Close up of land turtle fossil. 85 million yr.s o...
The Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument has many canyons that lack crowds, water (most of the time), and quality rock. This is for the old school desert rats, as well as those that just want an adventure. The sandstone is soft but the aesthetics are oh so sweet! This place is in the "Grey and White Cliffs" area or the Kaiporowits down to the Entrada formation. Covering both the Cretaceous and Jurasic periods. The slots are deep, dark and wild places with a few locations where erosion and time have cemented the sand sufficiently enough to climb on... though not your best rock for sure! Sew it up! For those of you into the bouldering scene there is a fine place to camp and boulder about a third of the way up the Cottonwood Rd. out of Bigwater (see "Cap Rock City Area). The rock here is a bit better in that the boulders were once "cap rocks" up above on the ridge and have some real possibilities. The GSENM is huge and is administered by the B.L.M. Keep a low profile, and nobody will see you or bother you. The climbing reg.s are vague but nobody down here understands climbing much less climbers so best not to perpetuate the negative images the locals have of us in their minds eye. NOTABLE WILDLIFE includes: Elk, Black Tailed Deer, Black Bear, Mt. Lions, Badgers, a few cows, Golden Eagles, Rock and Canyon Wrens, Spotted Owls, California Condors, to name but a few. In terms of flora, this area is in the Painted Desert, and is dominated by a Pinyon/Juniper Forest and most of the related plant species that are associated. Coral and Bivalve fossils are abundant with the occasional Sea Urchin spines or Sharks teeth to be seen. Petrified wood as well as some real dino fossils (see two photos in the "Cap Rock City Area") are also around.
Head for south-central Utah and HW 12. Depending on the canyon/area, it would be best to stop in at the visitors center in Cannonville. Get maps and information (on JUST the slots/area and not the routes... keeping a low profile) here.
I would say the theme for this location is "looks can be deceiving". The rock quality and the grand scale of the canyon will sandbag you time and time again. What looks like a 5.9 hands cruisefest will somehow turn into a 5.11 burlfest by the time you climb up to it. The location is remote and adventurous. The rock is soft with sections of even softer rock. Help is far away and no matter what you packed for lunch, humblepie is all you will be eating. The asthetics of the rock make it all worth it however. I hope to see more climbers venturing into the dark depths of these canyons and plucking the beautiful cherry lines that reveal themselves around most corners. Best pack a large rack to sew up the soft stone. The rock feels like butter under a hammerdrill so we found ourselves backing up some of our anchors with a third bolt and I would suggest the same unless you can find bomber rock somewhere. If you have a hand drill then that may be a better choice than lugging a power drill through the long approaches since the stone is plenty soft. Be extremely careful when trundling stones as tourists often explore the beautiful slot canyons and a climber dumping rocks on a family of three on vacation would cause the vague climber regulations to become harder than the rocks you droped on them.