Saturday, June 28, 2014

In a Quandary

Rained out of what would have been a showpiece canyon and epic pothole thrash of Knotted Rope we 
reorder the days and jump the unplanned Quandary Canyon. We already know the entrance trail as it's shared with Knotted Rope but we are down to just Deathrider and I. Neil is enjoying a personal day with his bike and the wide open range of Utah's BLM. 

Quandary is so named because of a very serious section that we needed to avoid or risk getting trapped and an exit boulder that asked us to climb exposed technical rock. That may not be entirely true but the exit is so committing and risky that you may get into a quandary pulling your rope and committing to the route.
 I don't have a lot of photos of Quandary. It's a nice canyon but we were moving fast. Most of the scenery was similar to others but the exit scramble was better then the proper canyon.

We have to avoid a 1/4 mile section of very deep potholes in the main canyon because it's just a bit too serious for 2 people and our known skills. That's to say, we played it safe and took the 'escape' route up and around the bad section. This is the walk back into the main slot.
This wall is on the route description but I forget what they called it. I wanted to climb it but without any gear it would have been slow and a bit risky (rule #2). If anything happened the rest of my trip would be sitting at camp or worse. Rule #2: Don't get stupid. Rule #1: Don't let logic get in the way of fun. (see the quandary)
I can't really get into geology, I have a book but it's just so dry..., but you have to appreciate the coolness of this feature.
 The exit slot necks down and gets steep as it winds in tight bends. The route is not in front of us anymore. We are just about to reach a dryfall (waterfall sans water). See the ramp on the left (below)? We have to hike up that and back down a bit to circumvent the dryfall. 
 More small ramps and dryfalls follow as the canyon gets 'slotty'. I enjoy this part of the route the most. The primary canyon was cool but nothing awesome, as we exit the route improves considerably.
We have to climb an exposed 5.6 exit boulder in order to finish the route. Deathrider scouts, finds, and hikes it before me. I got a hand line from him (no reason to both risk broken legs) but it was still spooky and even the hand line didn't guarantee safe passage but it helped mentally. 

Once over the boulder blocking the canyon we find the road to camp and it's less then 2 miles away. Time to beat antiques and get some dinner.

Happy at home and in record time. We finish door to door in 6 hours. 

This is a proper back-country, car camp, cooking station and spa.
Not a Quandary is how to recover after a long day of hiking. Food and Bev. This is how I like to set up if I have the space. It blocks the wind, covers your corners, tables nice, you can lean over the stove for heat and everything is very close so you don't need legs (cuz they are ham and almost useless). To the right is food and small items. Left is large gear and water. In front is anything you may want to get ready for tomorrow as you wait for water to boil. An extra coat for a lap blanket if nice even if it's warm out. Remember you're burned out and your liver is out of sugar so you're literally running on you don't have the calories to waste on heat and get cold easy and need a thick jacket and that's no quandary.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Ore Else

Once out of Grand Gulch we planned to do a canyon with a lot of deep potholes called Knotted Rope Canyon to work on skills for more serious routes. After a long hike and a few hours of consternation over the weather (active rain and localized threats of severe weather) we bug out. Deathrider spotted an unnatural inclined plane earlier in the day and we expected it was an old mine and with Uranium in the area ...
The yellow bits should be a low grade uranium ore but I can't say for sure.
The day before we ride down a creek to an old mine that was the first in the area.

We only peek in because all the beams are broken and its really unsafe.
Below: We hike up an old washed out mining road to two mines.
Proof it's really a uranium ore mine.
This looks a little safer so I go in maybe 200 feet, the papers say the claim is 1/3 mile (deep).
I enter this one as well but maybe 75 feet. These were both active within the last 15 years.
The breakdown is what turned me around. The pile of rock on the floor is the ceiling.

I'm in from of the mines above. There are 2 other mines in this photo that I know of maybe more.
As fun as trotting around in a hazardous radiation filled mine is the failed attempt of Knotted Rope Canyon should not be lost. We didn't get the pothole thrash we wanted but the views are probably the best I've ever seen and that's not an easy list to make so I'll share.

We camp at the trailhead and it was a nice place. A little windy but nice.

Pioneer car campers? I really wish I knew the story behind this car. 
The hike over the saddle, around the corner and up a steep gully to the top.
Low summit at the exit of the steep gully.
Working our way up and over the plateau for the decent into Knotted Rope.
This is "Personal Best View #?" I can't really say but its on the list. Scuba with a shark also makes the list.
The weather that drove us away
It never did rain enough to Matter. (e=mc2)

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Ruining it for Everyone

Ruins of Grand Gulch. Day 2

Day one in the gulch was a little bit of a repeat of last year so we made good time and covered a lot of miles so that we could slow down and spend more time looking and less time hiking. This post is mostly about the ruins and little to nothing about the hike and surrounding views. I'm uncertain if the title is misleading so I'll clear that up right now. I chose it because these historical artifacts are for everyone to see and I'm showing what I have to everyone. We follow the access rules and don't disturb them in any way but it's clear others are a lot less abiding and it's ruining it for others and if it keeps up, everyone. They've already been forced to restrict access to some of the best ruins because of damage and disrespecting the sites. The saddest part is this isn't limited to this place. The same story exists in many of the places I go. If you want to understand the magnitude, look at all the trash on the side of the road. The same shit bags that can't keep their trash under control are ruining it for everyone because it doesn't stop when they get out of the car and into the park systems.

The round smooth door means this was a house. If it had square corners and a lip it would be a grain store. They would mud a stone into the hole to keep rodents out. Getting to them requires some skill and sticky feet. 

All of the ruins are under enormous overhanging rims so they hardly ever see rain. They are almost always facing south and east and normally 50 feet or more up from the current floor. Large dirt/scree ramps give access to the closest ones but many require rock climbing skills. Beyond that the original owners used ladders to maybe 100 feet.

Many of my photos this year are smudged. The lens is getting worn from all the dirt and grime and I need to learn to clean my optics more often. This is the largest house system we see the entire trip.

A thin chain limits how close we are allowed to get to this multi-level house. Notice the logs for a roof and the staggered building style. Some of the walls are mud over sticks to make them thinner and lighter. Older houses are stacked rocks making them very laborious to build compared to these compound walls.

Pottery shards are all over the place. These have been lifted out of the midden by others for show but it's not a good practice. This exposes them to more weather than needed. The larger the ruins, the larger the trash pile of broken pots and other 'junk' from the encampment. The pile is called the Midden. A midden is Scandinavian in origin and means something like 'shell heap' or day-to-day waste and is a valuable resource to archaeologists or me if I have some time to poke around.  

The midden as it really looks
After doing this for 3 years I'm staring to see how these people improved their skills and made better houses.

Still hard to get to but if you want to sleep knowing nobody is going to sneak up on you this may be about as good as it gets. You may think sleeping in this hobbit hole would be terrible but they made blankets from rabbit fur and clothes from turkey feathers as well as thick grass mats, so it was probably about as comfortable as my camp the night before because I use goose down as apposed to turkey down.

This is a kiva or a place to gather for ceremonial reasons but it's missing a roof.

I said they used turkey feathers for blankets and clothes and this is a turkey pen. They raised turkeys as farmers would. Archaeologists believe this is true because digs show heavy layers of turkey droppings down some 17 feet.

A deep hard bend in the canyon (remember we are 400 feet below the main rim of a huge canyon) creates this plunge pool but it's a water source for us and all the critters within the canyon so you don't get to swim or contaminate it in any way. Don't camp too close because the animals need to feel safe getting a drink and if we are right next to it they don't get to use it and may have to go miles to another source that may also have campers or dried up all together. The point is we have to share the space with other campers, critters, and pack out our trash because just like Galileo Galilei, the universe does not revolve around us contrary to how people behave.

On that note, get out and Ruin stuff for yourself and yourself alone.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Grand Gulch

Day 3: Multi-day backpack trip down Sheiks Canyon and out Kane Gulch. Water sources are good following a heavy rain the week before so we don't have too much trouble. Last year it was lean and if it wasn't for a hard rain in the morning we would have run short on water.

Pre-hike lunch. We eat heavy because a lot of the food we have will not survive the 3 days we'll be out.
The truck is at the exit. We ride uphill into a strong wind for a few miles then down a dirt road to the drop in to Sheiks canyon.

With good weather forecast we are all excited to get hiking and make quick time to the end of Sheiks canyon because we did this part last year and we want to get to the new stuff around the corner.

Hiking is rugged but for canyons this is easy. The footing isn't ideal at times but if you keep a cool head and remember that you rarely fall off a sidewalk and the exposure isn't a big deal and you just walk the edge like it's no big deal.

This is kind of a big deal. The end of Sheiks. To the right (the notch) is Kane and the way we want to go but it's a long way down so we go around to the left and it takes about an hour to loop around and down. Last year we went left and stayed left and came out Bullet Canyon.

For scale you'll see Josh in the distance.

A short rest but the reality is this place is so big we all take a long time to soak it in. The panoramic at the top of this post is only half of this place. I don't have enough to make a full view but below is the opposite of the first. The notch on the far left is the rock bench we are sitting on in the first panoramic and Neil is still there but good luck finding him.

We eventually have to leave. Navigation is easy but several side canyons have to be avoided to stay in and eventually head up Kane Gulch. In 3 days we only see 5 or 6 people.

Old Anasazi ruins riddle the Grand Gulch. So many that after 3 days you are almost tired of seeing them unless they are exceptionally good. This one was a scary climb up a large overhang but we didn't know what lay ahead so we climbed it just to see.

You can see the excitement on his face from the effort vs reward.

Hard to believe but this is really corn grown 700+ years ago. 

A major wall painting. This is possibly the best we see in the three days. The hands are believed to be a way to show population.

We are in a desert yet the very bottom is a lush grassy valley.

We are looking at the water source and our final camp site. We need to filter this water and hike it 2 miles to camp.
The rain last week opened up a lot of desert flowers. I have a post of just flowers but I like this too much and it was right next to camp.
Happy at camp we have a large supply of water, a lot of food, and a wide sandy site under clear skies.

We still have a full day's hike to get to the end of Kane Gulch but day one went well and we covered something like 8 miles. Tomorrow it's 10 more (I think) and on that we'll pick this up in a few days.