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Frye Creek Canyon - S'mores
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mini location map2016-05-15
23 by photographer avatarGrottoGirl
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Frye Creek Canyon - S'moresTucson, AZ
Tucson, AZ
Canyoneering avatar May 15 2016
GrottoGirl
Canyoneering3.63 Miles 1,222 AEG
Canyoneering3.63 Miles   8 Hrs      0.45 mph
1,222 ft AEG
Intermediate Canyoneering - Difficult or dangerous; Tech Climb; rope reqd; descent anchor; exit technical;
C - Strong current; wading/swimming; waterfalls; possible wet/dry suit
II - Normally requires a half day
 
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justmike
Friday night, I had a few drinks and decided it would be a good idea to do S'mores Canyon on Sunday! Let's not forget that I am still working on regaining the strength in my shoulder. I figured that the canyon should have low flow since its mid-May and it hasn't really rained (except a bit on Saturday).

Anyway, I recruited three others to join me. I understood from reading that low flow should mean that the canyon is not challenging so I wasn't too concerned with being the most experienced Canyoneer.

The flow gauge on Frye Creek has been decommissioned which makes it hard for me to understand what level the creek was at while looking at it from above on the hike up. It didn't look like the flow was high - but I didn't have much to compare it with except for some photos. We did still see some snow in the high country so melt is still happening!

Soon, we we were donning our wetsuits, helmets, and harnesses. The wetsuit at that point seemed like overkill because it was a warm day.

I had read that the canyon was bolted so I was a bit surprised when I didn't see them at our first drop. We looked for bolts, cracks, pinch points between rocks, or easily accessible trees at the first drop. No worries, we rigged a Deadman's anchor. I didn't want to disturb the earth much so I didn't do any digging even though that was an option. I put the main rock that I had girth hitched with the webbing at the lowest point in the water that I could get it and then we piled rocks in front of and on top of it. Mike had dropped into the next pool to look for anchor so he couldn't see what he was rappeling off - I'm sure if he had he would have refused to go!!! We backed the Deadman up using meat and so it was all safe - except for the last man at risk (LMAR). The trick with a crazy anchor like this is to keep low, be gentle, and to add as much friction into the system as possible.

From there we only used two other natural anchors. The bolts in the canyon were for the most part bomber - except the one that spun...

At the bottom of one of the first few drops, we had to enter the flow and got pounded by the waterfall as we got off rappel. I was starting I think that S'mores flow was more than low.

Mike wanted to use the rope from the rappel as a safety to get up to next rappel safety. He for some reason clipped in with an ascender instead of just staying on rappel. This caused issues later as I ended up with the ascender and then when I gave it back he hung it off a pack strap that then came undone into a pretty deep pool - makes you wonder how much gear is in each pothole!

There was a drop that presented a few problems for me. Just getting to the rappel station required more arms than I have right now! I had to use Mike's feet as hand holds to get up. While on rope I swam across the pool to find that where I was didn't have any features for me to use to climb out. I needed to move against the flow to the side that had features. The flow kept pushing me back! Finally, I got enough momentum to make my way across!!

After that we had some small slides that we rappelled/slid down. I didn't want to just slide because being out of control could mean screwing up my new shoulder!

After the bail out point we stopped for a snack. I saw the time - eek! Not having another experienced rigger was causing us to be really inefficient!

As we were creeping through some brush and trees a rattle sounded and a high pitched scream! Oops, that scream was me! I had been paying so much attention to trying to stay upright as to not injure my shoulder that I forgot that I might hear/see a rattler!

After the bailout point the canyon got narrower which concentrated the flow. Things got more serious. Later, I also found that I took few pictures and no videos at all of that section. I was fully concentrating at the tasks at hand.

We encountered a pretty cool looking slide. However, with the flow and the slickness we figured it was faster than we wanted to take on. So we figured out how to downclimb and then slide.

The clock was ticking so I stopped being as cautious and went off a short drop where I knew I had to get my feet just right to compete it. The water flow pushed me off the rock and luckily I made it! After that was a slide with a narrow stopper - my hips rammed in and boy did I stop! Now that was hilarious!

On the second to the last rappel, you go down a slick wall and then there is an overhang in which you have to go pretty fast because you are being pounded by the water. I got up too much speed and ended up in a pile in a shallow pool. I had thought the drop was longer than it was otherwise I wouldn't have gone so quickly!!! I basically dropped 15 feet onto my side as though I hadn't been on rope. Luckily, the shallow water and my almost horizontal position due to being pounded made the force of my fall spread out and I wasn't injured. Whew!

For the last rappel, Douglas boosted Kim up so she get to the anchor to start rigging. While making sure Mike got down and Kim rigged, my lower half was in the cold water going numb. I had Douglas helped me up so I could check the rigging. From there we realized we didn't need to have the guys up with us so we let them go next because they were still in the pool visibly shivering.

I didn't know it was the end until I saw the writing on the wall. It was oddly relieving to see graffiti!

I have to admit that running a Class C with only myself experienced in rigging isn't a good idea! I'm not very experienced with Class C canyons so that also was a challenge. But now that I have another Class C adventure under my belt things will go much smoother next time!
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