Canyon Tales
Imlay Goes “au Natural”
by Steve Brezovec & Brian Cabe

Route:  Beginning at the Grotto, up past Angels Landing, to the left–hand cutoff to Imlay, down to the Narrows, ending at Temple of Sinawava.

Equipment:  Harnesses, locking biners, 15' Happy Hooker, extra slings, bolt kit with painted bolts, hangers & rapides, pocket aiders, 140' and 165' lengths of 7.8 mm ice floss. Helmets, drybags, lunch, headlamps, 4 liters water each. Aid hooks (not used). Shorty wetsuit (BC) and Drysuit (SB, (both not used)). Extra clothing (not used). Forgot the cigars. Doh.

Corresponding Map:  Temple of Sinawava

Up the Angels Landing trail we go. Both of us feeling the lack of sleep, yet still killing kittens. Lose the herd after we pass Angels Landing. The sun’s coming up but we’re still in the shade so far. We find our cutoff route easily and begin our cross–country journey, staying high on the sandstone shelf to the left until finding a comfortable ramp down. We head into the main drainage and some painful bushwacking ensues. It’s not a trip until you’re bleeding.

We crest the cutoff pass and begin descending, wild raspberries abound, a delightful little snack, many, many new fallen trees. We reach the point where this winter, Mel, Tom, and the author rapped. Instead we head left when the canyon becomes impassable, cut across and out of the drainage, and locate the tree with the 20–foot handline (as per Bill and Brian’s winter descent the week following ours). Good call. Soon we’re at Imlay and stop for pepperonni sandwiches and hydration.

It’s really warm and the water level is reportedly really low. Do we dare try this without wetsuits/drysuits? Sure why not. How ’bout without clothing? Bet that’s not real common.

Brian wears shorts. The author wears a harness and concealing Petzl Helmet. Here we go.

Comfy. Cozy. A few shallow pools but they’re short and warm. The first several anchors are all natural. I should mention how aromatic the pools are. Also, that the author ‘eliminated’ at least 3 or 4 of the first rappels.

We bypassed the first bolt by upclimbing out of the canyon, traversing and downclimbing a slopey area with a low ceiling.

Second bolt—bypassable LDC left by anchoring off a pair of small trees. We rerig this way and proceed. Li’l keeper at the bottom is the first challenge. Last time I was here I hooked a high hole while standing on Mel’s shoulders. The goal today is to use no hooks in drilled holes at all, so we go for something different.

Several packtosses later, we’ve managed to get my pack up over the semi–lip on top of this keeper. I stand on Brian’s shoulders and then his hands as he fully extends, and I just barely get enough friction on the rock to pull out. Definitely a challenge and more than a little scary. Medium penalty points for a fall there. One down, three to go.

A few more raps and we eventually use another bolt. This one could be potentially bypassed one of two ways: There is a lodged tree trunk about 10' above the canyon floor about 30' upcanyon that one could possibly sling some webbing over and use. Or one could extend a 50–100' length of webbing from the previous rappel anchor (a log) up around the corner (ugly).

Our intention was to replace some bolts, but none of the anchors in the first set of narrows are really that bad. We bypass replacing any of these.

The pothole that you typically lasso, we missed the lasso toss and instead threw a tied–off rope bag up so it wedged between the log and the canyon wall. Up and out, no problem.

Next keeper isn’t really a keeper as the author gave it a ‘Young Turk’ run and sprung out of it. Happy 30th Birthday to the author!

(Brian’s Note • And ... was improbably wild. You might mention I had a baffled, “How the fetch did he do that?” look on my face.)

We come to the arch that we previously simul–rapped, but now it has a piton in it that neither of us remember. We yank it and simul–rappel down.

At the piton coming straight out of the wall, we tap on it a bit but it wasn’t coming out too easily. It protects what is normally a 15’ buttslide. The author downclimbs and thigh–belays Brian.

(Brian’s Note • You might mention (so folks don’t freak) that we didn’t remove the pin and it seemed unusually secure.)

At the break between the narrows sections, we lie down and take an hour–and–a–half nap. We were sleepy and semi–whacked from the heat. Brian finishes the last of his water.

At the next keeper, where previously the author had stood on ice and Happy–Hookered a pair of slings, we were much too low for such success. Partially standing in water, Brian attempts to hook the slings with the new longer (15') hooker. Tom wanted to know how long was the ideal length for the hooker in extremely dry Imlay conditions. The answer is ... one more section length than what we had. Eventually we just place the happy hooker with two aiders on a rock horn and the author climbs the aiders. The author nearly cries at the top when he sees how precarious the placement was. Two down, two to go, no hooks.

By now we’ve seen several of the Kelsey hammer holes. These were not drilled as rappel anchors but as hook placements to get out of keepers. The difference between a Kelsey placement and a drilled hole is the Kelsey placements have fractured the surface of the rock around them a bit and have flaked off 2–3 inch wide sections of surface rock around his (supposed) 1" × 1" holes. More like 1" × ½" gouges, but they look bad next to the 3/8" drilled holes next to them. Brian thinks they’d make more secure hook placements and won’t blow out as soon as the normal drilled holes. The author thinks they’re ugly. Bad Idea Jeans. Biggest problem is that instead of being drilled at spacings indicating a high–stepped aider, they’re drilled much closer together than normal hook holes—like 2"–3" apart. Real pity.

Next keeper is not normally a keeper—usually you just swim over and out. Not today. The water isn’t low enough to stand and our packtosses seem futile. Eventually we do a dual toss—one section of rope with a weight on each end—the middle is clipped into the author. Brian tosses bag one over, then bag two. The author and Brian swim out, the author with a log in his hand which he wedges against the canyon floor and stands on before pulling up on the rope and standing on one of Brian’s hands. V3 pothole, sparse handholds. Very satisfying. Three down, one to go.

The last keeper is preceeded by a bolt ladder leading up around LDC right on a bolted ledge. Yuck. PAINT YOUR HANGERS please. I know we can’t all agree on bolt ethics, but can we all agree that a painted, camoflauged hanger is better than the bright shinies? Yuck. Needless to say, we skip the bypass (as if!) and begin working the last pothole. Brian busily adds a bolt up above (backing up an old leeper, probably from the first descent—the hanger was loose and was recalled by Leeper at least three times) while The author easily Happy Hookers the anchors and pulls up and out. There Brian adds the second bolt of the day, and we feel ourselves growing weary.

(Brian’s Note • Might help to mention on this and below that I’m backin’ up bolts for redundancy for a couple of reasons: old bolts of dubious quality and single bolt back–up. Er something.)

One more single bolt anchor asked us to back him up but we said, “no little bolt, we are too tired. We’ll come back and back you up another day.” Two or three other stations prior to this could probably also still use some lovin’, but we found reasonable natural anchors nearby so we didn’t bother.

River rushin’ narrows sound. Down to the perch. I decide this would be a good time to put on some *more* clothes (no need to offend the populace). Brian is relieved.

(Brian’s Note • You might mention that there’s no way to account for the untold horror of havin’ a naked partner. Log crossings and spotting downclimbs especially could induce a delayed stress which might prove to haunt a person for many years.)

(Steve’s Response • I was not naked. I was wearing a helmet, harness & shoes. Practically fully clothed!)

We rig the 150' to the river and head for home.
Total time: 13½ hours.

So if you’re heading to Imlay, remember:
No hooks/clothing required.

July 16, 2002

(Brian’s Postscript • You might add additional verbage about the many natural anchors, difficult rappel starts, roadrash body parts, smelly water holes, dead critters in pools (remember that bird I flung toward you...), and the fixed stopper.

Another thing that amazed me was the relative cleanliness of the canyon. We only picked up a small amount of trash (one wrapper). Another thing to emphasize was that we did clean a bunch of webbing out, like, maybe three or four stations.

Besides the Kelsey damage, the canyon is in a great state of repair. Really, with removal of webbing, the canyon is in much much cleaner, more pristine shape that when I did it for the first time. Low garbage, low slings on anchors. Nice!

Last comment, “FIRST NEKKID DESCENT OF IMLAY!!!” I’ll bet!

(Steve’s Response • I was NOT NEKKID!!!!!)

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© 2002 Steve Brezovec & Brian Cabe