Canyons are inherently risky. Flash floods occur without notice on sunny days. Technical skills & surrounding topography knowledge required yet does not eliminate risk.
Overview: A technical canyoneering trip into West Clear Creek with rappels up to 125 ft.
Warning: Canyoneering involves rappelling in slot canyons, be prepared by bringing appropriate gear and watching the weather. The risk of flash floods is a definite possibility, do not go if there is any chance of rain.
For this trip, you need to ensure you bring appropriate canyoneering gear, which includes a helmet, harness, rappelling device, caribiners, 1x150 ft rope, 1x100ft rope (I would recommend 1x200 ft rope and 1x100 ft rope), dry bags, and wetsuits for all but the hottest weather. Webbing and quick links may be needed to replace some of the anchors. Do NOT bring your bolt kit, none are needed.
Swimming is mandatory, make sure everyone in your party can swim with all their gear! Long sections of swimming are encountered on this trip, be prepared!
History: Todd's book publicized this canyon, though he does not claim first descent.
Hike: From wherever you parked on the forest road, head cross country until you reach the west branch of the canyon. Do not worry if you descend a bit too soon as there are decent elk trails near the bottom before it gets steep. Go through a little bit of shrubbery and downclimb a few boulders until you merge with another major branch of the canyon.
From here, continue downcanyon and climb over fallen logs and down some interesting rock formations. You will reach a steep downclimb/optional rappel around a pool of about 25 feet. Continuing downcanyon you will reach a major constriction which will require a 40 ft rappel, going 20 ft through (around) a pool, and another rappel of approximately 70 feet. For this you will need to rappel single strand on the longer rope and rig the shorter rope as the pull cord. Bushes and a recent fallen tree makes this whole setup a little bit problematic, so watch how you run your ropes. Just downcanyon is another rappel of 50 feet into a dark, cold, wet slot with a swim/wade.
You are not finished yet, for the canyon continues with some downclimbing, a 20 ft overhung downclimb/optional rappel, and will finish with a 30 ft overhung rappel.
Emerging from the canyon you will look upon a gorgeous section of West Clear Creek. Looking down from the cliffs into the pools, observe trout and chub swimming through the gorge, unaware of your presence above. Find a way down into the creek and swim/wade/hike approximately 2 miles downstream, admiring the wonder of your surroundings. As you cross under the first set of powerlines, you will encounter a very narrow gorge approximately 12 feet wide. Beware this section as it had turned into a major log jam. I spent a good deal of time treading water, clearing some of the logs to allow passage through this section. The pile is unstable and caution should be exercised! This may change with each flash flood, but do not underestimate this section!
Finally, a quarter mile after this slot you will start to observe a well-used area on your left. Climb up 20 feet onto the plateau (signs of a trail from the creekbed are almost nil) and find the Tule trail back to the rim. Walk the roads back to your vehicle.
Water Sources: West Clear Creek
Camping: Near Tule TH or off the road, campsites on the rim are going to be rocky!
Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.
WARNING! Hiking and outdoor related sports can be dangerous. Be responsible and prepare for the trip. Study the area you are entering and plan accordingly. Dress for the current and unexpected weather changes. Take plenty of water. Never go alone. Make an itinerary with your plan(s), route(s), destination(s) and expected return time. Give your itinerary to trusted family and/or friends.
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