Tales of an Incompetent Adventurer
Almost a Classic
by Ram

We were coming off our wonderful day in the No Mans system. We were going to do something in Sams Mesa canyon. Maybe do something in the south fork of No Mans, or main fork Twin Corral. We wanted to get around to these places we had never been to, but we had family and friends and these days are long. Nice? Probably. Great? Nah. What to do?

We thought to rally to some old standby classics. Alcatraz ... or Larry ... or Not Mindbender. But this person had done this one and that fella had done that one and she had done that one before. How to get everyone into something new? It turns out that only Doc Rosen had done Not Mindbender (Tom and I don’t count).

So I ask Tom, “Any potential explorations on your docket nearby?”

He answers, “Well there is Almost Mindbender.”

I reply, “Almost Mindbender, Almost Mindbender, let’s do Almost Mindbender. Where is Almost Mindbender?”

He pull a map and points. “Oh, that little thing? Well if it isn’t much, we can try and hike up Not Mindbender by trying to ascend the drops and join our family and friends.”

And so it is decided. The group splits in two and Doc Rosen, Aaron, Jason C., Big Ryan the Crane, Tom, and I are off on exploration.

Car shuttles are done and we start into and across Mindbender canyon. We hike the Carmel isthmus between Mindbender and Not Mindbender. Once there we head for Not Mindbender’s most western fork. Yes, that little thing. I thrive on the navigation and it is a joy getting there. But when we arrive there, it disappoints. We can see down a shallow wash for half the fork’s length. Open, easy country is what we see. As short as the fork is, it needed to slot up right away up high to deliver enough goods—or so we thought. We wrestled with it. Do we lose the altitude to look at that ‘little thing,’ or do we head back while there was still time and rally elsewhere.

Well, we decide that we are here and we must know its secrets, this almost–a–canyon with the working name of ‘Almost Mindbender.’ To the slot–up spot we go for a peek. Everyone grabs a different angle to view it from.

Aaron, at the drop, says, “A rap into a wet pothole.”

When Aaron says it’s a rap, it’s a rap.

A ledge narrows on the right rim and Tom edges out.

I am across the way and say, “Turn that corner and it will work.”

From his perspective ... errrr, not so sure, but around the corner it does go. Now we are everywhere. Lower rim, ledges here and there and even views into the main Not Mindbender. Boy, it looks good down there. But the main canyon we see below is only a 10–minute walk to the final rap. Not much of a day, we think.

We discuss heading back up the hill and over into Mindbender proper. Only Tom has been in that canyon. I suggest that they rap into this Almost Mindbender canyon and take a look, as long as we are here. Then come back up. We can always move quickly, later in the day, to make back the time invested now.

Big Ryan and I stay on the rim, lounging and listening. I stroll the rim and steal peeks down into the canyon as our heros proceed along. I hear excitement below. It is good and it is challenging.

I here Doc Rosen say, “I don’t think I can reverse this.”

No one comments on this and they go forward, the pull of the place leading them on.

After a bit, Tom calls from the depths, “Any anchors on the rim down canyon to send a rope down for a jug out above me?”

I sprint off to investigate. Umm, this should work. It will take some preparation, but ... I call down, “Yes, buddy, we can do ya!”

He says, “Go set her up.”

I sprint and rouse a nearly naked, slumbering Ryan and say, “Work to be done.”

We break down the anchor at the canyon head, gather the gear, and head to a large boulder on a good fall line down into the canyon above the voices heard below. We place Ryan behind the boulder and he is the anchor. Now I must move over 50 rocks, big and small, from the fall line, so our friends below can avoid incoming missiles let loose by their own jugging. I finish and toss the rope. The rope lands 30 feet below them downcanyon. I hear a collective moan. Sorry boys, a fall line is a fall line, and they must go to the rope. Aaron is up and out. Tom follows. When we meet up top, he has that look in his eye.

“Ram, its really good!” he says.

I ask, “Ya wanna go all the way then?”

He nods with enthusiasm. It is decided. We present options to Doc and Jason, in the bowels of the canyon: come up and redo the upper part or stay put and wait for the four of us up top to descend from the very top. They decide to stay where they are and the four of us scramble to the canyon head to rerig the anchor, and down the rope 30 feet we go. Ryan helps to keep the rest of us only knee deep in the drink in that first pothole, pulling us over with his considerable strength.

The hesitation is gone. We are committed! A stem up and an elevator down. Pothole lip to pothole lip. A fun dance. Then some steep downclimbs.

Doc and Jason call from ahead. “Got rope?”

“No,” I say, “Big Ryan hauls the pig (220 ft).”

Great little climbing moves present themselves. Steep steps. What fun. Then I am there with Mark on top of the drop and Jason below in the crack, with half the drop downclimbed. A bombay, widening below him, has given him cause for pause. Finally, the rope is on hand. The area is free of all anchor material ... except that almost perfectly placed horn. Almost, but not perfect. The horn points down. It didn’t quite point in exactly the right direction. When Tom has doubts, I listen. The Doc likes the anchor anyway ... well, he can go last then.

The rap is executed—a 60–footer down into a narrow corner. The test pull, which involved shaking of the rope, had freed the sling and the rope. Should be a clean and easy retrieval.


We discovered something new that can go wrong. When you flick a double rope up over a minor lip, the rope can get twists above the lip that you can’t see, making the pull ... ahhh ... challenging. We are hell bent on retrieving the sling. Totally ghosted is the canyon till here and we wish to keep it so. We do a test pull to make sure we can pull the rope through the webbing. It works, then go back to flicking the rope for the full retrieval, including the webbing. After awhile, we decide to leave the sling. It is not coming ... but, now, there are so many twists above the little lip the rope won’t pull either. We worked really hard to screw this one up. Got a little greedy. So you untwist once and test the pull again and again. But it doesn’t untwist the rope above the mid–rappel lip. Finally, Aaron is called back from downcanyon and he climbs 25 of the 60 feet up and works the untwisting of the rope from a better vantage point. Finally the rope pulls. A tad embarrassed, we head further down.

After some stemming, we arrive at the final drop, a 40–footer with a narrow start into an open and beautiful corridor. Soon our Not Mindbender friends peek in and see us and us them. Each vantage point looks impressive. Another beautiful Colorado Plateau Grand Finalé rappel. Once down, I marvel at the final drop. Could it be downclimbed? Perhaps at a high level. The spot has special air to it—no wonder it was on Tom’s tick list.

Now in main Not Mindbender, we stop short of the final rap to allow our friends an experience unfettered by our presence and opinions. Once our friends have cleared the rap area, Jason and I slide down the rope. Tom has decided to remove the rats nest of colorful webbing. It looks like a line of Buddhist prayer flags at this anchor. Tom lines up help and builds a deadman, all the while teaching my boy and others ‘the ropes.’ I grow cold and leave as I see Aaron farming 50–pound rocks from below into a pack for the haul up. Big Ryan is the man for the haul and the rocks fly up the drop pronto. I am not needed here and it is cool. I seek sun and a nap.

Another exit short of the Moki exit is examined and determined to be doable but with consequences for any misstep. I take a rope on the Moki’s, thank you very much and up the hill we go. Almost Mindbender was short, but, boy, was it good. 3A/B II-III 3 raps to 60 feet. Perhaps an R rating is called for as others will sequence some of those downclimbs we did. Oh and you still have the 95–foot rap down Not Mindbender so it is really 4 raps to 95 feet. The possibility of ascending Not Mindbender from the Almost Mindbender confluence was tossed about and considered for another day.

We almost didn’t go. We almost turned back when we saw it. We almost made the mistake of not finishing this fine canyon.



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