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Lake Powell DWS & Canyoneering
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markguycan


Aug 6, 2009, 7:00 PM
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Lake Powell DWS & Canyoneering
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What would Hayduke do?

I find my self much less of an environmental anarchist. I used to imagine THE DAM exploding and the canyon returning to its former natural beauty. Maybe this natural state is possible, but not in my life time; it would take geological scales of time to restore.



For almost 10 years I’ve lived in the Southwest and have held some “higher moral ground” by abstaining from the abomination of a lake named Powell. The temptation of exploring these canyons by sea kayak as well as by foot was finally too great. My climbing partner Scott had a plan too good to miss. We would drive to a remote corner of the lake, and embark with our sea kayaks for a 5 day tour; where we would cruise the shoreline looking for features to deep water solo, explore Anasazi ruins and challenge ourselves in the playgrounds known as slot canyons.




Our first afternoon we paddled from Halls Crossing (about 90mi west of Mexican Hat) to “Lost Eden”. Two-hundred and fifty foot towering sandstone walls escorted our way. Occasionally giant flakes rose out of the murky green depths tempting our climber instincts. Some of these were fairly solid and afforded nice challenges with pleasant cool wet landings. Overhanging hand and fist cracks could be followed under arching alcoves.

Unfortunately, my well scared hands became soft from the swimming and I quickly began loosing skin in the powerful jams. Along the way we spied a flesh covered snake in the water. Scott decided it was a Corn Snake; we named him Spitz after the famous swimmer- although I kinda liked Phelps. After being in the water for so long he was quite cold and enjoyed hitchhiking with us to our evening’s destination.


We camped that first night on a ledge about 8ft above lake level in a slot canyon too narrow to turn our kayaks around. Our sliver of sky was narrow but the brilliance of the clear desert sky showed more stars than a full horizon of city sky. A few rain drops later caused me to dream of a flash flood coming down and ripping at our kayaks tethered to a natural girth hitch. “Shallow water soloing” provided some fun “lowball” pocket and sloper problems. More interesting obstacles were found just up stream as we climbed small dry waterfalls, waded sandy pools and aided our way out overhanging slick keeper potholes.




After a hearty breakfast we picked up camp in search of new adventures. Spitz was nowhere to be found- we hope he liked his new home, we sure did! After some more DWS we decided to beach the kayaks on some slick rock and go for a hike. We discovered 3 slot canyons from this spot and managed to get our adrenalin flowing more than a few times as we overcame the obstacles presented. Having left the rope behind we had to back off from a few big drops but managed to climb up a few interesting technical sections. At one point (about noon- as the sun was baking straight over head) we turned back when our hands began to blister from stemming and bridging a long narrow section, we also we almost out of water and while we didn’t really think we were in danger of dying of thirst if began to feel rather unpleasant. We looked down on the lake and longingly thought of rapping off the ends of our rope (if we’d had it) to fall the remaining 50ft to the water.



Back at the waters edge we enjoyed splitting a watermelon and dipping in the refreshing coolness of the lake. Scott used the melon rinds first as helmet and then as a prop to encourage the girls gone wild.




As we paddled north toward Moqui Canyon we found some excellent textured steep walls. The quality of these holds seemed superior to any we’d encountered thus far, encouraging us to go higher.




Passing Halls Crossing Marina was a bit stressful as our overloaded sit-on-tops dipped and swayed in the giant swells of ski and house boats passing. We spent that night on a slick rock island. A gentle breeze helped to ease the heat of the evening. Distant lightening made for an interesting sky. We slept open on our pads without sleeping bags until a few rain drops motivated us to pitch our tents. Still too warm to sleep inside them we waited for rain that never came.

The early hours of the morning found us comfortably sleeping but as soon as the sun hit we were looking for shade. Luckily our morning paddle followed a steep north-facing wall into Moqui Canyon. This extensive side canyon winds to the south east with many tributaries and side slots. The first side canyon offered our best campsite yet. An alcove about 25ft above lake level seemed to be a previous Anasazi site with expansive views. We decided to unload our gear and then continue exploring with lighter boats.

Pulling into another side canyon we noticed some Moki steps heading up a slab from a cave. This brings up another interesting question. The Anasazi’s chipped holds way back when but did it ground up soloing; what is the implication on climbing ethics? Perhaps it is ok to chip if you follow their example, Oh and you have to go barefoot!




Further up canyon we found a stellar looking two pitch corner with anchors. Oh how we wanted to get on this, but we brought a much abbreviated rack and my hands were still pretty torn up so we just added it to the growing To Do List.
The heat was oppressive so DWS was in order as we worked our way back to camp.




We found some drift wood which we obviously didn’t need for warmth but decided to burn just for atmosphere. The night cooled off, the stars came out. The small fire lit our cave with a warm flickering glow which contrasted with the white light reflecting up off the water and from the waxing moon. I went for an evening paddle in and out of the shadows, listening to the water sounds as well as the distant Reggae beating from our small external speaker on a MP3 player. It was an idyllic night that was topped off by the largest shooting star either of us had ever seen.





On our last full day we decided to explore the slot at the head of our side canyon. It was cruxy getting into it as we first had to hike along the rim at least a mile just to find some lower angle entry point. Then pothole after pothole slowed our progress. One murky swim smelled foul. We avoided one by positioning an old rickety log across it then another we fixed a bit of webbing to allow us to retrace our steps after we “controlled fall” down into it. Just before a major pour off we found an escape, hike down the other side of the rim to across from where we’d left our boats. Swimming the channel we reclaimed our kayaks and then our camping gear. We had a long paddle yet this afternoon. We fished a bit along the way but caught nothing (probably a personal deficiency rather than a lack of fish). We ended up finding a nice peninsula of slick rock near a short slot we actually could paddle to boats into until the walls were as close as the kayaks wide. Relaxing in the sun we finished off our cheap beers, swam and fished till evening.

In the am we paddled back to the car and examined an Anasazi site still with intact walls- fingerprints visible in the mortar as well as pictographs and petroglyphs. Ah- 5 days in the canyons- it went by so quick!

check out the video highlights:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OlH-Td1AhQA


(This post was edited by markguycan on Sep 22, 2009, 5:49 PM)


moose_droppings


Aug 6, 2009, 7:57 PM
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Re: [markguycan] Lake Powell DWS & Canyoneering [In reply to]
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Awesome!

Thanks a lot for the TR. Slot canyons, diving off cliffs. What a life for a week or two. Totally envious.


sonso45


Aug 6, 2009, 9:39 PM
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Re: [moose_droppings] Lake Powell DWS & Canyoneering [In reply to]
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Nice Mark and Scott, sounds like an awesome time. Great TR Mark. I loved the video also.


(This post was edited by sonso45 on Aug 6, 2009, 9:40 PM)


boymeetsrock


Aug 7, 2009, 10:34 AM
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Re: [markguycan] Lake Powell DWS & Canyoneering [In reply to]
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Nice TR and thanks for sharing.

The dude in the cave picture looks like he's nekid Wink


sed


Aug 7, 2009, 7:01 PM
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Re: [markguycan] Lake Powell DWS & Canyoneering [In reply to]
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Nice TR Mark, thanks for joining me on this trip. There aren't many who are willing to endure blistering heat, long days of paddling, snakes, pulling sandstone chunks on their heads, cheap beer, cave camping, and time away from their pretty wife in order to experience some adventure. I'm glad your priorities are in check.
S


lvpyne


Aug 7, 2009, 7:51 PM
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Re: [sed] Lake Powell DWS & Canyoneering [In reply to]
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Awesome trip report!


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