Canyonlands: Tales from Narrow Places

Lucky to be in Neon Canyon

Posted in Utah by canyoneering on April 8, 2011

Neon Canyon, 3BIII
approximately 8 miles
Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument
03/27/11


First off lets get some housekeeping out of the way… I have the best wife ever. Planning for this Ecsalane adventure began months before the trip. Realistically, I did not think I would be able to make it with Laura and I being new parents and all. I broached the subject with Laura and she told me that if we could get her mom to come out and visit us in Arizona during the trip I was free to go. This could not have been any easier as Laura’s mom is a first time grandma and has some serious baby fever. As the foray got closer and plans became more detailed I worried that Laura would get jealous that she was not going to be part of it. Keep in mind that Laura is almost as passionate as I am about the sport. On the contrary I saw little if any jealousy, just my wife who was thrilled for me that I was going to do something that makes me so happy. How lucky am I. Now to the first leg of the journey.

After a drive up through snowy and muddy conditions we set camp in clearing skies at the Egypt trailhead above the Escalante River. One by one we retired to our tents. The next morning we woke to beautiful conditions and slowly packed the kitchen sink for two nights along the Escalante River. With our packs easily weighing over 60 pounds we staggered across the slick rock like drunken sailors to  the confluence of Fence Canyon and the Escalante River. We dropped everything but our canyoneering gear and headed towards Neon Canyon. After a quick stop to examine an impressive panel of ancient rock art mixed with newer “cowboy” art and even newer graffiti, we ascended to the rim of Neon and on to our drop in point.

After descending a long stretch of tight narrows we reached our first real obstacle, in a formidable keeper. It appeared that the keeper could be bypassed all together by traversing an exposed shelf and then rapping off a bolt back into the canyon past the pothole.  Instead Eric and I thought we would give it a try. We dropped in, swam across the keeper and quickly dispensed of the obstacle with a buddy boost. In the process I was completely dunked underwater.

After one really long swim followed by a few shorter ones, we reached a room where Eric Luth poignantly said, “Wow! How many f—ing holes are there?!” We played in the small arches and chambers using one to create surreal echo sounds. Immediately after this the infamous keeper pothole was disguised underwater allowing us to slide into its depths and easily escape the other side.

Just beyond was the main event, the Golden Cathedral, which from above is completely unrecognizable to the stunning sculpture that it is. Giddy with excitement we rigged the rappel and one by one down we descended into the shimmering golden light that was quickly moving across this epic room. Shortly after all six of us got our turn, the light moved on leaving us in the bland and flat shadows of the canyon walls. If we were any later we would have missed this spectacle of light. In the lack of sun I was getting chilled so I hightailed it back to camp to get in some dry and comfy clothes. Next up Choprock.

-David

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