Every time I head to Escalante for canyoneering I tell people I haven’t been to Escalante for years. I finish the sentence just as my sixth sense goes off reminding me about the trip last year. At this point I have already made myself a liar so I just run with it. After all no one from that trip is on this trip and I am pretty sure nobody checks my facebook pictures. Escalante National Monument is known for its beautiful slot canyons and desert scenery.
In my early years of canyoneering I spent a lot of time in Escalante. My very first rappel was the Upper Calf Creek Falls waterfall. The next season I spent almost every other weekend backpacking, or canyoneering in the Escalante area. This is the part where I say “The past few years I haven’t made it to Escalante”, but fook it, we know that’s a lie. With a big trip to Escalante planned in April, I decided to meet up with a few friends and scout out canyons a month before. Twelve of us and one dog came down from Salt Lake and met up with three friends from Colorado. We arrived a little later in the evening and set up camp at the Calf Creek Campground a place I had never stayed before. There were perfect places for our tents not very far from the creek. Definitely one of the better campgrounds I have stayed at. After a few beers and listening to most of the girls whine about the cold… and by girls I mean Raul, we went to sleep.
The next morning we all headed out to the Egypt plateau where we split into groups of 9 and 6. The group of 9 descended Egypt 2 and the group or 6 descended Bobo. This was only the second time I had done Egypt 2. I didn’t care for it the first time I did it and I have no clue what I was thinking then. For lack of a 300 foot rope and the presence of some newbs we only did the 100ft drop in on the east side. Egypt 2 turned out to be a great canyon. After the drop in spot, ropes aren’t necessary the rest of the way. There is one spot that looks like it may be a tough downclimb that we set up a line for the less experienced people. Once down the first 10 feet that is needed for a rope, the ease of the downclimb is very apparent. All one has to do is downclimb the first few feet and then stem back up canyon a few feet to maintain leverage. Like a pansy I chose to rappel it, having a dog strapped between your legs can do that to a man.
The rest of the canyon had a lot of tight narrow places which forced us to turn sideways and drag our packs along behind us. The only one that seemed to have an easy time was Disco who we caught stemming about four feet up from the bottom. The entire canyon took a 9 person group about 6 hours. This was figuring in one dog and three new people. After the steep ass climb out we arrived at the cars about 4:30. The canyon was different than I remembered, as far as Escalante canyons go it was pretty good.
Many people will disagree with me, but I am not fond of 6 mile approaches for one awesome rappel. This is one of the few canyons in the area with a short approach and exit, plus the canyon is pretty long. I will definitely do it again. We headed into Escalante where I got my token bag of licorice and Dr. Pepper. After hanging out in town for a few minutes we headed back to the campground where the ladies (Raul) immediately started whining about the cold.
The next day we had some brainstorming about what canyons we should do. After much deliberation we decided to combine the groups and do AFC. This is a canyon that I haven’t done for a very long time. I think I did the canyon two or three times when I first started canyoneering. I eventually got sick of doing the canyon and decided not to do it ever again. I hated this canyon so much that I erased all knowledge of it out of my mind. So here I am about six years later wandering around looking for the drop in point. After backtracking about 500 yards we found the first of what would be 5 rappels.
I remember being able to skip this rappel, but after looking around I couldn’t figure out the bypass. It was a great warm up rappel. It was about 50 feet straight down from a bush. The next little while was spent climbing down some steep slickrock and finding the next 15 foot rappel that would precede the best part of the canyon.
The best part of the canyon lasts about 70 feet and begins with a fun 90 foot rap with a hanging pothole in the middle.
After the end of the last rappel you have a great view of the drop in for Pirates. Pirates from the top is one of the coolest looking canyons you will ever see. The canyon is so deep that the air blowing out from it will drop the temperature what feels like 30 degrees. This canyon seemed like it took forever because… it did.