Canyonlands: Tales from Narrow Places

Entry to North Wash

Posted in Utah by canyoneering on April 12, 2010

This place has become legendary in the canyoneering world, particularly in more recent years. It is a land where giant hunks of sandstone dominate the landscape and the narrowest of canyons wind through this surreal world. After reading countless tales and trip reports of those previous, we were finally here. Waking up in the Sandthrax camp (home to a well attended, annual winter canyoneering festival known as Freeze Fest) we were in ground zero for many of the classic canyons of this area. This allowed us to keep the car parked, literally start and end two canyons in one day and take lunch all from camp. We were blasted by wind and sand as we climbed the sandstone mass to the head of a system consisting of three branches, each a separate technical descent of varying difficulty. After a few wrong turns we dropped into the easternmost and easiest of the three branches, known as Leprechaun Canyon.

East fork of Leprechaun Canyon, 3AII
approximately 3.5 miles
North Wash


To enjoy the skinny nature of these canyons we took minimal gear. With 8mm ropes and webbing harnesses we began the descent of short rappels and tougher down climbs as sand rained down on us from above. For the easiest branch of the East Fork packed plenty of fun and excitement with no shortage of stunning and narrow sculpted walls. Before not too long the east fork joined the main and west forks in a beautiful corridor where only a single shaft of light illuminated the hallway of otherwise total darkness. Less than a half hour later we were sitting on our camping chairs, kicking off our sweaty and sandy canyoneering shoes and enjoying lunch.

Middle Fork of Leprechaun Canyon, aka Shimrock Canyon, 3AIII
approximately 4 miles
North Wash


After an hour lunch, Eric and I decided to go for a second descent in one day, attempting the next fork over from Leprechaun, known as Shimrock. Shimrock would prove to be narrower with much more challenging down climbs than its sister to the east. With the navigation issues behind us, we climbed to the head and dropped into Shimrock in great time. The first part of the canyon featured very challenging down climbs that required a range of physical effort and mental problem solving to descend. Great fun. As the climbs eased up the canyon got skinny, way skinny. Sideways shuffling was a must and I even had to take deep inhalations between heavy breaths to reduce the size of my chest cavity on a few occasions to make passage possible. We found our rhythm in an excited state as more raining sand stuck to the sweat on our exposed skin. My clothes did not fare quite as well as I did as we made our way back to camp for the second time on our first canyoneering day in North Wash.



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  1. […] comment « Tales from the Crypto – Gravel Canyon Entry to North Wash in the Irishs […]

  2. […] Read “Entry to North Wash in the Irishs” […]

  3. […] me just enough time for a solo run of the West Fork of Leprechaun Canyon just above our camp. In 2010 I descended the East and Middle Forks of Leprechaun canyon and am excited to complete the series. Mark, Brian and Chris have no interest in  joining […]

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