05 June 2010

Utah 2010

I was involved with convening a conference in Stavanger in the last few days before I left for Utah. Flew out on the Friday and the student field course started on the Saturday. The field course went very well, nice bunch of students who all worked really hard. The weather was a bit mixed but everything went to plan with no real incidents other than a lad jumping off a sandy dune and twisting his ankle in Goblin Valley. Bless him, what a Muppet!

Les arrived on the last evening of the fieldtrip and I dragged him out for food and beers with the trip. He did an excellent job of ignoring his jet lag and we ended up in a bar with some very drunk students singing loudly and badlylike all good Norwegians do. Fortunately the locals took it in the manner which it was intended and a good night was had by all.

Next morning we dispatched the students and met up with Andy and the rest of the Fry clan who were laying a floor in Owen's house. Always great to see them and plans were made for the next ten days. We picked up Katharine in the afternoon and drove to Green River were we stopped the night.

Next morning we headed from the desert decay and squalor of Green River to Moab. We spent the morning hiking around Arches and in the afternoon headed into Canyonlands via the Potash entrance, drove passed the ponds and onto the White Rim trail. Headed out to Mussleman Arch where we met a Ranger on a bike who was almost out of water. She was camping alone and seemed very sweet although we later found out she had ticketed some people for breaking the speed limit of 20mph so I almost wished I hadn’t given her the water. Oh the power that comes with a uniform and a bicycle…

Anyway from Mussleman we headed back along the White Rim and up the ever impressive Shaffer Trail to Dead Horse Point and watched the sunset. Then back to Moab and a nice camping spot by the Colorado. All in all not a bad first day!

Lots of jumping in Arches Park

Next day we picked up some bikes from Poison Spider. We had no way to transport bikes so we were a bit restricted with what we could do. Having done the slick rock trail about a zillion times me headed to Amasa Back. The trail starts with a 10 km ride out of town along the road. Then the route proper kicks off with a short, very steep descent followed by a long, very steep climb. This is also a jeep trail and its graded 4+, I can see why, it has some huge rock steps and some nasty sections.

The ascent was ok, I probably walked about 50% of it, Les more and Katharine less. We got burnt off by an old woman who glided past us. I had to look twice to check she was on a bike and not a broom stick. Fairly inspirational. Once we got to the top the views were stunning and the descent was awesome, made the whole thing well worth while, even the fairly grim ride, into the wind back to town.

Next day Les was on bike strike so we rented a jeep and went to do “fins and things”. Slick rock driving at its best. I let Les drive the whole thing and he loved it. The inclinometer on my iphone was reading 41 degrees at one point. That feels way steeper than it sounds and is about the point that the wheels stop gripping and start sliding. Love it. Katharine followed and periodically passed us on a bike and we escaped just as a huge storm came in. Not sure I would have wanted to be out there when the slick rock was soaking wet. That would add a whole new dimension.

It feels a lot steeper than it looks

Next day I did a day in the field with Tore, while Les and Katharine went to Goblin valley. Then we met up in the evening and drove to Spanish Fork to meet Andy. We hooked up with Andy and his buddy Mike and then drove to Zion, very fast! Mike was driving a 3l Lexus and I was trying to keep up. I don’t think we dropped below 90mph pretty much the whole way but we made good time. All the campsites were full so we camped in what felt like a refuge camp by the river, just outside the park but it was late and we didn’t care.

Next morning we headed in early, picked up a camp spot and then got permits for a couple of canyons (Keyhole and Pine Creek). I was desperate to do Kolobe but many of the canyons were closed off because of the freaky weather this year. I have been waiting to do it for over 10 years since we failed to find the entrance, last time I was there in 1997. The Rangers said everything was super cold and recommended wetsuits. The people in the rental shop recommend Dry suits! It was interesting to see how regulated and restricted everything had become since we where there last time, when you just turned up, chose your canyon and did it without telling anyone. Now you need permits, special parking forms etc etc.

Keyhole was short but a great introduction to what was to come. Very narrow slots, a few swims and some abs (rappels). Everyone loved it and I got some pretty good pics with the water proof camera. After lunch we dropped into Pine Creek. I had done this with Andy last time we were there and his brother had got hypothermia. Full on very serious hypothermia and that was on a mid summer day when the air temp outside the canyon was in the high 30s (C). It was a lot colder today but the wet suits did the trick. I had totally forgotten what a fantastic trip it was. Amazing slots and some really cool abs. I would definitely recommend it to anyone and we got lots of good photos. It was cold but a dry suit would have been way over the top. We emerged about 3 hours after we went in, hiked down to the car and headed back to camp.

Next day we did Spry Canyon which involved a fairly long hike up to the drop in. It was well worth it. A technical canyon with a lot of down climbing and 12 abs. It took about 7 hours and had some very spectacular scenery. The hike back to the car was a bit grim but all in all it was an excellent day.

Next day Mike and Andy went climbing and we hiked up Angles Landing. Its the most famous walk in the park and I had heard it was well worth doing so we set off. Most of the climb is on a very broad concrete path with steps. Even at this point we went passed some people who looked like they were out of their depth. The climb is fairly steep but once you reach the plateau things suddenly get very mad. The path gives way to a ridge which is, at its narrowest about 4 m wide with 300 m drops on either side. The terrain is rough and there is chains bolted to the rock to hold on to. Its sounds fairly extreme and for a regular tourist path it is. To add to that there are literally hundreds of people, some relaxed, many freaking out and crying while others, clamber past them. Its all surreal but well worth the effort to get to the top. That is a hike I will definitely remember I am absolutly amazed they let joe public up there.

From Zion we drove back to Green River and spent the night at my old haunt of the Robbers Roost, which had been significantly improved since I used to stay there in the early 90s and pay 70 bucks per week! Even that was too expensive. Anyway we opted for Green River as Moab was fully booked!

Next morning it was up early and down to Moab to pick up a raft for stage 3 of the desert adventure. We got the raft, loaded it and al load of supplies on to a trailer and then got shuttled, down a very hairy track to Mineral Bottom on the Green River. The start of Still Water Canyon. Still Water, as the name suggests lacks rapids, this absence is made up for by two things, the amazing scenery as you drift through Canyonlands and the fact that you don’t need to go with a commercial outfit or wait 5 years for a permit.

Google Earth view looking north of Canyonlands and the Confluence of the Green (left) and Colorado (right) rivers. We put in at Mineral Bottom on the Green River (top left) and cruised down the Green River to the Confluence, then got picked up by jet boat and taken back up the Colorado to Moab (top right).

We got dropped off and floated down the river for 4 days. On the first there was really strong upstream winds and we gave up for the day when we were being blown up stream. The second day was a very long one because we were worried that after only making 9 miles on day 1 we might not actually get to the end in time for our pick up. The weather warmed up on day 3 and the wind dropped off and we made excellent time. We were picked up at lunch time by a jet boat just below the confluence of the Green and Colorado on day 4. It was a great few days, even if the weather was shitty on the first two. Drifting down the river, no one else around. Hiking to old cabins and Indian granaries, camping in some amazing spots and just spending time with Les and Katharine. I managed to fall in on day 2 while we were looking for a camp and on day 3 Les jumped out of the boat to land us but lost the rope. The boat was whisked down stream in the current and the dawning horror on his face has he realized he needed to swim before he got left behind was pretty comical. It was a good trip.

We got back to Moab in the evening, unloaded the boat, emptied the Grover (ammo can that you use as a toilet) and then drove to Salt Lake arriving about midnight. Next morning Les left about 10 am and Katharine left after lunch. I then drove back to Green River for two days of fieldwork with Andreas.

The first of those involved a very long walk up onto Battleship Butte and once again the weather was really windy and cold. Next day we drove up to Nine Mile Canyon and logged a long section and then I drove back to Salt Lake City and flew out the next morning. By this stage my ankle (the one I broke a few years ago) was the size of a football!

Back in Norway the weather was sunny and the fat cat was pleased to see me. It was great to be able to show Les and Katharine all the great things I love about Utah and also good to actually have a bit if time to actually play – kinda like the old days. The weather this year was bizarre, constant cycles of very windy weather with or without big thunder storms for a day or two, followed by very cold and clear conditions for a few days, then a day or to of more normal hot weather and the whole things starts over again. Still it didn’t spoil or fun at all and we had a top time. I love Utah!

Lots more photos on my flickr site

1 comment:

Bekka said...

Love the photos John! Looks like a great trip :-)