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Ladder - Micro Canyons, AZ

no permit
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Guide 4 Triplogs  0 Topics
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Phoenix > Superstitions NW
3.5 of 5 by 2
Canyons are inherently risky. Flash floods occur without notice on sunny days. Technical skills & surrounding topography knowledge required yet does not eliminate risk.
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Difficulty 2.5 of 5
Route Finding 2 of 5
Distance Lasso-Loop 6.3 miles
Trailhead Elevation 2,655 feet
Elevation Gain 800 feet
Accumulated Gain 1,600 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 6-9 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 14.3
Interest Off Trail Hiking, Seasonal Waterfall & Seasonal Creek
Backpack Possible - Not Popular
Dogs not allowed
Photos Viewed All Mine Following
52  2011-01-09
Skeleton Cave
Author nonot
author avatar Guides 93
Routes 236
Photos 1,969
Trips 476 map ( 4,511 miles )
Age Male Gender
Location Phoenix, AZ
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   Dec, Jan, Feb, Mar → 9 AM
Seasons   Early Winter to Early Spring
Sun  6:13am - 6:24pm
0 Alternative
Stairway to Micro heaven
by nonot

Overview: This is a class 3 canyoneering trip into lower Fish Creek outside of the Superstition wilderness. The trip involves one rappel only and some moderate unroped climbing (maybe 5.5ish).

Warning: Pay attention to the weather and avoid this trip anytime thundershowers are possible. Flash floods are dangerous in canyon environments. Due to the short length of the slots on this trip, the danger is possibly reduced, however caution is still required.

Warning: This trip involves technical canyoneering and cannot be completed without specialized gear, you will need standard canyoneering fare: harness, caribiner, descending device, and HELMET. In addition, for this trip, add a 100 ft rope , 20 feet webbing, quicklink, and ascending gear to jug the rope back out. In addition to the above, I recommend drybagging anything that cannot get wet. Do not bring a bolt kit, natural anchoring opportunities are abundant and no bolts are needed.

History: Ladder canyon is named because of an old rickety ladder originally in the canyon that was later removed circa 2007 (I can no longer locate the web post by the persons responsible for finally removing this trash). First descent is not claimed in Todd's book and the presence of the metal rod suggests it may have seen some descents when the road or dam was constructed.

Hike: From the road, read the signs at the gate carefully and determine if it is currently allowable to do this trip. Regulations may have or may be changing to prevent anyone from doing this route any more. Obey the law, don't blame me if they now forbid trespassing.

If it is still legal to go, begin hiking downhill on the road following the many turns. Where the road reaches its furthest east point at a switchback (33.561 N, 111.348W), get into the gully that forms at the right side of the switchback and follow it downhill, dodging all sorts of thorn-ridden shrubbery. Eventually you will get to a dropoff with a large metal bar with a hole in it pounded into a chockstone. Rig your rappel here from the bar and use your knowledge of natural anchors to construct one on the abundant person sized boulders to backup the metal rod. Rappel 12 feet to the ledge and continue another 60-70 feet on rappel until you reach terra firma. At this point, you can decide if you want to leave your technical gear (harness, helmet, etc) here to pick up on the return (I recommend bringing a drybag at minimum for electronics, lunch, etc on the rest of the trip.)

Follow the rest of Ladder canyon down as an easy stroll through the chilled slot and peaceful pools until you reach Lower Fish Creek. You might be able to call it quits and attempt to find a hole deep enough to relax and swim here. This description continues with the Micro-part of this loop, so head right (east/southeast) upstream in Fish Creek. Walk along the banks, decent trails exist in almost all parts. Admire the creek, frogs, and greenery in this otherwise harsh desert landscape.

After about a mile or so, the creek turns right (south) into a gorgeous grotto and you will notice a large cave about 60 feet up. The adventurous can climb up to the cave, although there is nothing of significance besides a nice view. Past the cave, Fish Creek spans Fish Creek Canyon side to side and, depending on water levels, you will have to swim(kids and short people) or wade with pack held overhead(tall people) approximately 40 yards through (hopefully) pleasant water. Exit on left (LUC).

Begin going around the bend to the left and look north through the shrubbery to pick out where Micro Canyon is feeding into Fish Creek. Whack your way through the bushes to get into the Micro canyon drainage. Follow this tight slot upstream to a large chockstone with an elegant waterfall. The best climber should give a partner assist to everyone to get them onto the chockstone, then climb up to join his party. After this climb, there are a couple of pools that were large and clear. Continuing to climb up the canyon, we were able to skirt all but the last one. Having not brought drybags, we climbed, unroped, up a 15 foot cliff on left (5.5?), however if someone brings a drybag you could swim this last pool and not need to do the climb.

After the last pool, scramble up the scree slope out of Micro Canyon to the obvious saddle to the west. Go over the saddle and pick your way carefully downhill and back into Fish Creek. Retrace your steps to Ladder canyon. Jug the rope out of the canyon, collect your rope and anchor material, climb the gully back up to the road, and return to your vehicle.

Water sources: Fish Creek, Micro canyon creek(bring a filter).

Camping: Although I didn't see anything wonderful, I'm sure you could camp along fish creek somewhere on the banks.

Check out the Triplogs.

Gate Policy: If a gate is closed upon arrival, leave it closed after you go through. If it is open, leave it open. Leaving a closed gate open may put cattle in danger. Closing an open gate may cut them off from water. Please be respectful, leave gates as found.

Leave No Trace and +Add a Triplog after your canyon trip to support this local community.

2009-10-03 nonot
    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.

    Most recent Triplog Reviews
    Ladder - Micro Canyons
    rating optionrating optionrated 3rated 3rated 3
    I was originally intending on reaching Blue Tank Canyon and descend the lower technical section of Hells Hip Pocket, but things didn't go exactly as planned. :) So the next level of canyoneering is packrafting and I don't have much experience with that so I was looking for a trip to hone these skills and Blue Tank looked like the perfect destination. Maybe next time... :sweat:

    My start of the rafting trip was Fish Creek Canyon, so after working that Saturday morning I drove down that Horse Mesa Dam Rd and parked at the gate around 2pm. I didn't want to try my luck walking the road all the way to the lake without getting caught, so I ran down just to Ladder Canyon and descended this technical canyon to reach Fish Creek Canyon and rock hopped down to the beginning of the lake. Didn't quite have enough rope & webbing to fully rappel that drop in Ladder Canyon, so I had to do a class 3/4 downclimb of the last 15-20ft on thankfully dry rock. :o Oops! Fish Creek was flowing fairly good but I was able only get wet up to my knees and when it started to lake up I blew up my packraft and put on a wetsuit. I didn't fully trust this thing and figured the wetsuit would prevent me from freezing to death while I swam to the side. ;) Now I'm calling it a packraft because it's kinna like a mini-raft that I can pack up and hike with but what I'm using is really nothing more than a $20 glorified pool toy with $10 plastic oars. :lol: So I started paddling out of Fish Creek Canyon, meet some adventurous kayakers who paddled up from the marina, passed under the SRP bridge, and out into Canyon Lake proper. I wasn't moving very fast, but slow & steady finishes the race. I was paddling in canoeing style with two short oars though I could row both forwards & backwards with ease. Only 2.5 miles down canyon to Blue Tank canyon. :sweat: I paddled about 1.5 miles with sun setting in about an hour when one of my oars snapped in half. Holy pumpkin!!! :o I was kinna dead in the water with one oar, so I used my one remaining oar to grab my thankfully floating broken oar and paddle to shore to setup camp. Hmm, not much in the way of good places to beach, but that ledge with a ramp up to it looks kinna doable. :-k Exiting the boat was a little tricky since I didn't have a nice sandy beach... :roll: Hauled all the gear up to the ledge which was a good place for gear & a fire but a horrible place for sleeping so I started looking around. Hmm, loads of deer/sheep droppings; this ledge must lead up to the slope up above and I'm not too far away from Skeleton Cave..... :-k

    I had to de-rock & groom my myself a sleeping spot & due to lack of space my wetsuit doubled as my sleeping pad. Collected fire wood & made myself a nice fire to dry my pants while eating my MRE dinner. Yum! :lol: Was able to 'repair' my oars and make them into one long kayak style oar but wasn't sure how slow I'd be paddling this way. I was only a mile from Blue Tank canyon and I might be able to reach that in the morning and at the same time I see possibly doable route to Skeleton Cave from this ledge. Do I really want to paddle further away from my exit on an untested oar setup or find a water route to the infamous Skeleton Cave??? :-k When Joe was hiking to Skeleton Cave last winter I had joked about doing a water approach & had even looked at topos to see if that was remotely possible but shelved the idea since I didn't have the means of paddling/boating there. I managed to sleep fairly well considering and it only got down into the 40s thanks to the not that cold Canyon lake. Though the large catfish were fairly noisy that night and some sheep or something on the southside was knocking some large rocks off of ledges... Slept in a bit, packed my hiking & rappelling gear, and headed up the deer/sheep route following loads of poop along the way. :D Hmm, from a distance the direct route looks like class 3/4 slab climbing while the poop goes up & west around the point to the other potential route... I followed the trail around the corner and what look possibly doable on the topo was very terraced & cliffy. :roll: But the poop trail took a steep route towards the point and looked like it might reach the ridge. If a sheep can do it, then I certainly can do it, right? ;) It was steep & brushy at first and then it started getting cliffy & exposed but I was still following loads of poop. After a few exposed class 2/3 sections, I was surprised to still find loads of droppings but I was kinna dead ended with 3 sketchy options: a short class 4 climb into a large bush, an exposed class 4 climb, and a very exposed class 3 on sketchy rock. :o I started up each one to give it a look but sanity got the better of me and I almost added some of my own poop to the pile. :sl: I had given up and was climbing back down when I spotted a class 3 slabby climb that I overlooked before, but the real selling point was a couple palo verdes up the route with a large one at the top. Sweet, if I get stuck halfway up or if I have to come back down this route I can rappel from those palo verdes. 8) Wouldn't you know, there was more poop up here coming from those crazy climbs that I avoided. I definitely learned a new respect for the sheep and what they can do. :o I hiked from the point along the ridge east towards Skeleton Cave and Lo & Behold there's a pack of 5-6 desert bighorn working there way down a ravine. :y: I was nearing my turnaround time when I reached the cliff overlooking the cave and backtracked down the slope to get below the cliff and then east again to the infamous cave. It was kinna cool to reach this remote alcove but to be honest there not much to it and I didn't 'feel' anything like you think you should feel at a massacre site. :? It'd been a year since I'd seen photos of it & I wasn't sure this was really it, so I continued up & SE a bit to the upper alcove to see if that was it but it just a brushy alcove with a small bat cave on the side. The canyoneer in me quickly kicked in and I started examining the technical canyon that this infamous alcove is a part of. :) Hmm, 150-200ft drop to the alcove, bushwhack down canyon to another 80-100ft into some sweet narrows, then a huge 200-300ft drop out of the narrows, a flat section and then a 100-150ft drop down to the lake. I doubt anyone's descended it yet since it'd take about 600ft of rope & packrafts. : rambo : So while examine this amAZing remote canyon, I was also working my way down the other potential direct route and was looked like class 3/4 from a half mile away was really only class 2/3 angled rock and made my way down it fairly easy. Once down, I just contoured the slope above the cliff that lines the lake until it hit the drainage near the point that was my route down to my landing & campsite. Woot, that direct route is much easier & safer than that Sheep route I took this morning. :sweat:

    Reconfigured the gear for paddling and set off back up canyon to Fish Creek Canyon. This sunday afternoon was much more popular with boaters than Saturday evening and I had to deal with their wakes every 10-15 minutes though my new oar setup was working just as good or better. :D Slowly but surely I made my way 1.5 miles back up canyon to a perfect sandy beach that looks popular for overnight boating trips. It's also just below the SRP dam road, so I beached here, deflated my boat, and packed it all up for the 2.5 walk up the road. It's my understanding that they don't mind you hiking out on the road, hiking down it is a no-no without permission, and Sunday afternoon is usually a low traffic time. I only saw 2 SRP trucks when I was like 10 minutes from reaching the gate and they just smiled & waved.

    Skeleton Cave was a secondary goal for this trip if I had the time since it's in the area and it's cool to be one of the few to have been there, but I'm still itching to get back and hit Blue Tank canyon and specifically the technical section of lower Hells Hip Pocket. My gear setup while being slow, proved rather effective & stable considering I only dropped $30 on it. :lol: Maybe next time I'll hike down Crucifix Canyon and have only a 2 mile paddle and maybe still exit up the SRP road. :-k

    Down SPR road, down the technical Ladder Canyon, and lower Fish Creek Canyon: 2 slow miles
    Paddle to where my oar broke: 1.5 nervous miles
    Loop to and back from Skeleton Cave: 2 adventurous miles & 1000ft gain
    Paddle back to beach below SRP road: 1.5 wet miles
    Road walk back to my car: 2.5 easy miles & 1000ft gain
    Ladder - Micro Canyons
    rating optionrating optionrated 3rated 3rated 3
    Well I finally picked up an ascender, so what better time to go check out another two side canyons of the amazing Fish Creek Canyon. :D The descent down Ladder Canyon on this chilly morning was wasn't too bad with some down climbs, that 70ft rappel, and go thru that sweet narrows section before hopping into the dry lower Fish Creek. I headed upstream to check out the narrows section, which happened to be dry but I had my wetsuit with me in case it had some high waders. I then headed up that sweet Micro Narrows and did some light wading, took tons of photos, scrambled up past that large chockstone, and was still mostly dry when I hit that final pool so I opted for the class 4 bypass instead of throwing on the suit for a very short & cold swimmer. :scared: Climbed up and over the ridge to get back to Fish Creek and some more rock hopping to get back to Ladder Canyon. Jugging the rope for the first 50ft was fairly easy on that 60-80 degree sloped slab (dry fall), but jugging up the last free hanging 10ft was a little slow going. :sweat: On the hike up the road, a truck passed me and they waved but they didn't give me any lip about trespassing. I had recently talk to an SRP who worked down at the dam and he said we can legally walk down the road all the way to the bridge and back, but we just can't drive past the gate.
    Ladder - Micro Canyons
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    Ladder Canyon is a cool little slot with a 70 foot rappel. It has a cool little grotto area halfway down. Micro canyon initially didn't look promising but was a ton of fun. A few class 4 and 1 class 5 upclimb that you have to do unprotected. Bring a drybag for your stuff if you attempt this.

    The climb up Micro was a blast but will require a partner assist for most people. With a drybag you could avoid the class 5 climb.

    The exit out Micro isn't that bad and ascending out of Ladder was fun work. Great day for canyoneering

    Permit $$

    Map Drive
    FR / Dirt Road / Gravel - Car Okay

    To canyon trip
    From US60 and Idaho rd, go N on idaho to the Apache Trail and turn right. After Tortilla flats, but maybe a mile before Fish Creek hill (about 20-25 miles or so from idaho), take FR80(?) north 1.5 miles until it ends at a closed and locked gate. Park out of the way in an area parking is not prohibited.
    page created by nonot on Oct 03 2009 7:37 pm
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