May 31, 2013

Rappelling the Golden Cathedral
  The hike down to the Escalante river was a bit more challenging....actually it was a mini Shit Show, but I expected nothing less as descending 1300 ft within a 2 mile period can get interesting.   We got to the river and started following the trail, crossing the river at times, to the mouth of neon canyon.  The Neon Canyon Campground has a nice Oak Tree surrounded by wheat grass, bitter brush, and a beautiful maroon varnished wall as a backdrop which made this canyon a welcoming shimmer. We set up camp and proceeded to Ringtail Canyon. 

hike to ringtail slot canyon

After our short 1 mile walk and a brief encounter with a bare boned deer, we got to the canyon entrance and immediately noticed a familiar dark cave-esque feel to the passage.  We donned our helmets and decided to go from the bottom up which we found to be a bit challenging but a whole lot of fun.  There was water encountered, narrow side squeezing passage that curled/twisted/turned , and opportunities to chimney up and over keyed boulders....cool air was blowing through the passage way and the sun reflected colors of reds and yellows that gave the walls a smooth colorful luster. 

ringtail slot canyon
We got the the first keeper pot hole and decided to turn back as we knew we could get out from where we were but it appeared we could have breached over this keeper with a challenge.  Maybe next time

ringtail slot canyon

As we were exiting the slot, found a group of people that we chatted with and I ended up dropping my camera on a rock which was its last straw.  The camera is broken, destroyed, and I was pissed.  It went through so much in so little time and Ringtail Canyon was its last bit of life.  It was beeping and staying open due to all the sand and dust but a 3 ft drop was its final resting place. I was upset the camera broke but thankfully my better half had a camera and we were able to use this for Neon Canyon..
ringtail slot canyon
The next day we got a chance to sleep in a bit so after a nice long morning with sweet Maple Oatmeal and boiling river water we hiked up Neon Canyons bench to the drop in point where we set up a rappel and dropped into the heart of Neon Canyon.  We pulled down the rope and looked around at the ancient petrified slab rock holding us captive in the heart of the Escalante.
Neon Canyon Passage
We kept dropping deeper and deeper into the canyon system from keyed in boulders the size of footballs to boulders the size of small cars encountering a lot of water and a dead Raven we heard about the day before that met its demise by flying into the canyon.  As we continued on, we stumbled upon  small water cut natural bridges and the final keeper pothole.  Whamo!! This is the infamous keeper...infamous?...hmmm..it didn't look too bad. Even if there wasn't a log there, it still seems very do able but this Pothole is known to change in charter depending on water levels and debris. This log was on the other side, long enough to help with the climb out, made this pretty easy. 
Seasonal Keeper Pothole
The final drop was a 80 ft rappel into the famous Golden Cathedral!! woohooo  I rigged the drop and we relaxed after enjoying the breeze brushing through the slot opening up through this gaping hole.  Once over the edge, we got a glimpse of the true beauty that the Golden Cathedral offered up as the water shimmered on the redish blazing orange ceiling and the shear drop ending our rappel into a refreshing  pool of cool water. aaaahhhhh. epic?  yea it was a nice drop, but not like the drops we experience in TAG.  Although we found this to be shorter than expected, I can see why people flock to this beautiful location and why the famous Golden Cathedral is a must for any canyoneering check list.   
Golden Cathedral
The hike up 1300 ft of breezy sand blowing desert to our car was a mental challenge but with leaving at the right time of the day, loading up on water and food, celebrating small successes, and tender loving care, we were able to make it back to the car quicker than it took us to get down to the car.  We are the best team ever!!! Now its on to Zebra Slot Canyon.
Neon Canyon
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