Canyon Tales
Sandthrax Solo
by Scott Card

My friend Steven Jackson, Spiderman Steve, just got back from a four–day trip to Escalante and the North Wash area. After having done Neon, Egypt 2 and 3, the group went to North Wash. After making the trek from Escalante, the group did Foolin’ Around.

Spiderman Steve was not done though. He has been talking about doing Sandthrax since FreezeFest.

There is no chest thumping for Steve and it was me who wanted him to tell the tale. This is one of those canyons that he simply had to do. I am not up to his game nor is anyone in my little group. But he was there and he was overcome with the taunting of Sandthrax right next to him.

He is standing here as I type.

— June 9, 2006 —

Steve arranged to have three of his group be his support team on top with 600 feet of rope just in case. Steve went into the canyon solo with his harness, camel pack, a 100–foot rope, ascenders, and only the memory of the description of the canyon. (Mind you Steve has quite a bit of climbing experience and, having been with him, I can vouch for his skills.)

Start time 7:30 PM.

After having done the entrance and the short rap, the game began. Steven stated that the canyon is well–deserving of the X rating. The stemming was as described and done as fast as he could. Steve said that there were two silos that were protected: A piton (?) in one and a bolt in another silo and one had a regular nonlocking oval biner left. No need, Steven downclimbed about 20 feet to where he felt it wasn’t so exposed, then crossed the silos, and then motored back up.

At the crux, Steve started to do a traditional climb but was too fatigued from the prior days’ hikes and Foolin’ Around earlier that same day. Rather than attempt the off–width crack, he chimneyed the silo next to it and got up high enough to try to stretch to the crack to cross over it. He became too fatigued and went back down to the bottom to rest. After a short rest and a sincere petition to his heavenly support staff (not the rim staff), he went back up the chimney. When he arrived at the spot close enough to stretch to the crack, he created an arm bar in the crack but was not getting enough friction to feel secure enough to throw his weight to the crack. So he pulled his pack up to him as he was spread–eagle in the silo and tossed it downcanyon. On the third try, it stuck and he was able, with one arm in the crack, to pull his weight over to the crack and climb the rest of it. The tricky part was to shift the weight from the silo to the crack, and the rope gave him the leverage to do so. After the crux, the canyon widens out and Steve went to the bottom only to be forced back up for the final stem.

Back at camp by 8:45 PM

Yes there are three witnesses to the amazing descent. I only wish I could have been there to witness it myself. He may not have done it ‘cause I would have told him he was starting too late. Cautious me.


Scott Card



Comments on Sandthrax
by Steven Jackson

As for the crux, I chimneyed up the silo immediately in front of the off–width. It is a stretch. You’d better be tall and/or flexible. I chimneyed about 20 feet up from the ledge you can stand on with those two nasty-looking (if you fell) sideways–type monoliths. I then pulled my pack up as it was down on the ledge, tied to me by my rope, and tossed it downcanyon horizontal to me. The first two times it didn’t wedge. So I climbed down, rested, prayed, and went back up. That time it stuck and, with an arm bar, I was able to shift my weight over onto my right foot which was wedged in the crack. Then I stemmed up and over to my pack, retrieved it, and continued. A teather ball or volleyball in a pack would work well, I think. They might be too uniform in shape to lodge well. I don’t know.

Also, to anyone who’s wondering, yes the time was 1:15 maybe as much as 1:30 truck–to–truck. I checked my clock when I got to my truck to get my gear 7:16 PM. I assumed it took me about ten minutes to change my shoes and gather gear. Time back at the truck was 8:45 PM straight up. One of my support crew said I popped out of the canyon just before 8:40 PM.


Spidey

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© 2006 Scott Card & Steven Jackson