Canyon Tales
Logjams in
the Black Hole

by Ram


“ The Black Hole of White Canyon • 4B R/X III

A flash flood on Sept 9, 2003 moved an enormous quantity of wood into the canyon, which settled in unstable wood piles right at the longest pool of the Black Hole. The Black Hole used to be a great, pretty casual stroll for a hot summer day—now it is not. This is quite a dangerous place, as passing the canyon involves a couple of very dangerous things:
  · Climbing under massive, unstable wood piles;
  · Climbing over, on top of and up massive, unstable wood piles;
  · Rappelling down the loose face of the wood pile;
  · Swimming through very cold pools that are choked with loose wood, making swimming difficult, exiting the pools difficult, and extending the exposure to cold water substantially.

Canyoneers who are not strong swimmers will have a very difficult time.”

       —T. Jones, Tom's Utah Canyoneering Guide.


•  FreezeFest — Jan. 1, 2004  •

The next day was the 2nd annual New Year’s Day descent of the Black Hole. We arrived, the 4 of us—Tom, Eric, Vlad and I—at 10:30 am to meet Dave Black and his 2 friends. The weather would get up into the 30’s under cloudy skies. We had heard that there had been a major flood in the Black Hole on September 9th and that it had created some new obstacles. We chose to throw in a couple of harnesses and 150 ft of 6 mm pull cord. The approach went well, cracking the ice on an occasional pool, until reaching the Black Hole section proper ... coming around the corner there stood a log jam 40 feet high, blocking the entire canyon.

OK! This is a little different.

Mr. Black led the way crawling through the darkness, under the log jam making sure not to touch any of the potentially unstable logs supporting tons of other logs. Out the backside we went and into the hole section and found it completely dry where Dave and I have been swimming for decades. Stunned, we wandered down canyon, lamenting the loss of our old classic.

Then the next bend displayed a wet section so filled with logs and debris that passage looked dubious. Vladman jumped in, developed a style of pushing down on the logs and pushing them behind him in the process. We all followed suit. Soon we came to a log jam larger than the last.

Now understand there is no real shoreline in such a thing, so when one attempts to climb up on the log jam, the logs just give out, one after another, and progress is nearly impossible. Add the stress of undermining the log jam further and one realizes one is in a rather dangerous situation. I hadn’t felt this way since I was under some seracs (ice blocks) this last summer in the northern Cascades. The thoughts of the ‘Texas A&M’ bonfire also came to mind.

After great efforts and once on the log jam proper and out of the water one wanders and twists and climbs through chambers within the complex jam which proved to be over 75 yds long. Felt like Jules Verne’s ‘Journey to the Center of the Earth.’ Winding and climbing carefully, we soon found our way to the top. Carefully stepping to its edge, we found ourselves 60 feet above the canyon bottom.

At this point we carefully rappelled and downclimbed down to the canyon floor, trying not to get pulverized by the occasional large log falling to the canyon bottom. The log jam that historically has been wedged overhead, at the end of the Black Hole section, is completely gone. Two new swimming sections have been created, and one old one, in addition to the one at the beginning of the Black Hole, is now dry and filled in with deep sand. The day took an hour and ½ longer than normal, and again we slipped out with an hour of daylight left. Scott Patterson was waiting at the exit spot. He was supposed to join us but arrived a little less than an hour late. Had he known, we would encounter such difficulties, he could have caught us.


Ram


•  Epilogue  •
FreezeFest — Jan. 1, 2007

13 festers descended the canyon ... all the logjams have finally dislodged and Black Hole has returned to its 2B II rating.

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© 2004 Steve Ramras