FreezeFest IV: No Kidding, Leprechaun, Stair, Hog, Achilles, Fooling' Around


FreezeFest conjures up pictures of dirt-clad canyoneers huddled around a small fire while snow squalls wreck tents and blow away neo socks. That was FreezeFest I. These days, the weather is better, and it has been more like the NOT-Freeze Fest. This year we had great weather and got a lot of canyons in. We gathered on Boxing Day for the first canyon. We being the A-Team: Ram and Aaron, Rob Heineman, Eric Godfrey and me, Tom Jones. We chose as our target "No Kidding", with the challenge to do a 'clean and safe' descent of this canyon, using all the skills of the team.

Trip Reports and Photos from other folks: FF by Eric Godfrey, including Video!

(FreezeFest IV)

(FreezeFest IV)

Ram on the first rappel – into the game.

This canyon had been on the list for a few years, but we had not gotten to it. A young fella from Bluff dropped into it this fall, and scratched his way out. Ram went through with a few other people a few weeks later, but some of the anchors they used were dubious. Thus, the canyon awaited a first "clean" descent (at least by our group).

The first rappel is not a problem, as we return right by it and can clean the anchor on the way out.

Rob at the first rappel.

We set up an omni-sling retrievable sling on the first rappel. The chickenhead anchor was back a ways from the edge, and by using the omni-sling, we would pull the rope without putting grooves into the rock.

Rob rapping in. We actually could of walked around and into the canyon lower down, but we are NOT Rimmaneers!

Eric rapping some rappel.

Here’s Aaron providing a fireman’s belay on the same rappel.

Aaron climbing out of “The Keeper Pothole”. MANTLE Aaron, Mantle!!

And out, with a little tiny boost.

The Game!

The biggest problem for a clean descent is a long rappel through four pothole-ledges near the bottom of the canyon. Jason had slung a dubious flake, which was used on the next descent, too. Scaaary. On his next descent, Jason "backed it up" with this "hook". Even more Scaaaaaaary!!!

(Using miscellaneous hardware store hardware for life-safety support is not a good idea. How strong is this S-hook? Impossible to tell - not good to trust your life to this).

The problem with hooks, even 'real' hooks, is that they place the force on one little spot. Navajo sandstone does not tend to be very strong, and can just plain explode when loaded in this focused way. Exercise Caution!

Here’s the flake into the pothole, showing the exit from the pothole. The shape of the exit is prime territory for using a “sandbag” type anchor.

Here’s the sandbags we rapped off of for this series of pothole ledges.

We used three potshots half-filled with sand as an anchor.

They were rigged so that when they are rappelled on, the weight is on all three bags, via rapides on their handles with a biner block. The cleaning line pulls from the bottom of the potshots, and the potshots are tied in with several feet of slack between them. In theory, the cleaning line pulls them off one at a time.

We could have, and maybe should have, set up a pull cord to remove the rappelling line after we rapped off. As it was, the first bag came off fairly easily, but in every case the second and third bags got tangled together and were hard to pull over the lip.

And it almost worked.

One issue is the tendency to make the bags too heavy. We had a big crew, and I was able to remove sand from the bags so that even the big guys in our group barely pulled the bags off the ground.

But the issue that got us stuck for an hour and a half was - the shape of the lip. while the first lip was of an ideal shape, we rapped past a pothole/ledge with a sharper lip (a BAD lip) where the bags got stuck. I climbed the rope up there, and re-set the bags, two this time, with very little weight in them (like, 5 lbs each) - and they were still hard to pull down.

Then we re-set the bags for the final rappel and got out of there.

Here’s what Rob wanted us to rap off of…

And here’s Rob, testing it. Bomber!!!
(We chose a different option).

After No Kidding, I went off scouting another canyon called Just Kidding. Here’s some of the nice slickrock hiking I found. Hmmmm, a few dark clouds.

And a nice little slot, over there.

(FreezeFest IV)

(FreezeFest IV)

Next day, on the dance card was Upper Stair.

We did this a couple years ago on Freeze Fest, and found the upper part to be an excellent introduction to Mae West Canyoneering - although in this case it was more like Twiggy canyoneering. It contains a nice stretch of high, tight narrows that can be walked around, and can be done without packs.

Here's the crew for the day: Rob Heineman, Aaron Ramras, Steve Ramras, Eric Godfrey and Tim Hoover

Rob stops for lunch.

Into the narrow part. Some go high, some go low. Lots of options.

The canyon had several interesting sections. Here’s Aaron in one of the open areas between tight sections.

Eric, sporting his high-tech special high-slot stemming canyon pants…

The cute Ramras, in his element.

Stemming and clambering through the slot. Lots of features, but a few interesting high spots.

Ram and I both had not remembered how much action Upper Stair offered. It IS a really great intro to high stemming. (Your Mileage May Vary; Professional Driver, Closed Course).

The real champ this day was Tim Hoover. He thought he had signed up for a few days of fun and sun, but was hustled away to Ram’s “Full Immersion School of High Canyon Stemming.”

He was game.

After Stair, Tim and I went down East Leprecaun - more good fun. Made it back to camp just before dark.

(FreezeFest IV)

(FreezeFest IV)

The BIG EVENT for the first part of the trip – a descent of Achilles Canyon. Why Achilles? This canyon has worn many names, but it has brought out the weakness in one of our friends – hyper-competitivity.

An early start was required. Thankfully, going to bed at 9:00 pm makes it pretty easy to get up early. We were rolling out of camp 5 minutes ahead of schedule, and starting up the entrance hike with the first light in the sky. An hours hike or so, and we arrive at the sunrise rock.

And some sunrise action on the rocks around us.

Achilles is up higher, and had some snow here and there.

Tim on one of the entry rappels.

And going off one of the other raps. The canyon bopped in and out of the snow. The walking sections had snow, the climbing and squeezing sections generally did not. Choice!

Squeezin’ through slots. Snow. Fun.

Achilles has a bunch of great slot action. Everyone had a good time.

Smilin’ Rob Heineman. Big Guys Stem Higher.

Far too soon, we got to the final rap. Aaron and Rob hanging at the last rappel.

Eric on the last rappel, down to the snow! And then, just a little walk out – 3-1/2 hours for us. Pizza, and a cozy ride back to the little campfire action – a fabulous day.

(FreezeFest IV)

(FreezeFest IV)

A few years ago, we almost got stuck checking out new canyons at FreezeFest, so we have been avoiding it. But…

On the list for years, seemed like time to do it - Hog 3 - the last of the three little piggies. The shortness of the canyon allowed for a late start. We drive up around and hike across the desert - another beautiful day.

We found the top and started in. It immediately slotted up. Downclimb followed downclimb. Some into Narrow slots, some not.

Here's Aaron, who enjoys downclimbing, romantic movies, and long walks on the beach...

Rob and Ryan, enjoying some of the upper slots.

Bill the Desert Nomad joined us for the day. Here he is demonstrating his superior dental strength. Gotta get that guy a bunny strap.

The canyon finished with a very nice 100′ rappel, easily anchored off available blocks. Very convenient, very nice.

Tom Talboys (Bubba) on the final rappel.
Ram had to go do another of the Hogs that day, but the SMART people just had a pleasant stroll out the bottom.

Fun with Flame.

Sitting around the campfire, stairing into the flames – all good. Let’s see, we’ve had substantial lineup changes: Out = Tim, Eric; In = Ryan Cornia, Tom Talboys, Bill the Desert Nomad.

Beta: rappels to 100′, some downclimbing (not too hard). All natural anchors. 3A II R (downclimbing). Walk out the bottom.

(FreezeFest IV)

(FreezeFest IV)

Another beautiful FreezeFest morning – maybe a little bit windy. So we escaped to the Kitchen Shelter for a little breakfast… tough living.

Ram and I had done “Foolin’ Around” a couple years ago. I thought it was pretty good, Ram thought it was so-so. “About time to go back,” I thought. “Should I tell them about the swim?”

Well, I did. We brought wet suits. "One short swim," I said. They believed.

So we head off across the tundra. Ram is leading a group through Shenanigans today, we are opting for the milder next door neighbor. Our group is: Denise, Roy, Rob, Ryan, Ryan, and me, Tom.

I was very impressed with Denise’s fashion choices for this trip. The best DI has to offer!!

And down into the canyon.
FA had a lot more to offer than I had remembered. Quite a bit of good slots, like this.

I got antsy. Were we near the end? Is the water close? Shouldn’t we put our wetsuits on. We found a nice open area in the sun and suited up. The water was still quite a ways away, but it worked out. We got plenty warm in the rubber suits before we had to do the swim. Yeah baby.

Foolin Around ends with running away from the swim to warm up, then changing in the sun.
Then a really nice 100′ rappel back to the land of the living. Rob rappelling, Denise providing a bit of a Fireman’s Belay.

Ryan 1 rappelling, the same drop.

After the rap, a nice long walk out Butler. Most folks went up the Kelsey exit, Denise and I went downcanyon and climbed over the Sandthrax-Butler Escape route. Good fun.

I was looking for something gentle to do, as my shoulder was a little tweaked from Foolin’ Around, and I wanted to hit the Black Hole with a good store of energy. So – how about a Leprechaun, again?

The evening before, our party was graced with those party animals from Utah County - Scott Card (the village idiot) and his bro Kevin, plus John the cook and two young bucks to carry the ropes. They were looking for something reasonable to do - Leprechaun it is!

Rather that do the lazy-man's drive around to Leprechaun Canyon, we decided to hike up from camp on the "East Side Approach". One of the young bucks ran up the 5.4 slab (literally ran up!) and anchored a hand line for us old f..... uh, olderish types. Above is So-cal's lead Canyonette, Randi Poeri, charging up the slab...

We were also joined by two other canyoneers that wandered by – Graham and Jubi. Here is Graham tugging might-aly on the rope…

Didn’t take many pictures on this day, as the battery was running down. Here’s someone’s butt rapping the entry rappel.

And Scott Card, on his first of many canyon adventures with us, I hope.

Did, however, take a group photo. Here we are, the last day of the year…
(Left to Right): Randi, Graham, Jubie, Keith, Scott, John, Ryan and Steve.

Did the canyon, climbed up Belfast Blvd and up the main fork aways; Graham and Jubie climbed out and around and did the main fork; we all went back to camp; the Card Party headed back up to Happy Valley for the big New Year's Night Rave Party in Spanish Fork Canyon... or something like that...

Around camp, seemed like some weather was moving in. We battened down the hatches and hunkered down for a nice group feast…

We stayed up until the ball dropped in Times Square.
May the changes that come in the New Year add life to your life.

The big event - The Black Hole!

Originally conceived as the start of the Freeze Fest, done primarily for its perversity, the second year we found The Hole choked with wood and rather serious. The pull cord I brought along to pull any slowpokes through some pools was put to use to rappel off the top of an unstable wood pile. It was my first time swimming through log soup. In the icy waters of January, it was just plain perverse to be swimming with all my might and energy, quite chilled from the waist down where my body was immersed, and blowing steam out the top - all the effort causing massive overheating on all body parts not in the cooling water.

But the floods have chewed away at the wood piles, and the several freight-cars of stacked wood have been reduced to ONE freight car. Sometime this spring, the Hole might even clear out.

The local SAR team (Sheriff’s office) put up a couple warning signs, to discourage the casual visitor.

The signs up by the highway tend to be vandalized by the local yahoos, so the Sheriff put one down a ways in the approach canyon – SMART! (Here with Wyoming Dave, who came down (with Graham and Jubie) to see us off).

An hour downcanyon, and a pool appears across the width of the canyon. Time to suit up! Jeez, these old wetsuits have a whole bunch of holes in em. Roy applies a little duct-tape to Ram’s uh…. wetsuit, to slow the flow of icy water.

The Group Picture: (from back, left to right)
Scott Patterson, Steve Ramras, Aaron Ramras, Denise Manweiler, Randi Poeri, Ryan Hull, Rob Heineman, Rolynn Serati.

Black Hole, New Year’s Day – The High Life!

Here's a couple blurry pictures of "the Business".

Picking our way over a few unstable wood piles – one at a time – please!

We’re hanging out while Roy climbs over the woodpile on the left, then tunnels down under it and out the other side.

This might be the scariest part – walking across a floating woodpile, just waiting for the logs to part and drop you into the soup! Rob and Ryan tiptoeing across the flotilla.

That and a little log soup, and we were through.

Surprisingly, The Hole was dryer than expected, and easier. Sigh, even IF the logs wash out, it might be years before the Hole is restored to its previous glory. There is substantial sand in some of the former swimming sections, that would need to be washed out and replaced with water, for the famous long swims to be restored. (Service project for the Gods????)

Black Hole, New Year’s Day – Truly, this IS The High Life!
Thank you all for a wonderful Freezefest. Heck, we even had WOMEN! See ya in the New Year.