Canyonlands: Tales from Narrow Places

Nearing the end of a wet monsoon in Shamrock Canyon

Posted in Northern Arizona & the Mogollon Rim by canyoneering on September 15, 2010

Shamrock Canyon, 3BIIIR
2.7 miles
Coconino National Forest, tributary of West Clear Creek

The term “monsoon” comes from the Arabic word “mausim” which means “season” or “wind shift”. In Arizona the monsoon is when during the summer months consistently high temperatures create a large swath of low pressure. This low pressure literally sucks moist air from the Sea of Cortez and the Gulf of Mexico creating high winds and violent thunderstorms throughout the southwestern United States. 2010 has been a wet monsoon for Arizona, filling many of the canyons, particularly those on the Mogollon Rim, to the brim with water.

In late August, John and I headed up to West Clear Creek for a descent of Shamrock Canyon. Despite a favorable forecast, interesting clouds hung low and as we made our way higher up the rim on Arizona State Route 87 we became shrouded in the clouds. Approaching Shamrock the lightest sprinkle added moisture to our already sweaty skin from the humid air as we walked down the steep slopes of saturated soil from the many weeks of rain. Entering the canyon, the clouds parted and blues skies took over as we found ourselves surrounded by velvety and electric green moss covered walls. At the first rappel we dropped down alongside the slightest trickle of water. Further down an interesting and challenging triple drop rappel included a normally deep keeper pothole that was unrecognizable as it was filled to the brim with unusually temperate water. One more rappel and a short slog later and we were at a pleasant beach along West Clear Creek enjoying lunch and watching brook trout and crawdads doing their thing in a crystal clear pool of water.