Canyonlands: Tales from Narrow Places

Adventures in Escalante, PART II – Davis Gulch

Posted in Utah by canyoneering on March 20, 2010

Davis Gulch, 3BIII
approximately 7 miles
Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument


We woke at sunrise, which revealed the beauty of our surroundings with the Straight Cliffs covered in snow and glowing in morning light.  After driving down to the near end of Hole-in-the-Rock Road we began descending Davis Gulch. The drainage quickly formed a narrow slot with twisting walls, pools and down climbs. We tried stemming and bridging to avoid getting wet but eventually it just could not be avoided. There was just too much water.

Based on Tom Jones’ beta we were expecting the narrows to last three hours. With full body wetsuits we were prepared for the long, cold and tricky descent through this section. The canyon did not disappoint in beauty and excitement, but just over one hour after leaving the car the canyon suddenly opened up and the floor was basking in sunlight. We were confused about the time. “Is it going to narrow up again and where were all those 20- foot down climbs?” we wondered. Once we hit the first set of moki steps (small hand and foot holds carved in the sandstone by the Anasazi and more recently Navajo people to gain access to the canyon bottoms) we knew we had in fact completed the narrows. After a discussion we concluded that the wet winter had made this section of canyon way easier than during previous descents by filling it with water and sediment. There was not a single down climb where a hand line seemed remotely necessary. This in turn allowed us to pass through the section so quickly. (Obviously, conditions in the canyon can change quickly and it would be prudent to be prepared for the canyon to return to more difficult conditions.) Nevertheless we were happy to be back in the sunshine.

Mike and Eric took turns climbing the moki steps. The rest of the day was a leisurely stroll along a sandy wash at the bottom of this deep canyon. We passed cottonwood trees, beaver dams and a number of beautiful sandstone amphitheaters. We explored the massive Nemo Arch, aka Bement Arch.  Much of the canyon bottom was chocked with tall grasses reaching well above our heads.

As we exited the canyon we entered what seemed like a totally different world from that of below; a land of slick rock domes and depressions as far as the eye can see with the Straight Cliffs rising above this moon like landscape and further away Navajo Mountain looming blue and white, covered in snow. We came across a giant pool of rainwater and snow melt in the slick rock. Despite the brisk temperatures, for Eric and David it was too inviting not to pass up a cold and refreshing dip. Using Hole in the Rock Arch as a navigational point we made our way back to the car and then back to camp where we indulged in NY Strip over a mesquite fire with lots of beer and a little bit of whiskey.

-Laura & David


3 Responses

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  1. […] Read Adventures in Escalante, PART II – Davis Gulch Tagged with: Cottonwood Canyon Road, Dance Hall Rock, Escalante, Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument, Highway 89, Hole-in-the-Rock Road […]

  2. Stephen Schwartz said, on March 20, 2010 at 2:00 am

    Beautiful as always guys. Thanks for the tour.

  3. […] Read Adventures in Escalante, PART II […]

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