Moonflower and U-Turn

November 9, 2018


Cold weather and short days brought us to Moab for the weekend. We wanted to stay dry so we eventually settled on Moonflower and U-Turn. Canyoneers for the day are me, Trent, and Brad.


View canyon rating for Moonflower

Moonflower was new to all of us but is short and beginner-friendly so we figured we'd be okay. I quickly looked at the beta the night before and just got the longest rappel length which was 200'. Turns out our 2 200'ers were not quite long enough so I had a pair adventurous rappels. I'll explain my mistakes and what I did to fix them. First the trip report, though.

Approach near the Colorado River

We got an early start and followed the jeep trail up the hill near the Colorado River. It was absolutely beautiful and I was so glad to be there, despite the freezing temperatures. We warmed up quickly on the approach and passed a broken down jeep on the way. Turns out the jeep got multiple flats and the owners needed a special tool to fix one so they abandoned it for the day before and picked it up that morning. Glad they got everything worked out.

Broken-down jeep on the approach
Near the top of the stair-master section where it starts to level out
Show of Moab on the approach

We hand lined the first rappel while spotting each other down. Then we made our way to the only mandatory rappel in the canyon.

Top of first big rappel. Frozen puddle in the foreground and the Colorado in the background.
Brad on the first rappel

Short Rope 1

Since Brad hadn't been rappelling in a while, I rigged the rappel slightly different from normal. Since it is a long rappel and I wanted to rigcontingency, I rigged a Jester and put the bend that joined the two ropes on the rappel side of the rope. I did this so that I wouldn't have to pass a knot if I had to lower someone. The two ropes I had were an Imlay Canyonero (fat rope in this instance) and Sterling C-IV (the skinny rope). I had everyone rappel on the fat rope because it provided more friction.

After everyone else was down, I pulled out the Jester and went downdouble-strand. As I was going down, the fat rope was sticking in my rappel device and the skinny rope started slipping through the rapide. When I got near the bottom, the skinny rope was now 10' from the bottom of the rappel!

To solve it, I tied a long sling to the short rope, had someone clip into it and provide a meat anchor, and then transitioned to the fat rope only and finished the rappel. I was able to do it safely and efficiently and was quite happy about that.

The problems weren't quite finished when I got down, though. Now we had a rope with a knot on one side and a sling on the other. We tried pulling the sling down - re-equalizing the rope lengths - so that we could untie it and then pull the other rope down. For some reason we couldn't pull it down at all though. Our solution was to simply find higher ground where we could reach the knot and untie the sling. Then pulling down the rope was possible and we continued on our way.

Short Rope 2

Wanting to cleanse my palette from that blunder of a rappel, I wanted to do the final optional rappel and do it right. We walked around to get a good look at the rappel and couldn't find anyone below so we rigged and went down. Trent goes down first. He yells up that it's short again. Ugh.

I had rigged this one with biner block and the bend was behind the rigging. I started to convert to lower and hear Trent yell, "Off rope!" So it wasn't short?

Brad goes down and yells off rope and I'm on my way. I go over the edge, drop the pull side, and assess the situation. Both ropes are dangling 10' above ground. I am told it's okay so down I go. I again attach a sling to the pull side to get it long enough that Brad can grab it. I then grab onto it while he hikes up the hill, pulling me over to higher ground where I can safely de-rig. Again we manage a rappel with short ropes.

As we were hiking back to the car, Brad told me that these 2 rappels were his longest rappels to date. I replied that these were my longest rappels with a 200' rope.


View canyon rating for U-Turn

We were originally going to Pool Arch but because of the likelihood of having to wade through water we opted to do U-Turn Canyon instead.

This was the only Park Avenue canyon the other two had yet to do. It is relatively short and with only a few hours of daylight left we chose it over Elephant Butte and Big Horn.

Top of U-Turn
Round the corner to a great view of The Organ

Of the three Park Avenue canyons, U-Turn is my favorite. It has the best views, the best down climbs, and the best exit hike. What's not to love?

Another great view from the top of the final rappel
Wile E. Coyote Rock - a cool rock formation a short distance away from the final rappel

I must admit, after that last canyon, I was pretty worried about the final rappel in this canyon. I knew the rappel was about 90' but had it in my mind that it was going to change to 110' so we wouldn't have enough rope if we used just a 200'er.

We rigged and rapped and I found myself alone at the top again. I had them hold the bottom of the rappel side and pulled the rope up to set the length before I went. I then tied the other 200 to the end of the rappel rope and threw all of that down. Of course the other 200'er wasn't needed and just thumped down on the ground.

So I sheepishly made my way down the rappel while they were cleaning up that extra rope. The pull was the easiest pull I have experienced on that rappel. I guess that means I can do things correctly when it comes to canyoneering.

Brad posing near Wile E. Coyote Rock

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