Don't try this at home!
Devil's Chasm in the fall: A Tradition.
Well it seems like every November I end up hiking to Devil's Chasm Ruins, for the past 3 years at any rate, and this year the tradition continued...
My hiking buddy Johnnie had a wild hare/hair about doing some night photography and backpacking up to the Devil's Chasm ruins.
Day 1: After I expressed my concern and questioned the wisdom of this endeavor, I soon found myself removing my 45 lb backpack a mile and a half up Devil's Chasm. We set up camp an 1/8 of a mile past the big boulder with the black knotted rope. Johnnie, Joel and I stopped @ the last area "suitable?" for a camp site. Joel found a 4' x 8' ledge (rock wall to one side, 10' drop off to the creek bottom on the other). Johnnie and I each found a 3' x 6' plot of minimally rocky area in the creek bed, hoping it wouldn't rain that night. Does 10% chance of showers mean there is a 1 in 10 chance it will rain, or does it mean 10% of the area will get rain? Hmmm... We had heard it is a federal offense to actually camp at the ruins; which is why we didn't camp there. Interestingly enough it was at least 10 degrees warmer up at the ruins than @ our campsite...hmmm...They must have been on to something.
A backpack weighing 45 lbs for an overnighter? Hey I had to try out my new sleeping pad, my new 20F down bag and my new 1-man tent, along with various sundry photo equipment and other "essentials"...
By 5:30p the sun was already behind the Sierra Ancha's, it was getting dark and cool (45F by then, it got down to 30F that night) and given that we were still 1/4 mile from the canyon exit point scramble to the ruins, we figured we'd better head up to the ruins while we still had a bit of twilight to maneuver by. So we had our meals of freeze dried: lasagna, stroganoff, beans & rice...and by 7:00p we headed up to the ruins. Believe me lugging all our photography gear in the dark (no moon that night), up that 60 degree slope to the ruins was not going to be fun! :( Heck, those last 300 yards are challenging in full daylight with no equipment, try it in the dark with photo equipment: DSLR Nikon D80 body, 3 lenses, tripod, flash, and various other "essentials", all hand carried since I forgot my day pack :(. We spent about 4 hours at the ruins....Johnnie got some excellent night shots, me not so much, well you all be the judge...We tried various lighting techniques, 2 flashes, "watch synchronized", "painting the ruins with high intensity LED lights", long exposure, short exposure, wide aperture, narrow aperture...I strongly suggest you try your night photography @ home or in the nearby desert first, where the non-recurring effort to get "the shot" is not so great. That way you can maximize your efforts on the awesome scenery @ hand rather than learning as you go, although we did some of both!
And if going up to the ruins in twilight was fun, coming back down in starlight with a head lamp was even more fun, NOT!
We made it back to camp by midnight and we all had a good night's rest, well at least I did! Johnnie and Joel seemed to fare okay as well. We needed that rest for the next day's adventure.
Day 2: We had read an earlier comment from one of the HikeAZ Triploggers, about a year ago, that someone thought they had heard about someone else who had (how's that for being definitive..) come down to the Devil's Chasm ruins from the west, ie down Devil's Chasm via the Workman creek/Aztec peak area...so we figured we'd try to find this elusive passage. We tried, sort of from the west last year, but never got down to the Devil's Chasm proper, we ended up getting some good pictures looking down on Devil's Chasm ruins from Moody point.
It is a bit tricky, looking down from Moody point trail and trying to ascertain which Canyon to go down and how far and best entrance point, etc. at any rate. This time we figured we'd attempt passage up to Aztec Peak/ re. the headwaters of Devil's Chasm. As our photos attest, we didn't get there from here. We were eventually blocked by a rock wedge about 150' high and about 30 feet across. But I'm getting ahead of myself, we left camp about 9:00a. We basically boulder hopped and bushwacked for 2 1/2 hours up Devil's Chasm, beyond the take out scramble point to the ruins. We believe we ended up @ the same "blockage" that Joe mentioned in his TripLog last year, "...coming down from the west and being stopped by a 200' drop-off..." We believe Joe was taking a high trail when he ran into this drop-off, and wasn't actually in the Devil's Chasm Canyon itself. The rock wedge that halted our progress is located 0.6 miles (Johnnie mentioned this as being 0.3 of a mile, I think he thought the 0.6 mile was round trip, when in actuality the 0.6 mi. was one way) beyond the Devil's Chasm ruins. Certainly you could rappel down it, but getting up is a different story, I figured you would need an RPG-H (Rocket Propelled Grappeling-Hook) to place your rope to climb up it. You need to get your hook high enough to grab onto anything, in order to pull yourself up from the bottom. Granted I'm not an experienced rock climber, maybe all you rock climbers have special equipment like portable jack hammers and explosive charged piton guns, well that would have put my pack over 60 lbs! Anyway us mere mortal hikers were blocked by this rock wedge. It would definitely take some serious rock climbing to get past it. By my calculations we were still about 1/2 mile from the "headwaters" of Devils Chasm. This slot canyon was way cool though. Where the picture showing the 3 of us was taken, see Johnnies Photolog "Devils Chasm Upper", the walls were only 24 feet apart! Also, the walls were +200 feet high (hey my hand held, laser rangefinder (Bushnell: Legend 1200 ARC, comes in handy once in awhile)....yeah, yeah 45 lbs, but I gotta have my stuff! We spent about an hour @ "the wedge" photographing and dining on Johnnie's Salmon Pate and designer crackers. Then we headed back down (took less than an hour, amazing how fast you can go once you've already broken the code and know which way to go) to break camp and head for home.
Day 3: The next day, back in civilization, we were all "feeling the burn", and it felt great! In fact, we were burning well into Wednesday. Although we didn't cover too many horizontal miles, we made up for it in vertical miles, dark miles and boulder hopping/knee crunch miles. One last thing regarding my new equipment: Kelty Cosmic 20F down bag = $130, 1-man Eureka tent = $79, Therma-Rest, 3" luxury sleeping pad = PRICELESS! You'll be the envy of all, hey it's barely over 3 lbs... yeah yeah 45 lbs :(.
I tried to correlate the photos with waypoints on the Topo map to give an idea of where the picts were taken, some of the picts are GEO coded, some are not. I'll see about posting a GPS route, although many have done that for this canyon already, although none past the ruins that I am aware of.
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.