Canyons are inherently risky. Flash floods occur without notice on sunny days. Technical skills & surrounding topography knowledge required yet does not eliminate risk.
Crown Jewel of Irish Canyons
Overview: Leprechaun Canyon complex resides in the North Wash area of Lake Powell with adventures suitable for all types of parties.
Warning: This is a slot canyon, check the weather before you leave and do not enter if there is any chance of rain, don't get caught in a flash flood!
History: Named for the Irish Canyon theme of the area. Leprechaun is the most beautiful and longest adventure of the set.
Casual Adventurers: For those seeking a casual adventure, park at the road leading towards the mouth of the canyon, get into the bed of the canyon, and hike up the main fork. This adventure will require hiking through sand and a minor scramble up a short slope of about 4 ft. You can easily help out each other up this minor obstacle. As you get towards the junction where the east and forks come in, the canyon will narrow down and form subway like sections, a photographer's delight with the glowing red and golden walls.
Hikers can continue up to main fork going up as far as they feel comfortable, beware that going very far will get very narrow and may require headlamps even during the middle of the day! Kids and smaller framed individuals may find navigation easier, just don't get in over your head.
Intermediate Canyoneers: For those seeking a little more adventure, the East fork and West Forks are enjoyable. These canyons will involve rappelling up to 52 ft.
Warning: For these branches, you will need technical gear, including helmet, harness, rappelling device and locking biner, possibly a GPS. You will want to bring gloves and a long sleeve shirt. You will need 2x60 ft ropes. Be warned that the canyons are very narrow, often forcing you to take off your pack and attempt to slither sideways. This canyon adventure is not for the claustrophobic. The less you bring, the better off you will be. Don't skimp on water or safety gear but try to keep your pack size as small as possible. This canyon also requires some intermediate level stemming and downclimbing, it is not suitable for beginning canyoneers. A bunny strap will prove useful for your pack while stemming. This canyon adventure is not recommended for individuals above 210 pounds due to the tight squeezes. (Read as: waist size smaller than about 37 inches)
East Fork Lep: East Fork of Leprechaun is rated 3AII, with rappels up to 52 ft. The author began his adventure from the campgrounds about half a mile to the east, but you can also begin from the car park at the canyon mouth. Your goal is to climb up on the slickrock to the east of the canyon via a safe route. Once up a few hundred feet, a good trail will be found which leads you to the beginning of the East Fork.
From the mouth, rappel 52 ft over a double drop that results in a difficult rope pull. After this comes a great deal of slithering through very narrow canyons walls. The walls are sandstone and thus very abrasive. Unprotected skin will lose a few layers. Your clothes will probably get ripped apart. There are a few times the canyon opens up wide enough to walk unobstructed, but it will narrow down again. There are a few rappels, but not too many, all less than about 40 ft. At the end you will downclimb (some may choose to rappel) into the main fork when you reach the junction. Be prepared for a little bit of mud throughout the canyon. Nimble individuals will be able to stem over any pools that have formed in the canyon, though it is possible some may get their feet wet.
After the main fork is reached, the canyon begins to widen, hike down the main fork admiring the beauty of the canyon.
West Fork Warning: After the exit from the West Fork into the Main Fork, canyoneers have to traverse about 200 yards of the main fork to get to the junction with the East Fork, after which the canyon widens. This section is very narrow and has recently developed an obstacle which may or may not make this adventure much more difficult. A large amount of rockfall has jammed into a particularly narrow section of the slot. Currently the boulder jam can be crawled under (through the mud) leading to a small section of canyon where one can utilize a rabbit hole (which may have to be enlarged after each weather event) to squeeze through a small gap between the boulders and get past the obstacle. The hole is quite tight, the author was able to only able to get through after removing his harness. Since women generally have even larger hips then men, I would strongly recommend that adult females and larger framed men check out this obstacle by going up from below before attempting the descent of the West Fork. It is unclear how this obstacle will resolve itself over the next few years. Currently it seems to be filling with sand, making the exit smaller and smaller with each major storm.
West Fork Lep: West Fork of Leprechaun is rated 3AII, with rappels up to about 48 ft. From the main fork at a junction with a side canyon coming from the west, will be a rock fin. Canyoneers who did the East Fork earlier in the day will encounter this about a quarter mile after reaching the main fork. It can also be hiked to directly from the mouth of the canyon. Hike up the rock fin that separates the drainage from the main fork. It isn't too steep, and there may be a few cairns along the way. It is unnecessary to top out at the first dome you see, but you have to climb up most of the way. Once there, you will see the clear ridgeline you have to walk and climb until you reach the rim to the west of the canyon. Follow the trail that appears here to the confusing jumble of drainages that form the beginning of the west fork of Lep. Cross the first wide, sandy drainage and walk another 100 yards to hook right and downclimb into where the west fork slot begins to form. This is recommended to avoid disturbing the loose rock down onto other canyoneers below you. At the top of the west fork you will find a slung chockstone for a rappel of about 35 ft. You will likely want to extend the anchor to make the pull easier. A short distance later is a rappel from a buried deadman rock into an uncertain depth into the dark defile. It will be about 48 ft if my measurements are worth anything. Extending this anchor will greatly help with the rope pull. It may be necessary to rejigger the anchor, so bring webbing and a rap ring.
After this comes a great deal of slithering through very narrow canyons walls. The walls are sandstone and thus very abrasive. Unprotected skin will lose a few layers. Your clothes will probably get ripped apart. There are a few times the canyon opens up wide enough to walk unobstructed, but it will narrow down again. There are a few rappels, but not too many, all less than about 30 ft. The canyon ends with a fluted downclimb and sudden end into the Main fork. Be prepared for a little bit of mud throughout the canyon.
From the main fork, you have to continue downcanyon about 200 yards to get to the east fork junction, after which the canyon widens. You can also hike up the extremely narrow main fork, just don't get wedged in!
While hiking down the main fork the canyon gets extremely narrow, and walking with square shoulders is not possible. It also has a few drops of up to 8 ft that must be downclimbed. The canyoneer will have to use the elevator technique and stemming to get through this. After the first narrow part the canyon narrows down even more to about 12 inches wide and takes on a 30 degree tilt to the left LDC. This section will be very dark and some may want to use their headlamps, even during the middle of the day. In this section the canyoneer will encounter a rockfall obstacle that will either be bypassed by walking/crawling through mud underneath the obstacle, or performing an awkward and difficult stemming climb of 20-40 ft to go over.
After squeezing through the final obstacle you will emerge (with possibly a loud POP!)when you reach the junction with the east fork and the canyon widens.
Advanced Canyoneers: Advanced Canyoneers may attempt the main fork of Leprechaun. The author has not done this yet, so information will be brief and based off of beta collected from a trusted source.
Warning: Main Fork Leprechaun requires high stemming, at times you will be 50 or more feet above the ground. Do not accidentally navigate into the main fork. A recent accident was recorded in the Main Fork (and turned into a TV show: "I shouldn't be alive"), in which an adult male fell while stemming about 45 ft and needed to be air-evac'ed (the next day) after spending a night in the canyon with his partners. He apparently had little memory of the event or the next two weeks in time. Wear a helmet when canyoneering! Also be sure to carefully self-evaluate your abilities and those of your party before attempting this advanced canyon.
Main Fork Lep: There are two entrances into main fork, one of which requires an 80 ft rappel and the other requires about a 60 ft rappel. High stemming will be encountered and the canyon is very narrow. The Main Fork is rated 4AIII X. (X due to high stemming)
Water Sources: None, bring plenty with you.
Camping: Camping is available at the mouth of the canyon and also nearby off of highway 95. Many will camp about half a mile to the east.
Note: Stats above and to the left are for the East and West Forks in a single trip, what I consider will be the most common adventure attempted.
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.