Canyonlands: Tales from Narrow Places

Crystal Canyon on newsstands now!

Posted in Southern & Central Arizona by canyoneering on June 23, 2009

Crystal Canyon on newsstands now

Crystal Canyon 3CIIIR
6.5 miles
San Carlos Apache Indian Reservation
10/07/07-10/20/08

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Crystal Canyon on the San Carlos Apache Reservation took us two attempts to complete. Our first attempt in 2007 with Jen ended just above the technical section of narrows. The technical section of Crystal Canyon features two powerful waterfalls with nothing but a long, narrow and featureless pool separating the two. We stood above the first raging waterfall for a good 45 minutes before calling it quits. We couldn’t see the bolts in the pool below and did not trust that they were actually in place. With no visible natural anchors from our vantage point in or around the pool we did not want to risk getting stuck. Turning around we vowed to be back with more gear.

Almost exactly a year later we were back to Crystal Canyon with Chris and Mark. This time we had extra rope that would have allowed us to descend the entire technical section as a two- part rappel from the anchor at the top of the first waterfall. Rappelling with water pounding in our faces presented a whole new set of challenges we had not yet experienced in canyoneering. The force of the water made me feel no more significant than a rag doll. Rappelling down the first waterfall was slippery and much more difficult than I had expected. I could barely control myself and towards the end of the rappel I lost my footing and swung hard behind the waterfall slamming against the rock. Finally working my way off the rope I swam to a dry ledge in the pool and took a breath. The bolts were in fact in the pool and the second rappel went a whole lot smoother for me and the waterfall was much easier to negotiate.

David’s photograph of Chris from our second trip to Crystal Canyon is on page 5 of the July 2009 issue of Arizona Highways Magazine!

-Laura

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