Well a few of us had been itching to hit this beast of a canyon and the conditions looked to be aligning in our favor with it not raining in a few weeks and the warm spell that hit the region. So off to Waterholes we went!
Such an amAZingly beautiful & challenging canyon that did not disappoint at all and presented even more challenges and stemming than usual due to there being much more mud & water than you'll find during a traditional late spring descent.
We handlined down that first significant drop while enjoying all the early narrows below the bridge. The next major drop was into a chilly swimmer so we opted for one of the bypass rappels off to the right. While the next rappel took us into knee deep mud bog.
A little further down we dropped into the lower narrows which involved loads & loads of stemming the tight spots, crawling thru holes, avoiding keeper potholes, and down climbing the many drops.
Near the end, a few rappels & slippery stemming over deep pools are encountered before the canyon starts to open up with that mandatory swimmer. I take my pack & shirt off and volunteer to be the sacrificial lamb to swim thru that surprisingly clean looking pool and setup a zipline on the other side for the others and our packs.
Here you can see the canyon open up and drop dramatically... A 80ft drop takes us down to the staging area for the BIG 3-stage 400ft rappel sequence. I volunteer to go first since I have the most 300ft rappels under my belt and heights don't seem to phase me anymore. The first 80ft drop can be tricky for rope pulls but a previous group had left a rope in place, so after inspection we opt to use than instead of risking our own. I make my way down that tight crack rappel, to that tight hallway, setup a 20ft rappel to the edge of the world anchors, carefully rappel down to those exposed anchors, and setup the final 300ft rappel.
Some advocate not tossing the rappel-side rope, but IMO if you aim away from the rope eating crack the rope will bounce off the wall and make it nicely to the bottom. So that's what I did and had no issues. Once down, I took turn giving fireman belays to others and taking many pics. Unfortunately I told the caboose to throw the pullcord ropes and one of the knots got power wedged into that infamous crack, causing us to have some serious ropepull issues.
So I'd def recommend, rappelling with the pullside attached to your harness since there's not much added bonus to throwing it other than it being out of the way and you know it's long enough... A couple more short rappels (20 & 80ft) to go and then you're walking the relatively flat lower canyon towards the river. There's a great ledge to drop the rappelling gear while putting on our wetsuits & headlamps while inflating our packrafts for the 4-mile float down the beautiful Colorado River to Lee's Ferry. Such a great canyon that I'm glad to share with a couple new friends and can't wait to come back again.