Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Neon Canyon - Canyoneering Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument

This Memorial Day I found myself canyoneering in Utah in the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument. Neon Canyon to be precise on Saturday. Neon Canyon is a technical canyon famous for the cathedral which is a big hole in the rock that you finishes the canyon. With temps in the 80s and not a cloud in the sky you could ask for better weather.

The entrance to Neon Canyon is a 3.5 mile jaunt which we turned into a 5 mile plus route finding mission. In the sideshow you can see the nice photo of everyone hovering over the map. With most canyons getting there is just as much adventure as the canyon itself. The entrance to Neon Canyon is actually the finish point so you get to climb up the sides to look for a way to drop in. After about two miles or so there is plenty of drop in points if you have a 200 ft rope and pull cord which we didn't as the canyon info said we needed only 100 ft ropes. Eventually we found a crack to down climb though we did tie into ropes for safety. The down climb is easy though and could be performed by most people.

Once in the canyon you find tight slots and plenty of water to wade through and swim. Even in the 85 degree day you still need wetsuits as the water is cold. We all had 7 mm suits though I think 3 mm would have been fine. Everyone in this group was from Phoenix and sometimes we need the extra warmth protection.

Neon Canyon has plenty of down climbs to figure out and yes you will get wet. There is plenty of wading through water and a few swims. There is one really good swim of at least 200 ft or more at one point. For those of you who like to jump into a pool of freezing water, Neon Canyon delivers that too.

Only enter Neon Canyon with three or more people as there is one legitimate keeper pothole with requires some skill. I got to tread water for a while in the freezing water as we attempted a buddy climb to get out.

Neon Canyon finishes with the cathedral which is an amazing hole in the rock formation which you rappel through. Underneath the cathedral is assessable by hikers so there were plenty of day hikers from their campsites taking in the scene as these strange guys in wetsuits drop out of the big hole. It is quite the sight looking down through the hole seeing the completely still pool.

Neon Canyon is fun for anyone who wants to play in freezing water and find there way through a slot canyon. The rap at the cathedral makes the route though the entire canyon has plenty of fun spots.
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