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mini location map2019-11-02
49 by photographer avatarGrottoGirl
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Waterholes CanyonNortheast, AZ
Northeast, AZ
Canyoneering avatar Nov 02 2019
Canyoneering2.50 Miles 2 AEG
Canyoneering2.50 Miles
2 ft AEG
Intermediate Canyoneering - Difficult or dangerous; Tech Climb; rope reqd; descent anchor; exit technical;
B - Up to light current; wading/swimming; possible wet/dry suit
III - Normally requires most of a day
Linked none no linked trail guides
Partners none no partners
Our trip leader, secured the Waterholes Navajo permit the day before from the Page office so 8 of us could go. The current beta for the canyon indicates that you need to park within the fence of the tour company at Waterholes for $10. However, because canyoneers tend to get back to the cars late the tour company told us to park across the highway instead. No complaints here because that option is free!

From the top we descended directly into the canyon starting right away with a downclimb over a car and a short rappel to avoid using the strapped together ladder. I hadn’t done what I’ll call the middle section of Waterholes so I enjoyed the way the water had carved out the canyon. It twists and turns as it makes its way. At times there were squeezes to negotiate. Alas, it’s sort of like caving above ground!

Soon we were to where I had dropped into the lower section on my last trip. It was like greeting an old friend. The rappels and downclimbs all familiar just like good friends. It was hard to believe it had almost been four years.

Soon we were to the big pool that on the last trip we had deployed a packraft to safely get across without getting wet. Unfortunately, three of the group had plunged in and went across. However once they were over they were able to set up a zip line (not the same as a guided rappel) over the water. I went first. I had a hard time getting my safety tether on the rope - I had to extend it out fully. Traveling across was a little disconcerting - will it hold my weight? Will I crash into the pool? Everything held and unfortunately the line was too horizontal so I ended up stopping before I was completely clear of the pool. I couldn’t just reach up and grab the tensioned rope and pull myself across because my tether was extended too far. I started to inch my way forward until Jessica could grab my hand and pull me the rest of the way across. Everyone got safety across. Those who were cold from getting wet added some clothes but they were still chilled.

Prior to the trip there had been some drama regarding the rope logistics. Luckily, by the time we started, It was agreed to leave the big rope in its bag so that it didn’t get damaged before we needed it. That was a relief. We checked the big rope in camp that morning and it passed all our quality checks!

We were at the top of the sequence and it was time for Carl and I to work our way down the crack to the top of the big wall. It had been agreed that I would go second to check each anchor as it was rigged. Then I’d be first down the big rappel. At the bottom of the big crack I was able to wrestle my pack off and step over it to see the anchor. Everything looked good. We both agreed that a knot at the end of the short rope down to the anchor that avoided the rope eating crack was a good idea. Carl continued down and started to rig the big drop. When it was time to throw the rope, we got really quiet so we could hear the bag whizzing through the air. There is no sound like that in the world! it was my turn down the short rope. I struggled to get my pack out of the crack and hung off my harness. Soon, I was at the anchor 300 ft above the deck with just a tiny ledge to stand on. Carl’s pack seemed to be taking up a lot of space and since Carl was going to stay there to help the people who were coming next, I opted to take both his pack and mine down the big drop. Besides he had some things strapped to his pack that easily could have became missiles. I got on rappel and struggled to take up the slack with the two packs and incredible rope drag below. I rigged my VT prusik so that if I lost control it would grab me. I added some friction to my rappel device and then took off for a slow descent. Even with the added weight of an extra pack I had to feed rope through my rappel device. I could have taken my hands off the rope and stayed in place! Soon though I got in a rhythm and managed to get down the rope. That cliff is still one of the most stunning cliffs I’ve seen! After I was done rappelling, I gave the next person a fireman’s belay and then went to have a snack and watch everyone else from the far end of the amphitheater. It took a while to get all 8 down the sequence. Next, it was time to pull the rope. I wanted to do it because for some reason there is a lot of satisfaction in watching the rope come falling from 300 feet above.

Soon we were done with the canyon and the packraft began. I had a brand new Klymit to launch. I was very happy to experience the good customer service from Klymit. If you read my Ropes Trail log you’ll remember that midway through the trip a seam came undone and I was losing air as I paddled. That raft had over 5 years of use and I had considered it a trusty steed. My new raft shows similar characteristics to the old one!

While floating and paddling, we saw an Osprey, Heron, Big Horn Sheep, and many bats feeding right before dusk. It was yet again an amazing experience on the River!

After our float we went to a Marble Canyon Lodge where I learned that you can top the Green Chili Stew! Get it on the Navajo taco salad!
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