Canyonlands: Tales from Narrow Places

Adventures in the Swell – Quandry Canyon Direct

Posted in Utah by canyoneering on October 14, 2011

Quandry Canyon Direct,  4BIIIR
approximately 6 miles
San Rafael Swell


My body was a little sore as we headed up the old mining road through a dynamited pass, up over the reef into the drainage that is Quandry Canyon. Native Americans were the first to mine uranium ore in the area using it to make bright colored pastes that they applied to themselves as war paints. Serious prospecting did not begin in the area until the mid twentieth century. Many roads and an air strip were developed and evidence of those mining days are scattered all over the place, including a mid 20th century vehicle we passed on the approach. Mining in the Swell nearly all but ended in the 1960s as the area yielded little marketable uranium ore.

By the time the walls of Quandry narrowed up and the technical section began the soreness had dissipated and I was warmed up and ready to go. The canyon is south facing so we enjoyed the sun nearly the entire day as we jumped in and out of potholes. We continued where we left off with the Squeeze, moving at an aggressive pace. A number of interesting and fun problems presented themselves including a rappel into a deep keeper pothole with a narrow ledge for a lip, right into a second rappel. The lip was so narrow that while standing on top of it you had to lock off on rappel while assisting your partner to get out of the keeper, so to not risk falling down the other side of the pothole. Finding the right balance of too much or too little slack before locking off on rappel took a little trial and error. The Quandry Direct route merged back with the regular route and after taking a lunch break in a sliver of shade we began the hike under a blistering sun towards Ramp Canyon, our route home.

Ramp Canyon was a beautiful technical canyon in its own right and we were challenged with the task of ascending the canyon to regain the reef. After the drainage took many horseshoe turns we bypassed an unclimbable dry fall by climbing up and out of the canyon and then returning to bottom by way of a  chossy 80- foot rappel. The canyon than presented us with a beautiful set of narrows with many magnificent features in the polished sandstone for climbing the drops. The crux was an awkward 5.6 climb/ traverse up and around a chokestone. Mike free soloed the short climb and then provided a belay to the rest of our party. The canyon relented shortly thereafter. From the top of Ramp Canyon an easy walk back to the car provided time to reflect on the last few days of this exciting, challenging and memorable trip.

Check out the video from the entire trip at the bottom of this post.



2 Responses

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  1. Anonymous said, on October 14, 2011 at 11:48 am

    Great video. What’s a “5.6”?

    • canyoneering said, on October 14, 2011 at 7:41 pm

      5.6 is a rating for the difficulty of a climb. A 5.0 is a super easy climb. A 5.14 is super difficult. Very few rock climbers in the world can do anything as hard as 5.14.

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