way home.  We stopped for gas in Neosho and then at McDonalds in Carthage so Colin could get a happy meal and the toy I promised him.  The rest of the drive home was him sleeping and me trying not to.  We got home, unpacked the car, and wen straight to the pool!

It was a good trip!  Lots of work at times, but well worth the effort.  In the end it was a very relaxing and rejuvenating trip.

Cedar Bluff View entire gallery

Monday, June 11, 2012

Zion National Park - Canyoneering

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It was over a year ago that I first contemplated going on this trip.  My friend Andy had been talking about his annual canyoneering trip and it sounded like lots of fun.  Unfortunately, or fortunately as it turned out, the trip was the week I was getting back from Yellowstone.  In retrospect, I am very glad I waited a year to go on this trip.  Since then I have taken up climbing and have learned the rope skills necessary to be comfortable doing this sort of thing.  That, along with a few Saturday trips to cliff drive to practice rappelling and ascending and I was ready.  The trip pushed me physically at times, but nothing like some of the backpacking trips I took in scouts as a kid.  It did, however, push me mentally.  I did things on this trip that I wouldn't have thought I could do a year ago.  Though I was nervous I never felt scared.  I had a confidence in my abilities and knew that I had no other choice to continue as there was no way out but down.  Behunin specifically helped me to grow.  At times I was questioning what I was doing, but I'd go back tomorrow and do it again if I could...maybe next year.

DAY - 1 & 2

We left Kansas City on Friday June 1st, 2012 after work.  A (relatively) short and uneventful drive through Western Kansas took us to Colby for the night.  Saturday was a very enjoyable drive through the Rockies and into Utah.  We took a detour and followed the river to Arches National Park for a nice hike to Delicate Arch before spending the night in Green River.


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Sunday, after an excellent breakfast, we began our drive to Zion.  The drive was gorgeous!  Especially going through the San Rafael Swell and the drive down 89 along the river.  We arrived in the park from the East and headed through the tunnel and down to the visitor's center.  We checked in at the backcountry desk and got our permits for the next two days before filling up our water bottles with water.  Soon after, Andy's friend Brian and his son Keelin showed up and we were off to Pine Creek.  Pine Creek is the quintessential canyon for beginners, which is exactly what I needed!  The first rappels are short and were good for getting some practice.  It was hot but once in the canyon out of the sun it became pleasant.  The water, however, was a different story.  Except for the first few pools the water is not in the sun.  I would not recommend doing this canyon without a wetsuit, even on a blistering day, as the water is very cold.

We quickly ran into another group and had to wait for them to move on before we could keep going, but by the time we got down the Cathedral rappel they had gotten well ahead of us and we could move unimpeded.  The most unpleasant part of the canyon was the fact that a goat had fallen in and his presence could be smelled, though thankfully not seen.  We caught up to the group again on the second to last rappel.  They were rappelling on a Petzl Nomad climbing rope, which was very bouncy.  This is a great climbing rope, in fact I had just bought one, however, when canyoneering you typically want to use a static rope that does not stretch.  Knowing this, and knowing what the last rappel was like, Andy volunteered to go ahead and set up the last rappel if they would let us "play through" on their rope.  They caught up quickly and soon we were one group finishing the canyon together.

The hike out was brutal.  We spent over an hour scrambling down the boulders in the watercourse.  We finally reached the switchback of the road at 8:45...15 minutes before sunset!  It had been a long day but we had made new friends and had a wonderful time!  By the time we made it back to Springdale most of the restaurants were closing.  We tried Oscars but were turned away.  We ended up having a nice meal at Wildcat Willies.


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Monday brought the biggest adventure of the trip!  The night before I was not sure if I would be participating on Monday as my ankle had been hurting from Pine Creek, and I was not looking forward to the approach hike with 2000 feet of elevation gain.  I figured I would start out, and turn back if necessary.  Both the park and Springdale have an excellent free bus service so I could easily return to the hotel.

Rather than shuttling cars as we had the day before, we rode the park bus from the visitor's center to The Grotto stop.  A short hike across the river led us to the Angel's Landing Trail and up we went.  The switchbacks were nothing spectacular, but once we got to the top and entered Refrigerator Canyon the view of the main valley was breathtaking!  A pleasant hike up the canyon in the shade led us to Walter's Wiggles and we were soon at the turn off for Angel's Landing.

While most people were heading up to Angel's Landing we continued on up the West Rim Trail.  We continued upward until topping out on some slickrock.  We had a brief descent to a nice bridge where we had lunch in the shade and then it was back uphill to the top of the canyon.  The "drop in" is a steep patch of slickrock that you rely on the stick rubber of your shoes to get down.  After hiking for 30-45 minutes you come upon the first anchor.

The first anchor is sketchy.  Not the anchor itself, but getting to it.  It is 30ft out on a ledge that is anywhere from 4" to 18" wide.  You step over a bush and go under a tree.  All this while unprotected.  Sure, you could belay someone, but if they fall they are just going to pendulum anyway...not much point.  This was the first big mental challenge of the day.  Thankfully I passed!  Once on the anchor you have a breathtaking view of the real "drop in."  Four rappels drop you 510 feet into the canyon.  They are spectacular and well worth the effort to get to!

Once in the bottom there is a bit amount of hiking through a dry creek bed until you reach a relatively short and very nice 90ft drop.  More hiking leads to a fluted rappel of of a rotting log into a pool of very cold and skanky water!  On more winding rap and some hiking and you are near the end.

The end of this canyon is not for the faint of heart!  It didn't help that I had been hearing stories about how bad it was getting to the anchor!  As you slide down a boulder the exit of the canyon comes into view.  As you climb up to the right of a large boulder you realize that you are about 300ft above the boulder field below and 500ft above the river.  Andy had climbed down to the anchor and Brian was handing him the ropes...and blocking my view.  The wind was gusting as I sat there waiting.  What I imagined in my head was far worse that what it actually was.  Turned out to be an easy 5.6 down climb to the ledge.  That being said, it wouldn't hurt to belay down to this anchor.  The rappel itself was no big deal once on the anchor.

The next rappel is immediately following the last after a short down climb into a hole.  This was the single most dramatic rappel of the entire trip.  The first 65 ft or so of the rappel are against the rock.  The last 100 ft are "free", or hanging in the air.  This alone is intimidating for someone new to canyoneering, but with the wind blowing it made it all the more "fun."  As nervous as I was the view was incredible and I wouldn't have missed it!

Once at the bottom a short hike brings you to the Emerald Pools.  Unfortunately they were doing trail work and the shortest trail back to the busses (at Zion Lodge) was closed.  We had to hike back to The Grotto and by the time we crossed the river it was dark.  It was 11 hours after we had started and we were all exhausted.  We were a bit worried that we had missed the last bust because it was several miles back to the visitor's center.  Fortunately there were still a couple busses running and we were able to make it back.  Knowing most of the restaurants were closed we headed to the Bit and Spur as we knew it was open late.  Turns out the food is excellent!  Their enchiladas are amazing!!


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Tuesday was Mystery Canyon.  Now I was extremely tired, but we had "won" this permit in the lottery and it is very hard to come by...I would hate to miss it.  I had read the description and the only concern I had was getting a belay out to the anchor on the mystery springs rappel.  Andy had agreed (though turns out there is webbing in place) and we were off.

Took a car up to the East side and hiked along the East RimTrail to the drop-in.  Now this truely was a "drop-in!"  The beginning of Mystery Canyon is called Death Gully, and for good reason.  You start out walking on a "trail" sideways on a scree slope and quickly find yourself clambering down an erosion trail holding tree branches and roots to keep from sliding to the bottom.  After what seems liek an eternity of this you reach a point where it is only mildly steep and you begin to encounter "obstacles."  The obstacles consist of some downclimbs, short rappels, and walk-arounds.  After bypassing these you finally reach the section where the canyon becomes "narrowes" and the real rappels begin.  These rappels are narrow, fluted, and beautiful!  There are sandy areas at the bottom of several raps that provides a nice shady spot for resting and a cool break from the sun.

After the first section of narrows things open back up into the sun and a bit of hiking takes you to the "lake."  Though usually dry, the lake was formed by a giant rock/sand slide sometime in the 1970's.  This creates an obstacle of a 70ft tall "mountain" blocking the canyon that must be hiked over in order to continue.  Past the "mountain" a singel rap, some down climbing, and some hiking, all in full sun, lead to the Mystery Springs Rappel.

The Mystery Springs Rappel is a 110 ft drop down a nearly vertical wall.  The rap anchor is well out on a ledge, but is protected off another bolt with a length of webbing for clipping a tether into.  This is one of the more beautiful spots in the Canyon and a great place to stop for a snack in the shade before continuing on.  Though I had done longer raps the previous day this was the first "long" one of the day.  The ledge made me a bit nervous, but having the tether really helped to alleviate my fear.  The rap itself was very enjoyable.

Once down Mysetery Springs there is a fair amount of hiking through a beautiful, damp section of the canyon.  We encountered only one obstacle that can be either downclimbed or rappeled.  We chose to rap because of the running water and were soon on our way to the best rap of the trip!

The rap into The Narrows from Mystery Canyon is one of the most gorgeous and enjoyable raps in the park.  The narrows is usually full of tourists out for a challenging day hike, therefore, an audience is to be expected.  As we popped our head over the edge we were soon noticed and a group gathered to watch us come down.  The rap follows a waterfall down a nearly vertical face for 120 ft into the Virgin River.  Because of the waterfall and the moss growing on the rock.this rap is very slippery.  With all the onlookers there is even more pressure not to slip!

Once at the bottom you find yourself surrounded by the beauty of The Narrows.  Now, all the canyones I was in during the trip were incredibly beautiful, but I have to say none compare to the (relativley) easily accessible Narrows.  Now I do have a thing for rivers...especially rocky mountain ones, so that might make me a bit bais.  However, the color of the high walls, the flowing river, and the green trees along the sandy banks all contribute to the stunning beauty of this place.  The hike out was very enjoyable and did not seem at all like work.

We caught the shuttle back to the visitor's center where we got Brian's car and went to retreive Andy's from the East side.  We again opted for The Bit and Spur for our dinner before returning to the hotel for a well deserved rest.

DAY - 6

Wednesday was to be Englestead, but we were beat!  I feel bad for Andy because he had really been looking forward to this one.  It has a rappel of nearly 300 ft at the start.  I was not sure I was up for that and neither was Brian and Keelin.  So, we took a rest day.  We gave back our permit for both Englestead and Spry and got a new permit for Orderville.  I spent the morning in the park checking out The Emerald Pools and Weeping Rock before joining Brian and Keelin for a float down the Virgin River.  The Water was low but it was still fun.  Andy spent the day hiking up to the Northgate Peaks.  We met up for dinner with Tom Jones at the Whiptail Grill.  Tome is the local authority on Canyoneering and quite literally wrote the guidbook.  If you are at all interested in canyoneering you should check out his site  Tome had some good stories and we all enjoyed a nice meal before getting some much needed rest.


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Thursday we drove back up to the East side and hiked down the 4WD road to the start of Orderville Canyon.  Orderville is "the easiest technical canyon in Zion, or the hardest off-trail hike."  This day was all about enjoying the scenery and water in the "Orderville Water Park."  Most of the day consisted of hiking down a dry creek bed, alternating between shade and sun.  This canyon only has two rappels, and the longest is only 15ft.

Around halfway through we encountered a massive logjam with water on the other side.  From that point on we were hiking in a wet creek bed, though the stream was small.  The second rappel is called "The Guillotine" because of the large angled boulder ominously suspended overhead.  After this rap the water starts getting deeper and the canyon narrower.  There are several down climbs, usually through waterfalls into deep, cold pools of water.  We came to on drop into a particularly skanky pool of water with a large log jamb on the other side.  There were a couple other groups that were climbing up a side trail and rapping.  I opted for this route while the rest of the group decided to take the more direct route. I was going to rap with the second group but they were talking about setting up a hand lien to get down to the anchor and I knew it was going to take a while.  I decided to down climb to the anchor (a bit sketchy) and was able to "play through" just before the first group pulled their rope.

A bit more hiking led us back to The Narrows.  This hike out was just as beautiful as hiking out from Mystery, there was just more of it!  Orderville is an excellent canyon for someone looking for an adventure without much previous experience.  I think Orderville followed by Pine Creek with an experienced guide would be a great introduction to canyoneering for anyone.

After a shuttle ride back to the visitor's center we once again went after Andy's car.  We were tired after a 12.3 mile day, but not nearly as tired as some of the previous days.  We had a nice dinner at Oscars before turning in.

DAY - 8

Friday was another "rest day" which seemed odd given we were going home the next day.  However, Andy and I did not do much resting as he wanted to hike back up to the Northgate Peaks.  We spent the day exploring the West side and bagged a (small) summit.  Got some great video and pictures from up there and got a good feel for where The Subway and other West side canyons were.  Brian and Keelin spent the day relaxing and shopping before meeting us for one final hike up the Canyon Overlook Trail before one final meal a the Bit and Spur.

DAY - 9 & 10

Saturday we met for one last breakfast at the Mean Bean before hitting the road.  Andy and I stopped at the West Entrance of Zion for a brief overlook before heading on to Golden, CO for the night.  Sunday we made the rest of the uneventful drive home.  As always, it is bittersweet coming home.  Great to see the family but hard to go back to the daily grind after such an adventure!

This trip was not only a fun adventure, but it helped me push my limits and grow as a person.  Over the previous year I had become a climber and had begun to learn some basic rope skills.  In preparing for this trip I learned how to rappel, tie off on rappel, and ascend a rope.  I realize that I really jumped into the deep end with this trip, especially Behunin!  Though it is listed as a moderate technical canyon the sheer lengths of some of the raps and the conditions getting to some of the anchors made it a real learning experience.  I came home more excited than ever to continue to push my limits and search out even greater adventure.  So, until the next trip I will continue to improve my sport climbing skills and rope work skills (I'll definitely start rapping down from the anchors instead of being lowered).  I also think I will purchase a basic trad rack and begin to practice on some easy routes in Arkansas.  Rather than focusing on pushing the difficulty of the routes I am doing I am looking towards multi-pitch climbing as my next step.  I think it will be a better rout to getting out into the wilderness and enjoying the benefits that come with it.  Grand Teton here I come!

(2012-06-02) - 0004 (2012-06-02) - 0009 (2012-06-02) - 0038
(2012-06-04) - 0058 (2012-06-04) - 0067 (2012-06-05) - 0078
(2012-06-08) - 0089 (2012-06-08) - 0112 (2012-06-08) - 0122
(2012-06-08) - 0139 (2012-06-08) - 0225 (2012-06-08) - 0209
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Monday, April 30, 2012

Horseshoe Canyon Ranch Climbing Trip


Friday after Colin's T-Ball game Andy and Drew picked me up and we headed down to HCR.  Jeff, Debbie, and their friend Sam we asleep when we got there so we went right to bed to get rested for Saturday climbing.

Saturday morning we headed up to The North Forty after breakfast at The Ozark Cafe.  Bob and I focused on leading / cleaning easy to moderate routes for Drew as he was just starting out.  This was fine by me as it gave me a chance to climb some of the more obscure routes that we never seem to get to because they are not "3-4 stars."  I attempted to lead my first 5.9, Local Hebrew, but had to work through it.  The highlight of the day for me was climbing a trad route, Flashbacks, with Bob.  I cleaned the gear and would have then lead it but we needed to go find the group.  After a good day of climbing and a good dinner we all headed back up the hill to climb Cotton Candy with our headlamps.  Some preparation for 24HHH which Andy and Jeff were planning on doing this year!

Summer Rain (5.6) | Local Hebrew (5.9-) - A, L, 1 | Emma's Got a Mullet (5.6) | Cows in the Mist (5.7) - L | Flashbacks (5.7) - 2 | Caught in the Closet Again (5.7) | Brand New (5.8) | Too Short for the Short Bus (5.9) | Cotton Candy (5.6) - 3

Sunday we started on the very first route on the West Side, Hickadelic Jazzgrass.  It was a fun route with a couple tricky moves.  Next, we went over to Gimp and Wheezer, the rout Andy and Bob had climbed on my first trip.  It was no longer above my abilities and I got my first 5.10a outdoors!  Next we headed over to the East side so Drew could do some stuff on the Cliffs of Insanity.  He was too worn out so we headed to The Roman Wall and Andy, Jeff, and Sam climbed Commodus.  I opted to lead the easier Aphrodite.  We didn't get out of there until late and with a dinner stop in Springfield we got home late.  It was a good weekend of climbing though and I can't wait until fall!

Hickadelic Jazzgrass (5.8) | Gimp and Wheezer (5.10a) | Little Sprout (5.6) | Aphrodite (5.7+) - L

[A = Attempted | L = Lead | # = Note]

1. Four takes.
2. My first trad route.  Followed and cleaned.
3. At night, after dinner.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Horseshoe Canyon Ranch Climbing Trip

Spring was here and that meant more climbing in Arkansas!  Andy and I headed down Friday and headed straight to Cotton Candy.  However, this time I lead it.  We climbed a few other routes, including a couple of 5.9's.  I accidentally got off route on Lion Tamer and had to skip the crux of The Controversy, but it was nice to be trying some 9's!  We finished up with Green Goblin which is now one of my favorite routes at HCR!  It is long, juggy, and beautiful.

Cotton Candy (5.6) - L | African Herbman (5.8) | Lion Tamer (5.9-) - 1 | The Controversy (5.9) - A,2 | Green Goblin (5.8)

Saturday morning we met Bob at The Ozark Cafe for breakfast and then we all headed up to The North Forty.  I led a couple of 5.7's before we headed over to the East Side.  I got the chance to climb Swamp Rat which was a bit unnerving because of the height and ledges in lieu of jugs.  However, the view at the top made it all worthwhile!  We ended the day with another of my favorite routes, Gracie's Eight.  I had attempted it without luck on my last trip and wanted to try it again.  Andy was exhausted but set up a top rope for me and I had no trouble climbing it.  The flake at the top is incredible and well worth the tricky start to get to!

Sundial (5.7+) - L | Groovy (5.8+) | Molt (5.9-) | Perfect Hair Forever (5.7) - L | Memoirs of a Daisha (5.7) | Swamp Rat (5.8) | Gracie's Eight (5.8+)

Sunday morning we woke up to rain so we headed home.

[A = Attempted | L = Lead | # = Note]

1. Went right halfway up route onto Frankenberry.
2. Skipped the crux.

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IMG_1249 IMG_1250 IMG_1253
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