Peak(s):  Point 4980 - 4,980 feet
U-Turn Canyon - 4,900 feet
Date Posted:  03/06/2012
Date Climbed:   03/02/2012
Author:  Furthermore

 Short & Sweet: U-Turn Canyon et al.  

Happy Turk Hoodoo aka: Devils Golf Ball, The Happy Turk. 5.8 C1
Homer and Marge, Chili Cook Off 5.5 C1
U-Turn Canyon 3A I
Point 4980
Ham Rock attempt (5.7?) Route still unknown.

March 02, 2012
~1.9 Miles, ~600 Gain (For U-Turn Canyon and 4980)
Trailhead: South TH for Park Avenue (U Turn Canyon)


A snowy forecast. The result? A desert trip. Dwight and I met up Thursday night and made the long drive to Moab. We ended up camping out in the Kane Springs area since we were planning on aiding a few short towers in the area.

To our surprise, we woke up to an inch of fresh snow. The aid climbing wouldn't mind the snow fortunately. From our campsite, we walked over to the base of Happy Turk Hoodoo. This definitely required a cheater stick to clip the first bolt which was a bit tricky due to just having a small chain link to clip. As I made my way up the tower, I felt the second and the last bolts were a bit spaced apart; looks like I need to work on my top stepping.

Aiding up Hoodoo

Summit of Hoodoo

Rap off of Hoodoo

After the Happy Turk Hoodoo we made the short drive to Homer and Marge. Another short aid but on some really questionable mud rock which will make a fine warm up for the fishers. The opening 5.5 moves were a bit awkward with an unpleasant off-width crack. At the first bolt, I realized it was a good thing I brought rivet hangers as one was needed. Although Homer and Marge was a neat formation, the quality of climbing, even for aid, was pretty low.

Aiding up Homer and Marge.

Homer and Marge.

Dwight had enough towers for the day so we decided to run a short canyon since we were meeting up with some of Dwight's friends later in the evening. U-Turn Canyon fit the bill with point 4980 as a bonus. We made the short drive to Arches and parked at the south trailhead for Park Avenue. We headed west on the road and followed a wash to an angling ramp. A few class 3 moves later we were on the top of the angling ramp and a short hike to the southwest we were on the summit of 4980. Amazing views. We returned to the top of the class 3 gully and followed a slick rock rim east bypassing two slickrock domes to the top of U-Turn Canyon.

Angling ramp up to Point 4980 and the beginning of U-Turn Canyon (same ramp for Tier Drop and Not Tier Drop Canyons)

Class 3 ramp to U-Turn.

Views from the summit of 4980. I love the desert.

Near the entrance to U-Turn.

Looking down the start of U-Turn Canyon.

Heading down canyon, Dwight and I were able to down-climb the first 10 foot rappel. The bolt for the first rappel appeared to be in good shape (located under a large boulder on the right side of the canyon). The second 15 foot rappel came up quick and we found the two bolts located on the left side of the canyon behind two toad stools. Shortly after the second rappel the canyon opens up and the views are amazing. The Tower of Babel is quite sobering.

Location for the bolt for the first rap.

Looking down canyon from the top of the first rap.

Location for bolts on rap 2.

Looking back up rap 1 which can be down-climbed.

Looking down rap 2.

View from the base of rap 2.

Dwight on rap 2.

We angled down some slickrock and found our short 3rd rappel of only about 10 feet. Since the sandstone was damp and slick, we decided to not risk a tricky down-climb. Our anchor for our third rap was a sandstone horn.

Dwight on rap 3.

Dwight on rap 3.

From the broad ledge at the bottom of the 3rd rappel, we hiked northeast to "Wily E. Coyote" Rock. We scouted around for a hike-off ledge but didn't find one; however we did find a rappel anchor near the base of "Wily E. Coyote" Rock for a fourth and final rappel. Since we only brought 2 30 M ropes, it was very questionable if our rope was going to reach the bottom (guessing 110 feet). We hiked back to the base of our third rappel and found the normal anchor for the 4th rappel in the middle of the canyon. The last rappel was about 60-70 feet down a steep angling ramp.

Walking the ledge to "Wily E. Coyote" Rock

Sweet tower.

"Wily E. Coyote" Rock

View from "Wily E. Coyote" Rock

Dwight on rap 4.

Short and sweet. We hiked northeast from the bottom of the 4th rappel and intercepted the Park Avenue trail back to our car. Outstanding little canyon and well worth the views.

Still having some time before meeting up with Dwight's friends, we decided to go exploring. From the Park Avenue trailhead we made the short drive to the Garden of Eden parking lot. I was thinking about climbing Owl Rock real fast but we decided to check out Ham Rock instead. From the Garden of Eden parking area, we hiked to the north side of Ham rock. Odd, there was a bikers helmet at the base of the a steep dihedral. I noticed some bolts at the top of the dihedral and soloed up to the bolts.

All Dwight and I brought for protection was about 60 feet of webbing. I set up a quick hip belay for Dwight with the webbing and he followed me up. We took a sinuous route up slickrock ledges before we were finally thwarted by a steep hand crack (5.7?) only about 7 feet tall ~80 below the summit. The moves wouldn't be that difficult but the moves were tricky in boots and the consequences of falling would be bad news. Various knots in the webbing were shoved into the crack hoping to gain a short aid advantage. No luck. It was beginning to get dark so we retreated back to the car. Might have to go back to bag this unique tower.

Dwight on a ledge system on Ham Rock.

Elephant Butte (no photoshop on that one)

Elephant Butte.

Route for U-Turn Canyon and Point 4980.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

 Comments or Questions

The elephant pics
03/07/2012 02:56
are awesome! Looks like a nice weekend out.


Super pics!
03/07/2012 16:51
Looks like a fabulous place! Thanks for the post!


03/07/2012 17:31
Awesome shot of Elephant Butte ! I did Uturn Canyon a couple years ago. The 4th rappel was in a different location. Looking for the rappel station, the crack you used looked logical and we searched everywhere for anchors and never found them. Looking at your photo making that 4th rappel, they were to your left and the anchors were just at the lip of the rappel hidden by a large flat boulder. The second half was a sweet, free-hanging rappel. From what I understand, the Park Service discourages people from rappelling from the base of Wily E. Coyote Rock as to stay out of view from the tourists at Park Avenue. Thanks for your report - gets me in the mood for some canyoneering !


03/07/2012 18:19
Geese, Derick! I didn't know you were a desert climber!? You & Dwight had a pretty sweet day. 4 rapels in that cyn, that had to have been a long day or at least felt like it.

Did yourself or Deight ever find a viable way up Ham Rock? From what I remember, LOJ doesn't have a rating posted for it.
Nice work!


an interesting day
03/07/2012 18:45
watching Derek climb those weird towers, I discovered they weren't my cup of tea though. I had been down U-turn last year, but the views there are worth repeating. Biked Sat and Sunday, Sovereign trail on Sunday was a good one. We did not find a way up Ham rock, ran out of time and gear. We did not have any route info, I believe Derek has since found some on MP.


Ham Rock info
03/07/2012 18:57
I guess LOJ lists the peak as Ham Rock which I believe is the rock near the middle of the formation. The true summit is to the east of ”Ham Rock.”

On MP the true summit is labeled as the Harkonnen Castle and appears that there is a 5 pitch crack variant that goes at 5.10ish. . I think our route would gain the ridge near the saddle of the summit and Ham Rock. From the saddle, I think the climb would be an unprotected 5.4-6 slab climb to the summit unless a scramble on the south could be done up ledges. Based on the photo (on MP), one could get to the last OW pitch from our perch overlooking Elephant Butte. Definitely would need some wide cams to protect that final pitch. 5.10 OW climbing is something I am not very good at.


point confusion
03/07/2012 21:18 Perhaps the actual rock that looks like a ham is not the high point. LOJ should be corrected perhaps. more deciphering required.

Chicago Transplant

Ham Rock
03/08/2012 20:10
Jamie and I tried to get up that thing a few years ago to much the same result. We tried two cracks, one we kept falling at the crux and ultimately blew a sandstone hold out on, the second we couldn't boost ourselves up to the crack to get a footing. Some day maybe we will figure that puzzle out, or if all else fails, we'll just bring a ladder like the Pawnee Buttes team did

Chicago Transplant

Route attempt
03/08/2012 21:40
Actually in the photo link Dwight posted from Summitpost you can see both cracks we tried, the first is the right of the two longer ones directly below the summit. The second that we couldn't reach w/o a stool (it actually overhangs a bit) is right at the low point on the ridge between the ham and the summit complex. We thought if we could get up there we might find a weakness to summit. I know the Mountain Project route says 5.10, but maybe (?) coming from this other side would be easier?

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