Canyonlands: Tales from Narrow Places

Sin City weekend in Ice Cube Canyon

Posted in California & Nevada by canyoneering on September 15, 2014

Beautiful hallway.

Ice Cube Canyon, (The Maze) 3BIV
Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area


Vegas, it’s where two swinging bachelors run away to for the weekend. Well, we aren’t exactly swinging bachelors and this isn’t exactly your typical Vegas weekend. No Blackjack, strip clubs, Penn and Teller and all you can eat buffets on this 48- hour romp in Sin City. Well actually, there was not one, but two all you can buffets that were hit up, but the marquee event of the weekend was a descent of Ice Cube Canyon, also known as the Maze in the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, just 20 miles from the Strip.

Its late on a Friday night and Eric and I roll into a second rate resort and casino, on the outskirts of Vegas, not far from the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area. Despite my online reservation we are given keys to a smoking room. I object, but am told it is all they have available. I try to guilt them in to giving us some sort of comps. I am told this isn’t the Strip and they don’t do comps. I walk away with keys in hand and tail between legs. I am a real high roller. We enter our room and it smells almost as bad as the casino floor where at midnight droves of senior citizens are smoking Pall Malls while playing the slots. I am annoyed but know in less than 8- hours I will be a world away.

Also not living.

No car shuttle for us, so we will have to make the 3500 ascent by foot. We hit the trail early to beat the worst of the heat. By the time the sun gets to us we are at elevation and the temperatures are quite manageable. The scenery is vast, really giving a sense to the size of wilderness in Nevada. We top out and cross the ridge, the entire Strip and its one of a kind skyline clearly visible. We drop into Ice Cube Canyon and immediately encounter an enormous group. I don’t recall their exact numbers, but it was approaching a baker’s dozen. Eric and I decide to delay putting on our wetsuits so we can get a jump and get in front of this group. When we wade into the first pool of water it is entirely comfortable. We reach a swimmer, submerge, exit and not a single chill in the body. We keep moving and soon realize the wetsuits we brought are unnecessary. We turn a few rappels into challenging down climbs and that group is long behind us.

It’s just us and the canyon now. Its spectacular and way skinnier than I was expecting. The down climbs keep coming and they are not easy. Normally water this clear and fresh is bone chilling. Recent monsoon rains and warm temps have created the perfect conditions for dark, slotty, Class B canyoneering. The canyon opens up for awhile affording outstanding views of the surrounding countryside. The canyon narrows again with more swims and rappels. We pass the keeper of Ice Cube Canyon, a massive skull and horns of a Big Horn sheep. It sits on a ledge and may weigh 40 pounds. Its size and weight keep it in place and deter it from becoming a Vegas souvenir, just the way it should be. A rappel, hallway, rappel sequence brings us to the desert floor. We boulder hop to pavement, stash our packs under a tree and jog the approximately two miles in the stifling triple digit temps. That is Eric’s idea, but I was all on board. It is an agonizing 20 minutes

Back at the resort, a shower, a few pre-game cocktails and these two bachelors are ready to hit the town. An all-you-can-eat buffet, some poker and a few laps around the casino floor and we are in bed by 11pm. Like I said not your typical Vegas weekend.



One Response

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  1. Anonymous said, on September 17, 2014 at 11:38 am

    Beautiful challenging looking scenery – again. Thanks for sharing.

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