Hall's Creek

April 19, 2018


Two years after bailing out, I finally got another crack at Poe.

Apr 19 - Hike to Hall's Creek

We met up and drove down to the shortcut trailhead, arriving shortly before dark. It was a long, windy, and difficult hike with our 60 lb packs and only a gps and headlamps to guide our way. However, the temperature was just right and we were all excited to make it to Miller's Creek. We made it to the cliff without much difficulty.

Once at the cliff, we struggled to find the correct way down. There was one point where we lowered our packs so we could make a low-ceiling crawl to a down-climbable spot. And we spent some time looking for a way down to the next cliff band. I estimate we spent an additional 45 minutes with those two detours that we could have avoided had it been light outside. Not bad. We arrived at Miller's shortly before midnight.

Apr 20 - Miller's and Baboon Laughs

Miller's in the rain

We awoke early to a gray skies and a soft rain. We had breakfast and packed for Baboon Laughs, ignoring the elephant-in-the-room that was the rain and high chance the canyon was flooding right then. Instead of sitting around, we chose to hike up Miller's Creek. Miller's is a non-technical canyon that cuts through the sandstone ramp that makes up the western border of Hall's Creek.

We went up a mile or so, walked up the side to an alcove that sheltered us from the storm, and sat there for an hour talking. Then we went back to camp. Each hour that passed the rain fell harder and harder. Hiking down we saw more and more waterfalls appear.

Entering Miller's Creek narrows
Desert columbine
Sampling the sweet nectar of Mother Nature
Yep, this sucks - we want to be in the canyons right now

As the creek rose to it's highest point morale fell to its lowest. We were all soaked and we assumed we would just be sitting in the rain all weekend instead of doing canyons. At camp we chose to nap for a few hours until the rain cleared out.

Miller's Creek
Hiking in the rain

Baboon Laughs

View canyon rating for Baboon Laughs

Early afternoon the rain finally subsided, the clouds cleared out, and we had just enough time to go and attempt Baboon Laughs. We repacked, grabbed our headlamps, and headed up the ramp.

Hall's Creek on approach to Baboon Laughs

Early on I found myself struggling to keep up with the rest of the group. I would get tired and need a break or a drink so I'd stop and the rest of the group would continue. This has never happened to me before and it was a truly miserable experience. I know nobody else cared because we were moving quickly and had a short approach. I'd would be able to make up the time putting on my wetsuit or at the first rappel. Still, it sucked being the slow person.

Top of Baboon Laughs drainage

We down climbed the first rappel and rigged the second while getting wetsuits on. At that point in time I started feeling nauseous. I don't know if it was dehydration, anxiety, or a lingering sickness I had struggled with a few weeks ago, but I did not feel good at all. What a dilemma. We hiked, camped, did the approach, and I was in my wetsuit ready to go and suddenly I started feeling sick? What's that fallacy called where you are so invested in something you choose to continue with it even though it might not be a good idea? Yep, I chose to continue. Turned out to be the right choice.

The canyon was in "easy" mode thanks to the rain.

First swim
Partner assist down a chockstone

The potholes were all full and flowing so it was lots of easy swimming, down climbs, jumping some of the rappels, etc.

Poison Ivy
Kevin on rappel
Anthony and Mark getting ready to jump the rappel
Slide into water

Overall it was refreshing to get into a canyon after a day full of rain.

We shot through the canyon, making it back to camp with plenty of light for transitioning to dinner and bed. I went to be early hoping to get plenty of sleep for the big canyon the next day.

Apr 21 - Poe

View canyon rating for Poe


We got up at dawn, ate breakfast, and headed out to Poe at 7:00. I normally spend the entire approach of difficult canyons worrying about what we are going to face that day. Because of the rain the day prior, I spent the approach worrying about the difficult obstacles we would be missing because everything was going to be full. We finished the approach, geared up, and rappelled down into the canyon.

In Canyon

Once in the canyon, I was surprised to see that the potholes were getting emptier as we went deeper.

Excellent down climb performed by Jeremy
Handjam and as far down as he can go
Finished the climb

We actually encountered only one swim in the entire canyon. How weird is it that Baboon Laughs is only a quarter of a mile away and was flowing but Poe appears to have received no precipitation. We were so lucky!

Dropping into one of the empty potholes
On rappel
Another pothole
Rigging a sand trap
I tried to take a picture of the brand but it didn't turn out
Watching to see if it moves while weighted

Optional Potholes

We quickly arrived at a series of potholes that are avoidable. In the beta it says if you get to them after noon you should skip them since you need to hurry. We arrived well before and chose to do them. We passed all three in just 15 minutes, partner capturing down and partner assisting up and out of each one.

Experimenting with the water anchor - this drop had poor geometry and so we just down climbed it
Shuttling packs
Finished the optional potholes and on our way

Water Anchor

This was my first time to use a water anchor. We used an early version of the W'Anchor created by Steve Woodford and manufactured by On Rope Canyoneering. I'll write more about it in a dedicated article later. Short story is that it worked really well and I was very excited to be LAPAR the first time down. After that rappel we stopped for lunch.

Filling the water anchor
Set in place and ready to go
Green is rappel rope, orange is pull. Green pinches orange so it won't accidentally pull the plug and release the water.

Pit of Despair

Me getting ready to ascend out of the Pit of Despair

Shortly after noon we arrived at the Pit of Despair! We immediately got to work. Two of us filled potshots, one person rigged them to ropes, one person weighted the potshots and passed them up to the thrower, one person stemmed up to the throw position, and one person managed the ropes by coiling them and pulling missed potshots back.

Anthony and I near the Pit of Despair
This is where all the throws will take place
Looking high up at some bolts. This is an alternate way to get past the Pit

First throw, 1, 2, 3, miss! Second, 1, 2, 3, miss again! Third, 1, 2, 3, success! Fourth success, fifth success! Anyone else want to try?

The Throw

I wasn't going to miss my chance to know if I could make the throw.

I climbed up to height - not too hard. I got into position - it's awkward. The left wall is mostly vertical and the right wall has a bit of a slant. As you get farther forward, the right wall changes its angle and flares out and down into the pit.

I'm 6' 1" and I found the best spot for me was to get my right foot on that flared out part. And I went as far forward as I could.

Anthony chimneyed under me with his shoulder beneath my left foot. This was done in case I slipped - hopefully his shoulder would keep my foot from slipping too far. My foot was fully weighted on the wall and I actually wasn't touching Anthony at all.

I tied a butterfly loop a few feet from the potshot and grabbed that loop when swinging. Thinking about it now, I might want my swing to be as long as possible. Don't know, though.

The potshot was at the standard fill length for this throw - somewhere between 1/4 and 1/3 of the way full.

I started swinging and once I got a rhythm I counted 3 swings and released on 3.

I succeeded on the third try once I realized I needed to go as far forward as possible.

I did not take my wetsuit off (I heard that helps) and I did not have a safety line tied to my harness.

After making it I stepped down to give others a chance. Mark also tried, also made one over, and then stepped down.

New Throw Technique

We still had 2 potshots left and no one else wanted to give it a shot so Anthony suggested we try something he had been thinking about.

This requires 2 people, the thrower and the pendulum. The pendulum gets into the standard throw position - up high and far forward.

The thrower is chimneying below and behind the pendulum with their back against the left wall. In this position it is easiest for the thrower to aim the potshot right at the destination drop.

Maximizing the distance between the pendulum and thrower is crucial to getting a good throw. The thrower needs to be able to throw the potshot in the correct direction without it hitting any walls on the way there. But make it as long as possible otherwise.

Because the we need to maximize this distance, having someone below the pendulum spotting their foot like Anthony did for me is impossible. The pendulum has to be able to get up high and stay up there.

Once the two people are in position, the thrower holds the potshot and the pendulum holds the rope, tying a loop if it helps them grip the rope.

The thrower then counts to 3 and throws the potshot down as hard as they can. This is the same as pushing a child swing as hard as you can to try and wrap the swing around the top bar.

At the same time the thrower throws, the pendulum swings their arms up as if they are throwing by themselves and releases.

The thought behind all of this is that the pendulum has much more force swinging the potshot then they could ever get by themselves.

On our first attempt, I estimate the throw made it 12 feet beyond the lip.

The second and final attempt we were closer together and the timing was a little off so we only made it 3 feet over the lip - still farther than any individual attempt.

Jeremy did the climb. Since the pit was empty it was an easy start. He pulled each individual rope until it caught then batman'ed up all 7 strands. Once up everyone else soon followed and we were on our way.

We used the W'anchor for the rappel into the Pit
Jeremy after the climb
Jeremy and Kevin pulling Mark out

The Wart

Continuing on we made it to the next major pothole, The Wart. This one would demand just as much attention and preparation as the Pit of Despair if it weren't for a wart about the pothole. Someone climbs up to the wart, sets the rope, and rappels down to the other side.

Ken climbing up to the wart
The wart pothole from the up canyon side
Looking down into the wart hole

We hadn't put nearly enough thought into passing this obstacle so we kind of stumbled through it. We had the first and last people climb and rappel from the wart and set up a Tyrolean traverse for the rest. It worked fine but if we would have taken the time beforehand to discuss what to do it would have gone more smoothly.

Kevin traversing across the wart hole


Rigging the last rappel
Last rappel

After the wart the most difficult challenges is still ahead of us. Poison Ivy! After the final rappel we tip toed over, under, and around it and climbed up and out of the canyon at the first chance to avoid it.

It was then a short hike back to camp.

Apr 22 - Happy Dog

View canyon rating for Happy Dog

Happy dog is hands-down the best canyon of the three we all did this trip. Poe may have the greater challenges and bigger potholes, but Happy Dog wins with its beauty and how strenuous it was to complete. A trip to Hall's Creek is incomplete without a descent down this canyon.

The approach is closer to camp but has the most elevation gain of the three canyons. Near the top, it has a spectacular view into Halls Creek. This was also the only place we could see Lake Powell, the Bears Ears Buttes, and Bullfrog.

Looking down into Miller's Creek from near the top of Happy Dog

Also near the top there is a really cool arch that is actually more like a hollowed out dome. Really cool!

Mark at the arch
Jeremy at the arch
Within Happy Dog Arch

Once in the canyon we were treated to lots of R-rated stemming mixed with swim after swim after swim.

First high-stemming section
First high-stemming section
Jumping into a pool
More high stemming?
It opens up for a bit before more stemming and swimming
Anthony taking a shower at the bottom of last rappel
Alcove at bottom of last rappel

See also Anthony's trip report on Canyon Collective

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