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 Peak(s):  Water Holes Canyon - 4,600 feet
 Post Date:  12/03/2009
 Date Climbed:   11/24/2009
 Posted By:  Furthermore

 Photogenic Arizona Slot Canyon: Water Holes Canyon.   

Upper Water Holes Canyon
November 24, 2009
~11.2 Miles with detour

Heart of Water Holes Canyon.
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I would have to say I have had worse layovers for work but with four Page, Arizona overnights in a row, three of which were 17.5 hours, something fun needed to be done. I found a great slot canyon a few miles south of town. My co-worker and I finished work late on the 23rd and we woke up early and made the short drive out of town and parked on the north side of the bridge over Water Holes Canyon at mile marker 542 on Arizona 89.

We started our hike at 5:45 AM and followed the cairns down a trail for about 100 yards to the east before descending a shallow gulch into the canyon. It was still very dark outside. We hiked up the canyon until we reached a 10 foot dryfall climb. The rock was smooth and it was too hard to climb. We backtracked down canyon about 100 yards and found an easier climb out of the canyon on the south wall.

Once out of the canyon, we walked on the south rim of the canyon until we passed under some power lines. After passing under the power lines, we found a shallow drainage which took us back into the canyon. Unfortunately, the canyon mellowed out and it became a sandy hike in a wash.

It was a long slog. It was at least 2 miles of deep sand hiking in the wash with nothing exciting. The directions I had mentioned said not to follow a prominent canyon to the south. I never saw this "prominent" canyon and we ended up taking a left out of the canyon at what I thought was the correct turn per the directions. We continued up this new canyon and I noticed anther set of power lines in the distance which didn't quite match my topo but we continued anyways. The canyon narrowed and some climbing was involved. This wasn't in the directions but it was fun so we continued up a fairly good slot until we encountered a headwall which couldn't be climbed.

Climbing in the wrong northern fork.
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Northern fork narrows.
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End of the northern fork. The wall that couldn't be climbed.
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Down-climbing in the northern fork.
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Northern fork narrows.
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Oh well! We back-tracked until we could climb over the mesa into the correct canyon. The topo made more sense once we were on top of the mesa. Once we hiked back into the correct drainage, it was another ˝ mile of sandy slogging. Then the canyon became interesting.

As described, it was as good as Antelope Canyon. At least I didn't get bagged 32 bucks for this one! The canyon had beautiful curves and unique sandstone layers. Too bad we had to work later; the light in the afternoon would be perfect for photos. Unfortunately, the canyon didn't last long and before we knew it we were sand slogging again. We continued up canyon for about 1/4 mile until we reached a 15 foot dryfall which we bypassed on the right.

Ah the good stuff.
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Neat rock.
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Heart of Water Holes Canyon.
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After bypassing the dryfall, the canyon slotted up and it was tight. We followed the tight slot for ~.5 mile where it reminding me a lot of fissure caving but without a roof. It was amazing. Near the end of the slot, we had some tricky climbs which took us into a sandstone cathedral. We took a quick break and then worked our way back out of the canyon. My partner was not excited about the 2.5 miles of sand slogging to get back to the car.

Start of the tight slot.
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Working through the tight slot.
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Cool narrows.
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Neat rock.
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End of the line.
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Jason down-climbing in the back of the tight slot.
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Tight slot widens for a bit.
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Tight slot.
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Good light near the end of the tight slot.
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Back into the good stuff.
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Only if it was afternoon light.
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Neat rock.
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Looking up out of the good stuff.
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Instead of rim walking the lower slot near the car, we stayed in the slot and we were able to down-climb the 10 foot climb which we couldn't climb earlier in the day. Since we had time, I was hoping to explore the lower canyon but we quickly encountered a dry fall which needed to be rappelled. Leaves me something for next time.

Dead lamb in the lower slot.
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Lower slot.
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Lower slot.
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Arizona 89 bridge.
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Exiting the lower slot. Could continue down canyon with rappels.
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Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
 


  • Comments or Questions
MUni Rider


Nice report and pics.     2011-02-04 17:22:16
I‘ve had that canyon on my slot ”to do” list. Thanks for posting your report and bumping it a bit farther up toward the top.


Ridge runner


cool place     2011-01-31 17:24:16
I love pictures 18 and 19! I really need to get down to Arizona and check these places out. Thanks for posting!


WIclimber


Photogenic Indeed     2009-12-04 18:32:02
Those photos are incredible and inspiring. I‘ve never been - it is now on the list!


BFPD630


Wow- more info?     2009-12-07 13:44:36
is this a place that could be enjoyed by someone with little climbing experience? My wife and I are going to AZ this spring and slot canyons are on our ”someday” list. This is near Page? Any more specific location? Great pictures- thanks for sharing them!


unclegar


Very nice!     2009-12-09 07:18:51
Bunch of great pics. I would like to get down there sometime too.


Furthermore


More Info     2010-11-30 10:28:49
Arizona 89 is the main road that heads south out of Page. The Water Holes Bridge, which you park at, is less than 10 miles out of town. If you take the correct fork, and go to the photogenic area, there is no climbing. It is all Class 1 walking. Henceforth, if you head deeper into the canyon for the tight slot, there is a short climb, class 3 with 10-15 feet of exposure, to bypass a dryfall. Then it is class 2 until you reach the back of the slot canyon where the climbing becomes much more difficult. If you don't do the climbs in the back, you are only missing about 100-200 feet of slot canyon.



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