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Bishops Cap Cut, NM
mini location map2017-03-10
34 by photographer avatarimike
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Bishops Cap Cut, NM 
Bishops Cap Cut, NM
Canyoneering avatar Mar 10 2017
Canyoneering7.00 Miles 3,100 AEG
Canyoneering7.00 Miles
3,100 ft AEG40 LBS Pack
Basic Canyoneering - Scrambling; easy climbing/downclimbing; frequent hand use; rope recommended; easy exit
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Lots of Questions going into this day... Would the Cut allow access up and out the top? How would the Radwagon do on the longer ride out/back to the Trailhead? How would I do packing 40# pack on such a difficult route? Was I in shape for a longer hours day?

5:30am... packed and ready to go: 80# Bike... 50# Payload... rode off in the dark. Stopped at Mary's house to drop off extra bike battery for pick up on return ride. Oliver Lee Park. Suited up and off... moving purposefully slow to conserve energy. 2.5 gallons of fluids. Fruit and salads (?), Bivy gear...Emergency gear.

1.5 Miles...Stashed Qt of Poweraid for end of day...

2 Miles... diverted off trail to find drop in to Canyon. Got Lucky and found goat trails switchbacking down into the Giant Boulder section above the Narrows. I got to play and stretch out on those big rock drops for awhile.

9am...Mouth of Bishops Cap Cut. I stopped long enough to break fast: Chocolate Milk! Not sure what I was thinking when prepping for this hike. This was clearly a high calorie burn day... Peanut Butter/Banana/Honey kind of day. I brought Salads!?? I also had 1/2 gallon of milk and a gallon of OJ. I start with the milk.

The lower section of the canyon was open bouldering... but graduating into steep. I was projecting I'd get stopped/blocked or top out by 1pm. Top out and I could traverse Joplin Ridge around to the Dog Canyon Trail. Blocked... perhaps explore the bottom of the upper cliff edges around to the trail. Either way... I had four hours of climbing?

The first Surprise... upon reaching the lower obstruction dryfall, I discovered it was not the 30' fall we could see from the south side of Dog... but twisted around a sharp corner: 100'+ off steep cascading, interestingly accented Fall. Dramatic! I envisioned setting ropes and having a most interesting group event.

Today, I looped around and up an iffy dirt/rock side bank. This section and lead up to it have been steep enough to keep me breathing hard...and this was the easy parts...?

Tiny reward: great Horn Coral Fossils along the bypass on the west side!

Beyond this Fall, the climbing began in earnest. Staircase falls... House size boulders... Bus size boulders. Climb after climb. So often we hike interesting cuts with great scrambles. Our typical laments are we reach the top and wish there was more of the good stuff. This canyon is the solution to that issue... it just does not stop climbing. You climb to reach the next climb! They do not stop!

Next nice bit: soil layer filled with Gypsum! Plates of glass like pieces... I gathered some, protected them in the now empty milk jug.

Ate a couple oranges.... set the OJ out in the sun to thaw. Drank my second Monster drink of the day. Warm to hot in the sun... cool breeze in the shade.

Noon...I've been active 6.5 hours...hiking now for 5 hours. I am about to clear the lower cliffs... entering the upper canyon. I take a longer break, eating my first salad. I think about the hours ahead... wondering if this was the hike to ride my bike out and back...? After a 30 minute break I move up to what I think is the blockage noted from the bottom. I spend 20 minutes attempting various routes to scale a simple 12' wall. The grips are just not there for me today. Thinking that if I can get around this problem, the canyon will let me go to the top, I decide to take a questionable approach. I take out my rope, tie it to the pack, and using the pack as a "Sea Anchor", I throw it up and over the lip of the rock.

If I pull acutely down on the rope, it holds. There are no other hikers here to tell me how dumb this might be. So, up I go. As I get near the top, my pull on the rope is no longer angled enough... the pack starts slipping back towards the edge... I let go of the rope and move on to the rock... interesting moment! :scared:

Now... legs shaky... lots of wasted energy.... but I am up!

The canyon gets ever steeper... the climbs get bigger! Can You Say Climb!This day is shaping up to be twice the effort of anything I've done in years.

2:30pm... Blocked!! 9 hours into my activity day... 7.5 hours into the hike. Exploring is over. I tagged on a mini-reward... Cave. Of course, it took more climbing!

Those bigger climbs up turned to bigger downclimbs... often forcing me to remove the pack. I did get to enjoy a fully tied on rope to descend the Sea Anchor spot.

4:15pm... As I approached the top of the huge Dry Fall, it occurred to me I could check out a cut a bit further West... doing a Naughty No_No of canyon hiking: do not drop down what you have not come up. In this case, I felt okay about switching back into Exploratory mode... it was a short canyon with side hills that would allow escape if necessary. It was good!

4:45pm... down! Now... move around the Narrows... cross the canyon and climb out the West side... get to the trail!

5:15pm... Dog Canyon Trail at Cookie Rock (Mile 1.5)... and over to the Rock Bench... I drink the last of the OJ... and retrieve the Qt of Powerade for the hike down the trail.

These last hours have enjoyed some Saving Grace breezes... and the cooler low sun angle, setting just as I reach the Visitor Center. Unlock my bike... head out for the ride home!

My only change in plans: at Mary's I decide to lay over and put her spa to use! Wow... that was a lifesaver. Soaked for an hour... it likely saved me from massive leg cramps.

So... a day sort of like my old days. 11 hours of hiking... 2.5 hours of biking. The hiking was upper level effort. Hard. Makes me nearly feel like the old me. As I move through my 68th year days like this likely to be few and far between... but on this day... really nice!
Ageless Mind... Timeless Body... No Way! Use It and Lose It. Just the way it is...
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