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Highly technical slot canyon TR: Sandthrax
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By Jason Kaplan
From Glenwood ,Co
Feb 2, 2009
avitar pic <br />

Well I wasn't too motivated to climb or ski this weekend, so somehow I came up with the idea to do a slot canyon spur of the moment on friday night. At first there was to be 4 of us and I was planning for shenanigins and maybe middle fork of leprachaun if we had time.
Saturday morning my friend finds out that he can't go cause his bank account has been hacked and he has to stick around to deal with it.
I was bummed cause I wanted to show my really good friend what this scene is all about, but it would have been his first slot so sandthrax was not really a good option with him on board. I get ahold of the other guys (Eric Harvey from my aid adventures and his friend Steve) and I manage to catch them before they leave town so I can carpool out with them.

Mean while plans change, Eric and I wonder if we can handle a canyon rated a 4 as most all the 3's either of us have done have been pretty easy for us. We both feel confident about it so we decide to give a go at sandthrax, despite the lack of information to be had on climb utah. We had the basic information needed like how to find it and what to bring, but not much idea what exactly to expect and when.

Steve has been down a couple canyons near dinosaur ntl. monument, which consisted of some raps and mostly walking sandy bottomed narrows. He is also a climber and Eric feels he should be up to the challange. Later I find out this is the first time Steve has ever been in a mae west slot.

Eric has been through a couple canyons like boss hog and some other canyon in the roost area I think with some wading and pot holes. I know he's a good OW climber and he know's how to handle mae west slots and tricky downclimbs through narrows.

This was my 7th canyon, but I've only had short mandatory sections of mae west obstacles in the canyons I've done. I have practiced it more then when it's mandatory though also so I feel I know the techniques decently enough to tackle a hard mae west slot. I do questiion the endurance though. I hear there is 4 silo's in this slot but I'm not 100% sure what that is, nor have I ever seen or been through one. The vague description on climb utah says there is bombays and devils pits, but what exactly are those? It also describes that this canyon is almost 100% mae west, and that there is very little hiking/walking. Also that this canyon is not suitable for the canyoneering general public and those that do enter should have a support crew on the rim with radios and 600ft of rope. Also that every member in the group must be able to lead 5.8 and atleast 1 person must lead 5.10 OW.

The energy seems to be really high once we all meet up and start the long drive, Eric and I know that we're in for our biggest canyoneering challange yet. On the way out we catch up and talk about climbing and of course read over the limited description we have to keep the energy up. We stop for some beer and to grab a bite on the way and next thing I know were at camp and it didn't seem like it took that long.

We hang out for a minute and I shoot a picture of this cool looking tree before heading to bed.



I wake up pretty early to reduce the pressure I'm experiencing from the beers the nite before. Not to mention I'm slightly nervous wondering if we can handle this or not. It's time to wake up anyway as I can tell the sun is almost rising. We catch a nice sunrise, drink some coffee, and pack up for the adventure.

Eric eats some cereal but I could not eat yet, so I pack a fair bit of food. Eric mentions something about how I don't eat, and I do kinda concure but I hope to eat at some point during the day. Never did though. I'm not sure if steve ate or not, but I don't think he ate either.

So we start to head for the top of the canyon and we're there in no time as this slot is really short, like a 1/2 mile I think. We take on our first downclimb and eric and I are feeling confident, steve however seems a bit nervous and requires some assistance. We keep him safe but try to show him how it works so it will help him later. After that we get a little more down climbing and a very small taste of the mae west to come.

Steve is seeming a bit nervous, as he doesn't have the experience that Eric and I do with this sort of canyon but Eric talks him through it. He almost bailed before the point of no return; offering to be our support team as we didn't have one, but Eric is a great motivator, and wouldn't let his friend miss out after how far we had come. Steve wasn't forced into anything and he could have left, he knew he would regret not going though I think. Unfortunately he didn't know to bring knee pads so it was going to be alot more painful and hard for him then Eric or myself.

We get to the first rap which is 35 ft or so off some fairly large fairly loose blocks.I clipped in as a human anchor back up just incase things went badly, and let the others rap first. Steve weighs more then I so I knew I would be safe to rap with no back up since he went before me and nothing moved.

We get a short sandy stretch before things become crazy mae west




From here on out we were generally 30-70 feet off the canyon floor and usually couldn't see the bottom.







occasionally it would widen and drop into what I'm assuming is a silo, for SOME you can climb down into it and back out the other side. It's wild as even the bottom of the silo is mae west the majority of the time. This was the first one we climbed down into.


Eric back out the other side:


It was tiring getting back out the other side of these things.
Steve past the first silo:


More mae west:


Don't fall into any of the holes like this you will probly be dead:


It keeps going and going....


Another downclimb into a bombay I think:


It was nice you could kinda sit on the ledge in the bombay which gave us a much needed rest, we had no idea what was still to come.
Looking down into the bombay from the downclimb:


A photo while we rested and drank some water, but didn't spend long enough to dig out the food:


Not long after the rest I came apon a big silo where I found a single drilled angle. Eric went first and we weren't sure if we were supposed to rap into the silo and climb back out or try to rap across it into the next mae west slot. Climbing back out looked like a miserable task so Eric somehow swung over into the next constriction and continued past the mea west into another silo he down climbed into while still on rappel.







I went next and had a really hard time crossing the giant hole, in the process I felt a sharp pain in my groin. I over stretched it, and I was starting to panic a little. I pushed hard off the close side of the silo trying to swing across and again felt sharp pain, not good. I rest for a minute and try to stem my way across while on rappel again, and somehow make it considering the seemingly dire sittuation. Steve goes last and is also having a time of it like we all did, we try to have him lower and we pull the rope really tight to pull him over the hole into the slot, which eventually worked. In retro-spect I learned the drilled angle is for being on belay so you can bridge the gap with hands on one wall and feet on the other! What I would do after that is have the person on the other side anchor them self in as good as possible and hold tension on one side of the line using a knot to hold the tention at the pin while the other end is hanging loose. Then send the rest of the group across via a directed rap, using a tyrol type set up on the tensioned line and rapping the loose end. so as to not just swing out of control into the other side. then all could down climb the next silo pretty safely or keep the line out and belay all but the last person down.

I think this is looking up the down climb after crossing the first big silo and dropping into the next(maybe the crux OW though):


This is where I sat and belayed the crux from, jammed my pack in as a seat instead of going to the ground so I wouldn't have to climb 10-15 feet extra back out of the silo. nice landing zone eh?


Eric leading back out of the silo:


Once Eric cleared the OW we didn't have gear large enough to set up a proper Tr, and the rope knocked the cams out as Eric went back a ways to set up a belay. Instead of the funky belay for some stupid reason I decided to try to aid up the crux un belayed with my single set of aiders and a single #5 and #6... Sketchy. Eric tossed me an end of the rope once I got a ways up as I was stuck on the #6 and was having a hard time getting off it as the nature of the OW had me tippping over as I tried to aid it. I wedged my pack in above the #6 to try to aid my progress but it just wanted to pull out. Great another obsticle to climb around un protected as I leave the cam and use the rope as a hand line pulling up and thugging the top section of the OW like a crazy person. I leave the cams and ladders for Steve but he has just as rough if not a worse time then me getting over that spot. It didn't help being tied in and having the rope running under the cam he was standing on, but with no way to keep the rope directly above like a tr there isn't much option. I was completely exhausted at this point and seeing stars from over heating, but I had to stem back over Eric and help Steve up by wedging myself in and giving him my 2 dasies connected like a hand line strait up to me instead of sideways to eric. He cleared the cam with a great struggle and we got him up somehow.

From here on out we had no idea how much further it was or how many more tricky obsticles stood in our way, but we were sore and tired and getting nervous. We continue on mae westing for a long while passing smaller silo type features along the way untill we come to another nasty looking silo. This time the anchor consists of 2 pothole arches threaded and equalized, and there was for some reason a rope attatched that went down into the silo. I was so over it at this point that I stopped shooting pictures and just focused everything I had just trying to get out, complaining a fair bit in the process. Eric crossed the hole somehow and did like before with the previous anchored silo. Once on the ground He found out that there was a subway running out the bottom of the black hole silo. so we pulled our rope and fixed the existing rope incase we had to back track (we thought we spotted an emergency exit at this point and didn't know what was ahead). I rapped first and started racing down canyon hoping to see a sign of the end. Along the way was more..... you guessed it, mae west and minor silos that could be passed above by bridging alot of times. Although sometimes I had to drop down, cross and come back up as I didn't feel safe even though I though I could go above the hole was too dangerous to risk not being 100% sure. It was a bit nerve racking for Eric and I as Steve was almost in constant pain, and the sounds were horrifying. I know we were both scared for him, but we had to race for the end as we had no idea what was still ahead and how far we had to go. So I raced ahead and Eric stayed at steve's pace incase he needed help or coaching. Finally I came to the down climb which is the exit and very eagerly let Steve and Eric know the end is in sight and we are going to make it. Steve is dieing but keeps moving with our constant coaching and supervision. I try to tell him to take his time cause we are going to make it as I am worried he could still become seriously injured if he get's too hasty and slips. I go ahead and down climb the final stretch to the ground and notice a subway that might save Steve some painful movement, I go under and back up canyon only to be squeezed out. No such luck.

Eric mid way down the final downclimb:


Hopefully no one takes offence to this but we thought it was hilarious. Steve tore the whole ass out of his pants and undies if he had them. On the final downclimb a technique I advised (facing up canyon slide down backwards locking the shoulders, hips, and feet as needed)made us aware of this fact and of course I had to take a picture:

I will remove this if anyone is offended but if not enjoy the laugh.

Sandthrax is deffinately the hardest scariest canyon I have ever been in, and I loved it for the most part, except at the end when I was worried about getting out before dark and alive at that.
Hopefully you will enjoy this wild story as much as we ejoyed making it happen.


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By Nikolai Daiss-Fechner
From Boulder, CO
Feb 2, 2009
Bouldering at Bishop

am i the only one who cant see the pics?


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By Jason Kaplan
From Glenwood ,Co
Feb 2, 2009
avitar pic <br />

For some reason I can't either. I have gotten it to work before, but the photo's were actually loaded onto MP. I just linked them from my photo bucket account this time so that might be why.
Maybe the admins can help me out here, untill then or untill I load them onto MP you can go here: s177.photobucket.com/albums/w232/forum8fox/canyons/
Page 1 and 2 are where the sandthrax photo's are.
Sure would be nice if the pics showed up like their supposed to though, would make the read more enjoyable anyway.


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By Tom Jones
From Mt Carmel UT
Feb 2, 2009

Good effort.

Info on the canyon available here:

www.canyoneeringusa.com/utah/north/sand.php

might wanna wear helmets on future adventures - a minor head wound in there can turn into a major problem... (sorry, had to say it. I've got an agreement with your mom!)

Tom


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By Climb Utah
From Draper, Utah
Feb 2, 2009
profile

Happy you enjoyed the route. Everytime I'm near Sandthrax I get as nervous as a school girl in a biker bar :-)


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By Jason Kaplan
From Glenwood ,Co
Feb 3, 2009
avitar pic <br />

Wow both you guys found this trip report randomly, and just joined MP to comment on it... That's pretty cool. Glad you enjoyed the write up.

Hey what other canyons are good that are rated a 4? any close to CO (Or not much further then this one was, IE not in ZION)?


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By Andrew Gram
Administrator
From Salt Lake City, UT
Feb 3, 2009
Andrew Gram

You just posted the wrong links to your photos. In your photobucket account, copy the address from the direct link field and it'll work.


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By Jason Kaplan
From Glenwood ,Co
Feb 3, 2009
avitar pic <br />

Yep that worked, thanks Andrew.


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By Climb Utah
From Draper, Utah
Feb 3, 2009
profile

>>Hey what other canyons are good that are rated a 4? any close to CO

If you liked Sandthrax you will probably like Bumfodder

Bumfodder
37N 36' 07", 110W 37' 41"

I don't have it written up yet. It's in Kelsey's new tech book under Smith Fork. But if you think my beta is limited you will find his cupboard nearly bare.

You will also probably like

Hard Day Harvey
climb-utah.com/Powell/hardday.htm

It's a difficult 3 R canyon.

Enjoy....


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By rob rebel
From boulder, co
Feb 3, 2009
I get excited over a large desert rack

Great trip report. What an adventure. Great ass shot too what a way to finish the report. Great job!!!


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By Tom Jones
From Mt Carmel UT
Feb 3, 2009

Jason Kaplan wrote:
Wow both you guys found this trip report randomly, and just joined MP to comment on it... That's pretty cool. Glad you enjoyed the write up. Hey what other canyons are good that are rated a 4? any close to CO (Or not much further then this one was, IE not in ZION)?


Word gets around quick...

Sandthrax is not really a "4". It is its own beast. In the new-wave rating system it is an SLOT: X plus the off-width climb. Maybe an X- since the moves to get over the silos are Not Too Bad. Lots of meat in there, though.

Did (Eric?) free-climb the crux, up the crack? Rating?

Yes, "3" canyons are easy, from a climbing point of view. Most "4" canyons are easy, too. Except when they are not. Getting some mileage in on R canyons and canyoneering with some of us greybeards might be a good idea, as we can show you some tricks. In some of the canyons, the tricks are important, as they can reduce the canyon from difficult and really dangerous to difficult and not so dangerous.

Some canyons to consider: Pandoras, Hard Day Harvey, Hog 3, Shenanigans (up high for the final section, though down low is fun too, although you guys look too skinny to have to fight for it), Alcatraz. Psycho Damage has some tricks that are key (ie, the secret passage which makes it reasonable).

North Wash is definitely a good 'winter' crag. Good weather, lots of routes. Join the Canyons Group: groups.yahoo.com/group/canyons/
and we can try to work you into a trip. Greybeard rules: everyone wears helmets, young guys carry the ropes...

Tom


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By Kaner
From Eagle
Feb 3, 2009
Leading an unknown route.  Photo credit: Sam Lange.

cool tr, dont see enough of those around here! im pretty sure i know steve, cora is my dog's sister. never done a canyon before, looks like one hell of an adventure.


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By eric harvey
Feb 3, 2009

I pulled on the first #5 to get over to the OW and then I freed from there. I felt just climbing it looked a whole lot easier than what Jason and Steve were trying to do. In Vedawoo it would be an 8 or 9.

Man that was a lot of fun. And as for the silos, I though just doing a penji across and sticking a cam in to pull over on was easy enough.

Also... was the drilled angle there on the first descent?

-Eric Harvey


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By Climb Utah
From Draper, Utah
Feb 3, 2009
profile

eric harvey wrote:
Also... was the drilled angle there on the first descent?


Depends how you define descent ;-)

....... go read this story and I'll fill in the details...

Sandthrax Canyon "Chasm of Doom"
climb-utah.com/Powell/sandthrax1.htm

During the the story above, which is the first documented descent (or attempt), a bolt was placed in the hole where the piton now resides. The bolt was pulled and used for the escape. The piton was placed in the orginal bolt hole on a later descent by members of the original descent team.


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By Tom Jones
From Mt Carmel UT
Feb 3, 2009

Climb Utah wrote:
Depends how you define descent ;-) ....... go read this story and I'll fill in the details... Sandthrax Canyon "Chasm of Doom" climb-utah.com/Powell/sandthrax1.htm During the the story above, which is the first documented descent (or attempt), a bolt was placed in the hole where the piton now resides. The bolt was pulled and used for the escape. The piton was placed in the orginal bolt hole on a later descent by members of the original descent team.


(cough, cough) except the canyon had been done many years prior by another team, who declines to publish. Called it "Doggone It!".

So, no, it was not placed on the first descent. The silo is a bit intimidating, but not particularly difficult. The pin makes it belayable, which 'comfortizes' it.

Tom


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By Tom Jones
From Mt Carmel UT
Feb 3, 2009

eric harvey wrote:
I pulled on the first #5 to get over to the OW and then I freed from there. I felt just climbing it looked a whole lot easier than what Jason and Steve were trying to do. In Vedawoo it would be an 8 or 9. -Eric Harvey


5.8 or 5.9? I HOPE NOT. I spent a while trying to freeclimb it, and made like zero progress. Done a few routes at the Vedawoo, but nothing like that. I found the size just completely wrong.

I aided up on #6s, then free climbed the last bit when it was too wide for the #6s. I thought the free climbing I did was hard 9 or easy 10, so...

Of course, if you stemmed up quite high, got the cam in and used it to get over to the crack ... a little different matter.

Hey, good fun. Sweaty palms just talking about it!!!

Tom


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By eric harvey
Feb 3, 2009

I didn't do any of the stemming stuff, that kind of technique (back stepping and steming) is for sport climbers. I was able to get good thigh locks and stacks. Any crack under 4 inches scares me.

-Eric


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By Jason Kaplan
From Glenwood ,Co
Feb 3, 2009
avitar pic <br />

Your funny Eric. You got the crusty old school mentality that I so enjoy. I need to go climb some OW with ya this year so I can get more upto speed. I pretend to like them you know, but I'm just not as good at pretending as you are I guess. I mean really no one likes OW right? ha ha ha. just kidding.


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By eric harvey
Feb 3, 2009

HA, everyone knows that people who enjoy OW cant really climb anything that requires strength or skill.


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By Steven Crisp
Feb 3, 2009
THE TITAN Nuff said...

Yo Jason Thanks a lot for everything from posting this hell hole to helping me through pretty much the entire canyon. It was an adventure and as soon as I can bend my knees again and be able to walk up and down stairs I will be ready for another. And this time Mae West will turn into a stroll. Ouch...get you my pics when I find out who the hell develops film still haha!


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By Jason Kaplan
From Glenwood ,Co
Feb 3, 2009
avitar pic <br />

No; thank you Steve, I figured you would hate me for inducing this whole ordeal (although Eric is also to blame partially). I'm glad that's not the case and that I have another new adventure partner.

Way strong work too BTW, I can imagine the pain you were suffering. I did boss hog with out knee pads so I have a slight idea atleast.
I'm glad your suffering didn't make you hate the experience, goes to show your a pretty tough dude. It was great meeting you and I look forward to my next adventure with both of you.

Back to work tomorrow, I'm glad I had 2 days to heal up. Guess were going to aspen tomorrow afternoon through thursday for a job, yea more driving!

I look foreward to seeing your pics, hopefully you don't have the same problem as the first guy with his disposable! :)


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