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Shenanigans in Shenanigans (The Canyon)

This last weekend we got out for a little mid-winter adventure in North Wash. In an effort to avoid seasonal depression, I do my best to get out at least once a week, but this gets more difficult as the cold sets in and most of the objectives on my list are way out of season. However, North Wash is a pretty good area for running canyons in the winter, if you're okay with braving the cold.

Tanner and I drove out to Sandthrax campground on Friday night and met our friend Tom Collins. We got there pretty late, so we went to bed almost immediately after arriving. Since it gets dark at 5:30, Tom had already been asleep for an hour or two before we got there. There's not much to do once it's dark out, and the cold is enough to make anyone run for their sleeping bag. In the morning while figuring out plans, Tom asked if we'd be down for a little rescue mission. The day before in a series of unfortunate events, him and some others had left a few cams in the crux in Sandthrax. We decided that we'd go in to try and retrieve them. We hiked up the rim to a hundred or so yards below the crux and rappelled in about 50 feet to the canyon floor. From there, we tried to climb back up the canyon towards the crux to save the cams. Just before our destination, we encountered a huge silo, and none of us felt comfortable braving the unprotectable 50' drop. Rescue plans foiled, we turned back and descended the bottom half of Sandthrax. Regrouping, we decided to hike to the rim directly above the crux and rappel in. This required about 300' of rope, and for some reason I decided to volunteer to drop in. I started to rappel down the slabby rim, waving goodbye to Tom and Tanner as they disappeared from view. It was hard to tell exactly where I needed to go from above, but I soon spotted the massive silo just down and to my left. I carefully situated the rope as far to the left as I could go, and as I continued down the now-sheer face the cams popped into view. Bingo. Unfortunately, I hadn't moved quite far enough to the left while rappelling in, so I ended up in the middle of the silo, dangling about 10 feet away from the crack that held all of the precious cams. I managed to swing myself into the crack, and jammed my arm inside so that I wouldn't swing back into the center of the pit. With the rope tugging me backwards and my arm being the only thing holding me in there, I decided it would be prudent to lock off my rappel device with a bit of slack so that I could move around. I snagged the first two cams from the top of the crack, then downclimbed a bit. I ran out of slack and had to invert myself slightly in order to reach the third. Just as I grabbed it, my arm slipped out of the crack and I swung out into the silo like a piñata. Luckily I didn't run into anything. I regret that I didn't take more pictures during this little rescue mission, but I was ready to get back up to the safety of the rim as quickly as possible. Something about dangling in a big pit at the end of 300' of rope doesn't inspire much confidence. Luckily, I had two handled ascenders on me, so I jugged up the rope big-wall style. After what felt like forever, and quite the workout, I made it back to the top. Package secured. Thankfully, my bout as a piñata was over.

Now time for the real shenanigans, as in, the canyon. We ate a quick lunch and then drove to the trailhead. Shenanigans is known for being extremely tight, and many people have experienced intense moments of claustrophobia while descending it, particularly in the 4th, and final narrows. Tanner and I packed the bare minimum gear in potshots, while Tom brought a small Leprechaun pack. Tom opted not to wear a harness, and brought some webbing to tie a swiss seat for the single rappel in the canyon. I carried 90 feet of rope. We made the approach and started off with a few fun downclimbs into the canyon. The first two narrows passed quickly for me, but Tanner and Tom were ready to kill me because I kept making jokes about how I wanted to Shenan-again. hahaha. The third narrows had a tight, slanted section that was beautiful, but made me want to die because it felt like doing 700 pushups just to slide yourself through it. I was very impressed by all of the twists, turns, and sculpted narrows in this canyon. The rock and the lighting was absolutely incredible. My favorite part was seeing a picturesque log wedged in the canyon up above us with the light shining in around it. We passed a small arch and lots of cool "S" shapes in the canyon. This was about as beautiful as they get.

The 4th narrows is the one that gets all of the hype for being tight, and they were right. I'm 6' 2" and 165lbs, and there were points where I had to exhale and shove myself through to avoid getting stuck. This section started with the grim crawl, an obstacle where we had to belly crawl along a ledge under a massive roof before reaching a chockstone and constriction where we could downclimb. This section was beautiful as well. At one point, we came upon a sleeping bat. I had to duck down to barely avoid crushing it with my body as I slid through the crack. At first I thought it was a cocoon or a moth, but when I touched it (not knowing that it was a bat) it put its wings out. We continued through the tight sections, shoving and sliding our bodies through the tight constrictions. I had to unbuckle and take off my helmet at a few parts because it was too wide to fit. Tom, being larger than Tanner and I, had to stem high in a few places in order to make it through. At the end of this section, we came upon a large drop into an alcove full of green seeps and hanging plants. It was beautiful, and very wet. We took our shoes and socks off and rappelled 45', barefoot, into the alcove. I was the dipstick and managed to follow a ledge that Tom had pointed out on downcanyon left, making the pool -nearly- avoidable, and escaping with only wet feet. When Tanner came down, he lost his balance and nearly plunged into the pool, but luckily he was still on rope. He only got his butt wet. Tom came down shortly after and we hiked out. As we passed the canyon, No Kidding, I made my last joke of the day and said, "No kidding, I would Shenan-again."

This was a super fun day with awesome partners. Shenanigans is a top-notch canyon with beautiful views and interesting obstacles. I can't wait until I get to Shenan-again.


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