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Picnic Canyons
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32 by photographer avatarimike
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Picnic CanyonsSoutheast, NM
Southeast, NM
Canyoneering avatar Nov 20 2014
imike
Canyoneering9.00 Miles 2,650 AEG
Canyoneering9.00 Miles
2,650 ft AEG
Basic Canyoneering - Scrambling; easy climbing/downclimbing; frequent hand use; rope recommended; easy exit
 no routes
Partners none no partners
finally... made it above the lower dryfalls!

Ross and I headed up the west cut, and ascended the nice climbing section to below the dark cliffs... or at least he did. Just below the upper lip I failed to make the lateral move across and up... odd in that I've used this section to teach and practice climbing for years. On this day. a no go. Not sure if it relates to the fall I took a few days ago that messed up my balance, or just a bad acro day for me? After some additional dumb moves I finally made it up and we proceeded to the top of the lower cliffs.

The walk around their edge was beyond nice... we could gaze over the lips of the three primary falls and look out and across the high vistas above the Alamo Canyon drainage. All good.

We could not spot any access up and through the next layer of cliffs. The west dryfall was our target. I'd looked at that upper canyon from the Roundup Grounds and thought I'd spotted nice bedrock. We like bedrock... but with no direct and safe climb it looked as if we'd check out the cuts to the east then decide how to make our way up to the next level.

Same situation on the second Picnic Falls... cliffs blocking the next level pourover. Again, great rim lip views.

The hike around the top of the cliffs to the third big Falls proved really short; never realized they were clustered so closely together. We walked the top of the dark cliffs and found no good up/down spot...

...but, we got lucky in the canyon cut above the East Fall...the cliffs turned and became the west side towering sides to the canyon. We were not immediately blocked. We headed up the cut.

I did not have high expectations for this canyon. I expected the good stuff to be over in the west cuts. Upper Picnic is composed of the three main branches, each with a dramatic lower Dryfall... and each then splitting and re-splitting as it makes its way up the south side of the Mesa-Hershberger Ridge. The plan for this day was to get up and around the top of most of the cuts to figure out what was really up there and if any of them were good. The initial hike to the top of the lower falls was good... even with my problems climbing.

Not too far up the East canyon we got a very pleasant surprise... bedrock walkway with a dramatic rock ledge hangover tenting the walk for quite some distance. We could nearly touch this roof and the 15' width was impressively wide for our area. It made the day.

Above this section the sidewalls turned to dirt and we came to our first upper split. Neither branch looked all that inviting, but since our goal was to loop around to the better canyon to the west, we chose the left fork. Working our way over a substantial side cavitation, complete with large tree, we were pleased to reach bedrock on the far side. Steeply tilted bedrock...

... and enjoying that... at each and every turn we were gifted with more of the same. It did not end! Bedrock StairMaster just kept climbing... steepest and possibly our longest section of bedrock canyon in the area. And, this was complimented with great side canyon cliff formations and ever expanding distant vistas. Ross felt it was/is the best canyon he's hiked in the area.

Topping out that cut... we moved West to discover the smaller and less dramatic middle canyon. It splits off with it's western branch climbing well beyond and above our entry canyon... and it's eastern branch running up to saddle into the great bedrocked cut we had enjoyed coming up. We crossed the middle and descended the ridge to access the far west cut down at the top of the blocking cliffs. We had spotted a cleft from below that gave some promise of up/down access... and sure enough it did cut all the way to the top. We left close inspection for another day... and moved over to the top of the dryfall in the west cut...

...only to discover no bedrock!

This canyon was a rock pile jumble... maybe interesting scrambling if our expectations had not been so high... and then raised with the entry canyon... but in the moment, not good. At this point, it was time to cut and exit. We opted for a nasty rough bushwhack up to the Mesa... then a loop around and down Alamo Ridge.

The consideration now is to get back up in there and find a good exit route... one that will not distract from the great hike up that Bedrock Monster... or better: one that will add to it. The prospects: one of the 3-4 remaining upper spurs... or, the ridge to the East (Split Ridge).

The hike wasted me... massive leg cramps in the evening, totally expected. Tired today... but, sort of thinking about heading back up and in this weekend. It was really nice!

I need to process the pics... doubt if they'll do the areas justice.
https://plus.google.com/photos/11748554 ... 5973151345
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