Canyonlands: Tales from Narrow Places

Traditions becoming rituals & a Hogfest on Day 1

Posted in Utah by canyoneering on April 10, 2014

David works his way up a 5th class section to get out of the canyon bottom en route to Hog 2.

When does a tradition practiced year after year becoming a ritual experience? I certainly don’t have the answer and even as I type these words I’m not even sure I fully understand the question I pose, but it does bring up some ideas I wish to express. Our annual Spring canyoneering trip in Southern Utah has mostly certainly become a tradition. The question is through all that is within this tradition, all the sandstone beauty, comfort level pushing, sideways shuffling, abraded elbows, sand everywhere, drunken campfires, indulgent meals, loud conversing, ball busting, constant laughter and the feeling of aaahhhh, is there something more going on? Something even more meaningful?

Mark, (from left) Chris, Mike and Eric hike to the Hog Canyon system.

Hog 1, aka Boss Hog, 3AIIIR
North Wash


Day one begins with the Hog Canyons. There are four of them, Hogs 1, 2, 3 & 4, all adjacent to each other, meeting into one larger drainage at the bottom of these short, tight and intense slot sections above. Descending all four of them in a day is possible but requires an early start and good time management. We would see how much of it we could bite off but we aren’t exactly getting an early start. As one might expect we begin with Hog 1, aka Boss Hog. Named after the corrupt county commissioner, from the “Dukes of Hazard”, the first of the Hogs is far from an easy canyon and just like dealing with Jefferson Davis can get you into trouble, the other Boss Hog can also prove to upend the unprepared and unexpected. After ever present difficult down climbs and sideways shuffling and a sustained section of high stemming, we reach the end of the technical section with nothing more than a few sandstone scrapes on the elbows.

Eric rappels as Chris and David look on.

Hog 2,  3AIII
North Wash


After a quick break at the confluence of Hogs 1 & 2 and caching some water, we escape to the sandstone world above via a tough 5th class slab with spotty holds. Others say it goes as high as 5.7. A short but strenuous hike surrounded by Hog slots on both sides and we drop into the top of Hog 2. Boss Hog’s sister to the East has a definite mellower vibe and seems to feature more of an emphasis on rappels versus stemming and down climbing. The canyon does however, end on a challenging down climb into a dark hallway, where Chris lands awkwardly and injures his knee. Fortunately, he is able to walk with a fair amount of discomfort, but his day of canyoneering is over. Mike volunteers to accompany Chris as they walk down the main Hog drainage to the Hog Springs Recreation Area parking lot, easier than climbing back up to our vehicle above the system. Eric, Mark and I repeat the 5th class slab back to the head of Hog 3, aka Razorback.

Eric going high in Hog 3.

Hog 3, aka Razorback, 3AIIIR
North Wash


Before we drop into Razorback from a high vantage point I can look straight down the pike and see its confluence with the main Hog drainage. Clearly wind and water carved this slot in a nearly straight fashion. As I process this visual information I realize what this canyon will lack in duration it will make up for in intensity. Razorback also has the reputation for being the most challenging of the Hogs. During the planning of the trip at large it was the canyon I was most apprehensive of. On any given day you never know how you are going to respond to the challenges, particularly the down climb/ high stemming heavy canyons of Southern Utah. Some days you feel good. Other days, well… By the start of Hog 3 I know I am feeling good. The climbs and moves are all well within my ability. I am in tune with the rock and not getting bogged down in my own headspace, just reacting and feeling. Speaking of the devil, my back is feeling those textured rocks embedded in the walls that gives the canyon its namesake. Nevertheless connecting to the landscape and the challenges it poses, the canyon is over very quickly and we are fighting our way through the reeds of the main Hog Drainage before climbing  back up the fifth class one more time. Hog Four, aka Miss Piggy will have to wait for another day. Still a real Hogfest.

Eric and Mark work their way through the reeds in the main Hog drainage after completing Hog 3.

It is late in the afternoon by the the time we reach our vehicle. The Henries look beautiful in this light. My first pair of pants are already blown out, a few abrasions dot my the arms and sand already has invaded every crevice of my body. I’m buzzing from three wonderfully challenging and beautiful canyons just completed. I know the first night will be a wild one. Loud, probably. Delicious food and lots of drink, a certainty. It is such an aaahhhh moment that it is totally spiritual. A ritual? I don’t know, but I’ve felt this before and I know the series of actions to get back there.

– David



3 Responses

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  1. Tom Jones said, on April 10, 2014 at 5:43 pm

    Great helmet placement on that first photo. What could go wrong????

  2. canyoneering said, on April 11, 2014 at 1:12 pm

    Most certainly. No excuse.

  3. […] a moderately challenging level (R-Rating) such as Raven, Inferno, Limbo, Happy Dog, Stair, and the Hogs, but wasn’t interested in taking the risks required in a canyon like Sandthrax relative to what I […]

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