March 14, 2013
~12.5 Miles, ~2,300 Gain (includes rock art side trip)
Trailhead: Tidwell Ranch Drill Hole Site (4WD recommended, High Clearance required, ~8-9 hours from Denver)(N38.46653 W110.16058)
Arriving at camp around 11:30 PM made for a late night. My wife and I slept in and woke up around 8:30 AM. A short drive from camp, we arrived at the trailhead (N38.46653 W110.16058) and started hiking south around 10:00 AM towards the start of Water Canyon. A lack of a trail left us tiptoeing through several areas of cryptobiotic soil. We arrived at the mouth of the west fork (N38.44661 W110.16976) around 11:45 AM.
The start of Water Canyon.
A short distance down the canyon we encountered our first rappel. We used existing slings around a tree on the south side of the canyon and made the short 40 rappel into the canyon. Shortly after the first rappel, we encountered our second rappel. The down-climb getting to the second rappel anchor appeared tricky and any “bounce” would send me over the edge of the first rappel.
Looking down the first rappel.
Donna on the first rappel.
Someone had set up a very questionable sling anchor for rappelling down this down-climb. The anchor was around a super thin sandstone pillar so I used an Ibis hook backup with the sling for a short handline/rappel. Although only 10-15 feet, I was glad I didn't free climb this section. I helped my wife down the tricky climb and we did our second 50-60 foot rappel off of a deadman anchor.
Ibis hook backup.
The short Ibis hook drop.
Donna on the second rappel.
Donna on the second rappel.
Looking back up the second rappel.
The canyon opened up after the second rappel and we continued our descent as the canyon developed into some beautiful narrows. A few down-climbs kept things interesting and made the canyon fun. We encountered our third short 10 foot rappel which was anchored off of a chockstone.
Lovely chockstone anchor.
Within a few hundred feet of our 3rd rappel, we encountered the best rappel of the day through an amazing section of canyon. Anchored with 2 new bolts we quickly set up for our 3 stage rappel. I started down the rappel first and entered a small semi-keeper hole. Making sure I could escape, my wife followed me down.
Third short rappel.
Third short rappel.
Starting the 4th rappel.
Looking back up the 2-3 stage 4th rappel.
Trying to bypass the semi-keeper hole on rappel was tricky for my wife, so I went back into the semi-keeper and helped my wife escape on her rappel. I re-escaped and continued down the rappel. Depositing us into a dark section of canyon, we continued onward and enjoyed the beauty the canyon.
Semi-keeper hole in the middle of the 4th rappel.
Getting out of the semi-keeper hole.
Ending the 4th rappel.
As the canyon opened up again, we encountered our 5th rappel through a slot in the floor of the canyon. Anchoring off of a long 20-30 foot piece of webbing around a bush, we did a short 30 foot rappel back into some narrows.
Unfortunately, the narrows didn't last and we reached our final rappel of the day as the canyon dropped 90 feet. Using a sling anchor around a boulder and tree, we did our final 90 foot descent and put away our ropes and harnesses. We continued slogging down canyon and intercepted Horseshoe Canyon. Since my wife hadn't been to the Grand Gallery rock art panel, we decided to make a side trip to visit the panel.
6th open rappel.
Looking up at the 6th rappel.
After visiting the rock art, we returned back down Horseshoe Canyon and had trouble locating our exit to the east. The old road from the wash was not very obvious. After a short off-trail excursion, we were back on track on the old 4WD road back to the rim. From the rim of the canyon, it was a 1.5 mile hike back to the car. The last quarter mile of the 4WD road to the eastern rim of Horseshoe canyon would be very questionable for a stock 4WD vehicle.
Hiking out the east side of Horseshoe canyon.
Returning back to the car around 6:15 PM, made for an outstanding day in a a fine canyon.
GPS track may be whacked due to the nature of slots. Only for general navigational purposes.
My GPS Tracks on Google Maps (made from a .GPX file upload):
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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