Every year in the spring several friends and I venture into the Utah back county for our annual canyoneering trip. This year Dave, Dan and I spent the trip climbing, rappelling, swimming, and hiking throughout the San Rafael Swell as we did Eardley Canyon, The Squeeze (Segers Hole) and Cable Canyon. As some of the more technical canyons in the San Rafael Swell, they were a challenge, but a lot of fun and rewarding once we made it to the end.
The Canyoneering trip started with Eardley Canyon and one of the best camping spots in the San Rafael Swell! Although we have done Eardley Canyon several times before, it has an amazing pot hole section and the camping spots at the base are great with tons of shade and cottonwood trees that make it well worth doing again.
The hike to get to Eardley takes you through the San Rafael Swell with some inspiring scenery as you make the steep climb to the top access point for the the canyon. The route down into the canyon floor can be difficult and requires a decent amount of down climbing, scrambling and route finding to make it to the bottom.
Once in the bottom of the canyon the fun begins with some great pot holes which almost always have water in them, even in the middle of summer. Interestingly in many of these canyons hypothermia is a real concern with the canyons so deep they rarely see the sun. After hours of being in the wet cold water you can be shivering uncontrollably even though it may be one hundred degrees outside the canyon.
Several of the pot holes in Eardley Canyon require short rappels into water so deep that your can’t touch the bottom and have to swim out of them. It can be quite the challenge trying to tread water with a backpack and gear while you disconnect your belay. The unique thrills of canyoneering.
The Squeeze (Segers Hole) and Cable Canyon
After getting done with Eardley we headed out and drove to the south side of the San Rafael Swell where we set up camp near the Salt Wash to do The Squeeze and Cable Canyon. Although lacking the nice shade from the cottonwood trees the Muddy Creek area in the San Rafael Swell has some of the most unique scenery with deep purple clay hills, which really makes you feel like your on a different planet.
The next canyon on the list was The Squeeze, or Segers Hole. Many say this is one of the more technical canyoneering routes in the San Rafael Swell with lots of rappels and several pot holes, some of which are “keeper pot holes”. A keeper pot hole in canyoneering refers to a pot hole that is so deep that you cannot climb out of it.
The hike to the Squeeze took us down the Salt Wash, which as Dave and Dan found out was very muddy in places you would never expect.
There is only one way to describe the hike up the Moroni Slopes to access Segers Hole and that is steep. The view from the top of the Squeeze looking over the San Rafael Swell with the snow covered Henry Mountains in the distance is something to see though and it makes the brutal hike worth it.
After climbing down into Segers Hole the fun starts with a long rappel into the Squeeze. Once in the canyon you get a true taste for what canyoneering is all about with long swims, very technical pot holes, and some tight slot canyon sections. As I mentioned before, many of these canyons are so deep the sun seldom shines in them and after being in the water for 5-6 hours the challenge of dealing with the cold becomes very real. Although we have done this canyon before Dave was the only one who had a wet suite and by the end of it Dan and I were very cold. Clearly not the best decision to leave our wet suites behind, and although cold by the end, we had a lot of fun in the Squeeze.
Not only does canyoneering test your ability but it also tests the ability of your gear. The waterproof bag my camera was in failed and unfortunately I was not able to get any pictures of the rest of the Squeeze or of Cable Canyon other than a few still images from the GoPro Camera.
During the hike up to Cable Canyon we had a very close call. Near the top of the drop in point I was walking and not paying a bit of attention to the ground. Luckily I saw the flash of movement and heard the rattle just as I was putting my foot down on top of a rattle snake. My foot was mid stride and could not have been much more then 6 inches off the ground right where the rattlesnake was. After jumping backwards, and then jumping several more times for good measure, Dave got this picture of the snake coiled up in the bushes.
We had never done Cable Canyon but it turned out to be a really fun canyon that had very cool rappels with some deep pot holes. We may have to plan another trip with a good waterproof camera case just to get some more pictures.
For more information about the sport of canyoneering and for resources about canyoneering in the San Rafael Swell check out Toms Canyoneering Guide and the Technical Slot Canyon Guide to the Colorado Plateau.