Wow, what an amazing adventure this weekend was! A group of 6 of us went to do the Royal Arch loop. Despite hearing of treacherous conditions, Laura had it in her head that she wanted to go via Point Huitzil. The weather gods were on our side for this trip! We had amazing weather during the day (low 60s) and the first and 3rd nights were pretty cold, but night 2 was perfect. I think the lowest it got to was the upper 20s. Not bad for January!
Day 1: We decided as a group that if it looked too sketchy, we'd turn around and start from South Bass. Thanks to Slawa's expert route finding skills and all of our spikes, we braved it down the slippery, adrenaline-rushing slope. The rabbit hole we got to go down & play in and all the amazing rock art we got to see were totally worth the fear this route put in all of us at times. At the bottom of the canyon, we were graced with a really cool ice waterfall. You could see the water running underneath the ice, it was wild!
Even though this route took us a really long time due to constantly having to drop our packs to get through or down some obstacle, we decided to push on to camp under the arch. It was a really really long, wearing day. All the boulder hopping down Royal Arch Creek starts to get to you after a few hours! We made camp just after dark, and again, found it was totally worth it!!!! An abundance of water, scenery and stars made the night amazing. I had carried the Scrabble game down in, so I was making Laura play. She forfeited before the game was 1/2 way over to hit the sack early since we had another really long day ahead of us.
Day 2: Got up at 1st light and headed out to our first destination, Toltec Beach, where we'd drop our packs, have a nice lunch and then walk packless over the Elves Chasm. The major obstacle we had that day was the 20' down climb we decided to do sans canyoneering gear
. We had webbing and luckily there was a very sturdy rope with nicely tied handholds in it for us to use. Mark, our savior, belayed us all with the webbing. This was where I panicked. I don't think I could feel my arms, hands or fingers for about 1/2 hour after that torturous event, but I survived and onward we went. Once again, the reward of the beauty of the Elves seemed to trump my ridiculous fear of a 20 foot drop!
Anyone who doesn't take the time to do the side trip to the Elves is just out of their mind. It's mind-blowing beautiful back there! We only went up to the second pool, but man those first 3 layers were beauty enough. I imagine it got better higher up, but we weren't going to do anything we couldn't down climb. Once back at the beach, I think we all wanted to just call it a day and camp on the beach, but the one member of our group who decided to turn around 1/2 way into the Elves hike had left us a note in the sand that he went on to Garnet Canyon. So on we went, cursing him along the way.
Once again, as nice as it would've been camping on the beach, the site we picked at Garnet Canyon left nothing to desire in the way of scenery. We slept under a hanging cliff, and the stars were out in full force! This was a really nice night too, with no wind. We actually got warm in our sleeping bags!
Day 3: The seemingly never-ending Copper Canyon put quite a beating on some of our crew. I felt fine, but admittedly wasn't enjoying the scenery nearly as much as the first 2 days. Not to mention that the trail was full of evil, vicious flora (if you can call it that!) The prickly pear had their winter coats on!!!!
Everyone but Mark and I ran out of water, and they had no luck finding any along the way, with the exception of a carcass filled small pool
. We were quite concerned about whether our desired camp area in South Bass Canyon was going to have water
. We had filled up at the river before leaving Toltec, but we just didn't have the same terrain as we did the previous 2 days. Luckily once we got to South Bass Canyon and did some exploring around downstream, we found a couple good pools of water. Whew!
I pumped about 11 liters for everyone and we had an early day that day. We actually got to sit around and watch the sunset and drink the rest of our booze we had brought. Of course, mine was the most popular........hot chocolate with 100 proof peppermint schnapps made for a nice nightcap every night for everyone. And they all wondered why my pack weighed so much.......
Day 4: It was super cold and damp from lots of condensation, and being that we went to bed around 9, we got an early start to our all uphill, 5 or so mile trek out of the canyon. Got to the South Bass TH in about 2 1/2 hours. This was a super cool canyon, but after not sleeping hardly at all for 4 nights, I was a bit on the grumpy side and just wanted to get it over with. I did enjoy the scenery a lot, and luckily the snow wasn't too slippery that I didn't have to stop to put my flight boots on. But man, did that trail seem never ending!!!!! The only motivation I had was a cooler full of beer waiting for me at the truck!
Boy was it good, and boy did I drink them all waiting the 3 hours for the last person from our group to come out. Hee hee! What a way to end an amazing, adventurous trip!