Canyons are inherently risky. Flash floods occur without notice on sunny days. Technical skills & surrounding topography knowledge required yet does not eliminate risk.
Mmmmm, more cheeeeeeze!
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, 160 ft rope (or possibly a little less) and at least a shorty wetsuit in summer, more needed at other times. A GPS may be helpful to navigation.
Special Considerations: The entrance and exit hike contains a great deal of cryptobiotic soil. Ensure you stay on the trail and slickrock, don't bust the crust! This will be especially frustrating for the entrance since nothing trends in the direction you want to go!
History: Beta for this trip was compiled from some internet triplogs and Kelsey's book, which was mostly accurate but overestimated the rappel heights. This canyon shares the same exit descriptions as the main fork of Cheesebox Canyon.
Hike: From the car park, find the cow/human/game trails east. While initially easy, this will become increasingly frustrating as nothing trends in the direction you wish to travel. Please use the washes and only walk upon where the washes are sand without the crypto. Along the way you may run into Anasazi dwellings and/or artifacts. Eventually you will reach the main fork of Cheesebox canyon, which you have to find a route down (hard), and cross to the other side (easy), and climb up (hard). After not too much searching I found a decent route that doesn't have much exposure, including a few very old looking cairns. There was an 8 ft YDS class 3 climb to get the final bit up the east side.
Back on top you will have to continue to use the washes and diminishing slickrock to get to the East Fork. Virtually no game trails appear in this area, which makes the route very indirect. You will finally reach a drainage that feeds south into the east fork. Routefinding down this is not complicated and it is nontechnical all the way to the junction with the East Fork.
The cougars in this area are numerous judging from the amount of lion tracks that are encountered. In this area they come in 3 sizes - big, enormous, and sabre-toothed size. They were the largest cat tracks I'd ever seen outside of African lions at the zoo. Be aware and keep your group from getting too dispersed.
East Fork is flat and gravelly and you can walk downcanyon easily. This is where you have to speed up to make up the time you lost on the miserable approach. Don't go too fast though that you miss the Anasazi ruins to be encountered along the way. One of them has a granary with a still intact lid to protect its (now gone) booty - amazing!
The going is easy with some bypasses around pools and one 6 ft downclimb until you get within a third of a mile of the junction with the main fork of Cheesebox canyon. In this last third of a mile you will encounter your first rap of maybe 20 ft. The anchoring in this area was interesting - kudos to their original builders! This is followed by another rap of perhaps 20 ft with a re-rig for the last 8 ft. Don't jump this 8 ft section, though the water below looks deep it is not - a broken ankle here leaves you in deep trouble far from civilization!
There is some more wading and swimming and then you reach a boulder jam. Traversing out onto the last boulder of the jam you reach an airy anchor with a rappel of seemingly 65-70 ft, though I'm recommending at least enough rope for an 80 ft rap because I didn't carefully measure. This last rappel is really the only difficult part of this canyon besides the entrance - it has a difficult start as well and bumps up the difficulty of this entire hike.
You will junction with the main 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.