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 a tributary of White Canyon
Warning: This trip requires rappelling through slot canyons. Do not go if there is any chance of rain. For this trip, you will need: helmet, harness, rappelling device, biner, 2x60 ft ropes (or more - see description) and at least a shorty wetsuit in summer, more needed at other times. A GPS may be helpful to navigation.
Special considerations: The exit hike contains a great deal of cryptobiotic soil. Ensure you stay on the trail and slickrock, don't bust the crust!
History: Beta for this trip was compiled from several websites and books. Tom Jones' website was perhaps the most helpful.
Hike: From the car park, find the cow/human/game trails east towards a small drainage of Cheesebox. Here, you have two options:
1) Navigate around it and route find into the main fork of Cheesebox directly, staying off the crypto (per this description)
2) Drop into the drainage that leads towards Cheesebox, along the way you will reportedly (unconfirmed by this author) encounter an 80 ft rappel.) I did observe a significant drop in this drainage. So if you do this option you will need to carry more rope that recommended at the top of this hike description.
Heading around the head of the drainage, you will pass some cool Anasazi ruins and try to pick out the obscure bypass route that allows you to directly drop down into Cheesebox. This may be more time consuming and frustrating than option 2, but it does allow you to complete this with less rope. The bypass is very difficult to find and results in a YDS class 2 downclimb first into the drainage, and then a YDS 3 climb down into Cheesebox itself - there is no anchor for the final 10 ft drop of the side drainage into Cheesebox so you must downclimb this final 10 ft.
From here, proceed downcanyon. You will encounter some downclimbs and wading as the canyon slots up. At some point you will find a wetsuit desirable. Eventually the canyon becomes cluttered with boulders and you will hit rap 1 - 50 ft from the left from a tree into a water filled slot. From here on there is a good deal of wading, swimming, and rock hopping. There are raps of 15 (I think?) ft, 26 ft, and 29 ft to be had. Cold swims in tight narrows will be encountered. The water is generally very muddy and some of the swims have a bit of vegetative debris in them, which will be a bit nasty. With luck though, the last swims will only have the ruddy-brown Cedar Mesa mud tinted water and will wash you (fairly) clean. While swimming in the slots it got so narrow my shoulders touched - I was forced to remove my pack to get through certain sections.
You will junction with the East Fork in a rocky area and almost immediately complete a 15 ft downclimb (careful of handlining this) to be done with the technical stuff.
After the raps you will begin to walk down the beautiful widening canyon of lower Cheesebox. The canyon has semi-subway sections, several slickrock walking passages and some house sized boulders you can walk under. It is surprisingly beautiful. There will be two swims you will encounter, so you can shed your harness, but leave the wetsuit on. After a long walk you will eventually encounter a final narrows in a sunny section of the canyon. You can either go through these narrows (recommended by some) or walk around them. Immediately on the other side of the narrows is the exit. Climb up to the west on the slickrock about 50 ft, and continue downcanyon while climbing an additional 50 ft. From here you should locate the trail as you bend around the corner. Follow it up, there are several options it gives you, but it leads to a YDS class 3 climb of about 6 ft. Short persons and non-climbers may prefer a partner assist, but experienced canyoneers should have no trouble.
Walk out to the rd, staying on the trails and off the crypto. Another short climb will be found and a walk up a drainage. Eventually you pop out onto the grassy mesa. Turn right and head up the rd back to your vehicle.
Water Sources: Nothing you want to drink.
Camping: Several options along Cheesebox Rd.
Notes: Statistics above reflect walking the rd back to your starting point, if you have a shuttle vehicle you can knock off 3 miles and a little more than an hour from the route.
Check out the Official Route and Triplog.
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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