Canyon Tales
FREEZEFEST XVI — 2017–2018
A Christmas Heaps
by Tom Jones

— Christmas Day 2017 —

Steve Ramras, Jonathan Zambella, Tre C Kwan, Tim Hoover, Sonny Lawrence, and Tom Jones.

The canyon was kind. It let us escape. Thank you Mr. Heaps.

Perfect (warm) weather. We came down Gunsight, which was just fine—perfect temps for wearing enough clothing to keep from getting torn up on the downclimbs. It faces south so it was snow–free to about 100 yards from Heaps.

There was a bit of snow at the crossroads. But ... those two potholes just past the bivy spot (which we often rap around off a small tree) were almost empty. As in, maybe a foot of water in there—the lowest I have ever seen. I had no idea they were so deep.

Down the big sandy corridor. Into the maw of the terminal narrows. Did the ‘boulder–problem’ section. The first rappel was into a pool, our first swim, then a stump–type climb–out on the other side, and then a rap into the first keeper.

Experience in pothole problems counts, a lot. We basically had three pothole–experienced persons, Jonathan, Sonny, and Tom. So, of course, the three non–pothole peeps were out in front, looking at the keeper pothole saying, “What do we do?” Well, you go down there and find out how bad it really is. They were reluctant. So I rapped in, swam over, maneuvered through a space big enough for three to get to the top. Looked bad. Getting onto rap is very challenging. Tim gave me a belay and lowered me—easier than trying to downclimb onto the anchor which is low and hard to get to. Tim lowered me into the water then fed me rope.

I have been challenged in this pothole before when water is low. But the exit is low–angle and, usually with careful effort, one can get out. Beyond this pothole, the exit is flat and just rock so throwing stuff cannot work. For the last couple years, this pothole has been filled with sand and essentially unnoticeable. Now, today, the water was three feet lower, no longer low–angle, and slimy. At the exit, the pothole was a swimmer. This was going to be very, very difficult, and only the first of what would likely be 15 keeper potholes. And my drysuit was leaking. Which all adds up to ‘not today.’ I swam back to the rope and had Tim pull me up a bit, bumping like a sports–climber to get half out of the water. Got the ascending kit out, climbed the rope. We went back.

The biggest problem was the short rap in the Crossroads off the little tree. We tried tossing something up around the tree, which was possible, but it did not fall back down the other side. With some aggressive spotting, Jonathan climbed the crack on the left. Good effort.

From there, we climbed up the South Fork of Heaps over to Isaac. That is an amazing hike up. There was a big landslide in there, and, after a few boulder moves, we ascended 200 feet of steep, loose scree. Then we bushwhacked across a flat field of roses (thankful for wearing full suits) and then more climbing etc ... to the top of the pass and down the other side. After an hour in the dark, it was time to bivy. We found an OK place with firewood and settled in. Jonathan found some water. A nice fire was made and my clothing dried out over the next hour—the clothing that was wet, probably, because I did not get my zipper all the way shut! After a bit, we pulled out what we had for sleeping and settled in. Much snoring occured, though not everyone really slept. The night was in the forties, so not so bad.

We got up about 5 AM to head downcanyon, hoping to get to the end where cell service was likely—as early in the morning as possible—to head off any rescue operation and let our loved ones know where we were. We got to the final section about at dawn (7:30), texted out, did the rappels, and packed up. Getting down to a trail from there is challenging, and we made sure to get full value from that–we did not find the best route. An hour of struggle and we finally found the trail, where Catrin, Massimo, and Sue were waiting for us. A short walk brought us out to the Court parking area. Cars, water, food, and a very pleasant debrief with the rangers who were happy to not have to go get us.

Then we had Christmas dinner at Sue and Tim’s. Everyone but me took a nap. I drove the 40 minutes home ... with an 80 minute nap at the North Fork Road. Then I ate—a lot.

Thus, I have BEEN IN Heaps in winter. And I no longer need to DO Heaps in winter.


Tales of FreezeFest:
Perfect Beginning • Ram
Escape from Canyon X • Tom Jones
FreezeFest II • Ram
Logjams in the Black Hole • Ram
Fixed Ropes in the Black Hole • Dave Black
Joining the Shenanigans Club • Ryan Cornia
FreezeFest III • Ram
Cheese on Ice • Ram
FreezeFest IX (short film) • Dan Ransom  
Crystal Kaleidoscope • Ram
Christmas in Imlay • Ram
A Left Fork Christmas • Ram
Call of the Wild • Ram
Mysterious Christmas • Ram
Holy Water • Ram
A Christmas Heaps • Tom Jones

 tales  ‹›  new 

© 2018 Nolan Thomas Jones