Tales of an Incompetent Adventurer
The New Frosted Flakes
by Ram

I had visited the canyon several times. A good one with an X section that could be descended or bypassed—so many of my friends, who lack the taste for such things as highball stemming, could visit many of the canyon’s memorable features: sculpted stone, swirling up in wondrous shapes and delicate curves, yet still requiring some R–level stemming. It has a warm up section that sets the tone. Go the hard way, or jog around it and back in? A straight, big walled section, complete with a small cave and a high downclimb. Then the long dark corridor. So dark that there are places in there, at certain times of the day, where there is no light of any kind filtering down to you. Pitch black! I have gone through without a headlamp and far ahead of my partners. Nat said that I could, and I did that very first time. Now hearing Doc Rosen’s story about snakes!!! SHUDDER!!

Beyond this remarkable feature is the difficult and physical climb–up over and out of the section. Some very nice canyon follows and then the final rap, a 65–foot one, down into Sleepy Hollow. The canyon’s name is Big Tony, named after a deceased friend of the Steve Allen crew. Rumor had Tony to be larger than life, size and personality–wise. In the days before Kelsey published it (under Sleepy Hollow), it made one of Tom’s picture Raves. With a clever bit of misdirection, he called the canyon Frosted Flakes, for the cereal hyped by another Big Tony ... Tony the Tiger.

Ahhhh, but, at that last rap, a beautiful spot where the walls rise to 100’s of vertical feet above you, streaked with water stains and varnish, standing sentinel above the cave–like passages which radiate splendid bright orange light ... My eyes drifted up and saw ... what looked like a pouroff way above. Seems a canyon comes out there and drops down from way above. I wonder. I wonder. How high is the drop? 150 feet? 200? Over 200? Can one land on top of the the final rap of Tony, from the other canyon, thus shortening the drop and splitting into two? Where water falls on sandstone, evidence is present ... and it looks like it is close. Swing over? Maybe. Best not count on that. On approach, the next trip through Big Tony, I spot 3 shortish slots that enter the main Big Tony slot from the side that I saw this canyon enter. But which one is the canyon I saw? I search the rim for a view. I am pretty sure I know.

Someday ... someday.

Fast forward to last month and I am up in the area for a week. I have new friends doing moderate canyons early week. Well, mostly moderate for the area. Not really moderate at all. Tough neighborhood. Many a spot still has the potential to bite. Late in the week, some talented and driven canyoneers come in and the plan is to escalate the challenges. But it doesn’t quite line up. The early week folks are staying a day too long ... or is it the burly vets are coming a day too early? What to do? Nothing fits ... then it hits me like an inspiration ...


Numbers nice for explorations. Might be easy, might be hard. Should provide flexibility on making a commitment to it ... well in theory anyway. Fun for the whole family. Some sales on the plan and everyone signs on. Something new here, where almost everything nearby is an X? Well, this is smaller and might, could, should, maybe ... I hope it to be reasonable.

Explorations have painful side effects. You are compelled to bring everything, including the kitchen sink. Lots of rope, webbing, potshots, you name it. Never know what you will need. The packs are large. But no bolt kit will come. It is decided that, if it can’t be done by means we as a group consider fair, then we won’t do it at all. We will measure carefully the boundary between gung–ho curiosity and the subtle slip into commitment. The hike in takes us up and over slickrock country. The views are wonderful. The area is a wilderness. Long Branch of Sleepy Hollow blocks easy access for our planned approach, but I remember from a past trip into the area there is a 75–yard gap between two difficult high–stemming areas. Only here can someone cross the canyon without completely circling it. We are lucky today. We hit that 75–yard gap right on.

Now the country becomes more complex. Or are we now just going against the grain? I think the latter. Soon we come to a canyon. Our canyon, we think. V–shaped and nice. We head it and head into it, and soon we head a drop into a pothole with water. Do we really want to head in there? We put our heads to together and decide that is where we will head ... the head of a new and unknown canyon. Heady stuff ... OK, I’ll stop.

It appears we have a 200–foot section of potholes ahead. Steep at this entry, it also appears we can access the canyon a bit down below. Stevee B. joins us today and suggests that we can drape the 200–foot rope over the whole narrows here and, with anchoring off of people up top and from a pack down below, have the materials in place to fix the whole section as needed. Seems a bit stilted but it is safe and, using this method while going in 2 separate groups of 3, we can leave this section of canyon totally clean.

Wetsuits and harnesses come out and on. Stevee raps in. A guided rap allows Mark, Landon, and Eric to follow and stay dry. Tom and I remain behind, providing meat for the anchor and rim–manpower for any assistance requests. No help is needed, as they partner–assist and climb their way past a few somewhat challenging obstacles. Then rim support is provided for Tom and I to take our turn. Ropes bagged, we stroll several hundred feet to another section of potholes, this one looking a bit more challenging.

Tom and I get to go first this time. Stevee and Eric stay on the rim. A bridge is at the entry. Tom raps off. He becomes the anchor and I rap off the other side....and WOW! its a double bridge as we peek–a–boo each other through the 2nd and lower hole. We arrive at a tricky rap. The keeper below wants to suck you into it. I rap to the end, get just low enough, aaaaaaaannnnndddd reach out with that toe, aaaaaaannnnndddd just tippy toe balance over the lip. I get to guide my following partners in between pictures. Later, the rap will be done off of meat from the rim. Easier that way. Cheating? Well, that’s for you to decide. The 2nd pothole section relents and we stroll in the desert.

Soon it narrows, then a short drop. The group sequences it. Some stay in and follow to a larger drop. It will be a 25–foot rap. Others, including me, edge out of the canyon and stroll a high prominent rim toward the confluence of this canyon and Big Tony Fork. As we walk the rim, we note that the canyon gets deep. The canyon gets narrow. You never know whether or not this means that the canyon will become a stemming one. There is just no way to tell. The only way to find out is to go down there.

Who volunteers to rap down? The ever ready Stevee B. There is a mound near the drop–in, and I become an effective anchor, sitting over the top, using the mound as friction. Stevee enters where we think there is about 100 yards below to the final drop off once in the canyon. We call over to those back at the initial drop of this final section of canyon. They are 400 yards away, a not too short section of canyon, especially if it goes difficult. Soon we hear from Stevee below. He raps into a stem. He continues to stem. He uses the rope, still anchored at the rim, as a handline for a slide–down ramp ... and then someone turns out the lights. It is dark. He needs headlamps. He requests two of them. He says that we aren’t likely going to be able to do the canyon today. I deflate. Why? He can’t hear my question. Or perhaps he chooses not to answer.

We on the rim have become irritable. We were in our wetsuits, having been in a pothole playground. Now the sun is baking us. Off with the monkey suits. Tom wants out of the sun. He wants down! We argue, the tension of the day getting to us. I want him to wait for the 2nd headlamp, he wants down NOW! I yell to our partners to GET OVER HERE! Tom is off with two lights. And what is Stevee doing? With us rushing to get gear to him? He is taking a nap in the bowels of the place.

Mark has walked up the rim of Tony, a distance from this drama, and has seen the deep dark narrow section from afar. It is impressive. He is back. It is my turn to head out for a look. As I stroll, one hundred yards up Tony and 100 feet above the last drop in our project canyon, I hear Tom and Stevee talking. I am startled. They sound like they are right next to me, speaking as they are in normal conversational tones. Yet the sound is coming off a wall 200 yards away. I figure to startle them back by interjecting. But I can’t find the angle on the far wall to get my voice to them. I move a few feet either direction and I can’t hear them at all. My little audio worm hole to them is tiny and a one–way street, it seems.

I continue my rim walk. I see the awesome narrows up Tony, but I also notice another of the small canyons entering Tony that I have seen on approach to Tony before. I have the time and I go scout. My efforts are rewarded. I see down into the canyon and natural anchors are available. This pleases me. If we can’t do our days objective, we can go down this canyon and create a loop hike home rather than returning the way we came, rejected and dejected.

Back at the rim–team site, I share my find. Word comes from below. I can only hear them if I edge over the mound next to the drop. Problem ... loose rock abounds. In trying to hear them, I could easily clock them with stones. The news is good. Tom says the final rap can be done. Estimates it at 170 feet tall. It will take some work, but ... Stevee is headed up the canyon to scout. At the least, all but one of us can rap in here, do the 100 yards, and rap down into Sleepy Hollow. Stevee’s scout will determine if the canyon should be descended from the upper rappel down.

Have you ever tried to go up a high–stemming canyon. Let me tell ya ... it’s a chore. That 3–5% downward angle in most canyons—done the other way—matters a LOT!! It is kinda fun watching him. We get angles on him as we watch what to me is his now familiar climbing style. Hunched up, in a wrestlers position, galumphing or alternately striding, one leg out, then the other beyond. He keeps asking, “Almost there?” We encourage, but this type of travel takes time. He tells us that it is unrelenting stemming and that it is an X, with 2–3 tough climbs and silos. I sigh and feel my stomach clinch.

As he nears the top rap, the going gets a bit easier and he suddenly is at the bottom of the rap. He has upclimbed the entire X section!! That boy can ‘play!’ He begs for food. He begs for water. I take off to comply. I regroup the five of us ... yes, Tom has jugged back up the 100 feet and we discuss options. I ask ... “Wanna do an X or rap in at the low entry?” Tom says he has to work the final rap and he could use some help. Mark decides to give the help that Tom needs, although you can see he is torn. Landon and Eric are on the fence. Eric decides to go with Tom, Landon with me to the top and the stemming. Tom sets up an anchor on a shallow–rooted juniper, and I rap in gently and bring Stevee the water and food he wants and needs. Tom goes back to the final rappel entry rap. Landon has been the anchor for Mark and Eric. After Tom takes the ride off Landon, Landon lowers the rope to the three fellows, only 100 feet from the canyon’s end. We had already redistributed gear so that the stemming crew, Landon, Stevee, and I are free from wetsuits and other weight. We carry a rope for insurance. After Landon has dropped the gear to Tom and crew, he takes the rim back up to Stevee and I and raps in and joins us. We pull the rope.

While waiting for Landon, 2 things happen. I stretch and prepare ... and I also stop breathing from nerves. Not enough to pass out, but enough to get light–headed and a stomach ache. This waiting is driving me CRAZY!!!

I look at Stevee and say, “I HAVE GOT TO GET GOING!!”

He says, “Go!!”

There is a wide pothole with water right away. Stevee says it is the only water, so keeping feet dry is important. Streeeeeetch and past it. Then up I go. I go slowly at first, to allow my buddies to catch up, but gawd is it good to be moving. My anxiety melts away. Landon comes up, Stevee behind. Stevee hasn’t canyoned with Landon. Hasn’t with me in an X for awhile. It turns out he was being conservative in his warnings of the difficulty. We dispense with the more challenging spots, with care, but calm.

Then we are moving and moving quickly. Stevee, carrying the weight in the form of the rope, fights to stay with us. It feels great!. Bang, bang, bang, wall–to–wall, hip here, locked elbow there and a ledge rest there. LOVING IT. Surprisingly quickly, we hear Eric’s voice. He is on the other side of a silo. We join him. Then we are at the sliding ramp. The climb is made for a long person, so I go last, with others spotting below. We hear Tom ahead. Soon we descend into near darkness. The canyon has drops in this darkness, so one must be careful. A few narrow upclimbs out of small potholes and around the corner is a ramp leading down to Tom. Orange light sparkles. Out beyond him you feel but don’t see the void. Beyond him, 200 yards of air away, is the huge, eastern wall of Big Tony. What a perch!!

I should get Tom to add the details of one of his specialties ... anchor building. My understanding is that Mark did the 170–foot rap off of Tom and, upon landing at the bottom, gathered sticks and logs of the specified length, tied them together (What is that called again?), and Tom hauled them up and wedged them in the appropriate places ... and voila, anchor. Ummm. 170 feet? Tom sighs and agrees to go last. You build it, you go off it. The anchor is tested with back ups, as we each take the big drop. We wait and see Tom edge over the big void, oh so gently slide down quietly, and we are all down. Right at the same spot as 24 hours earlier, after our descent of Big Tony!

So a new canyon done in the heart of King Mesa with no sign whatsoever of passage, recent or old. Two pothole sections and one high–stemming section, into a big drop, and out through one of the garden spots in canyon country. After some review, Landon and I were inclined to downgrade it to an R, perhaps R+. Still a place to pay attention and bring your game face. It was thrilling. The result remained uncertain until late in the day. A fresh place, worked through with a team of good friends. That evening Mark, Eric, and Landon left. They were headed to explore new canyons of a different character with Dave and Penny. The next day Tom had a return date with the infamous DDI Canyon, a canyon he had started but exited early 3–4 years earlier. Stevee and I will join him.

So to the descenders goes the spoils of naming the place.

What to do?

It seemed that many still called Big Tony, Frosted Flakes, despite the latter having outlived its usefulness and intent.

So it was decided.

Give Tony the Tiger his own place and his due—shift the name Frosted Flakes over to this newly descended fork of Big Tony.

Now, if that doesn’t completely confuse things, nothing will.


 new  ‹›  rams tales  

© 2007–2018 Steve Ramras