Mind Bender Canyon, Anchor Maintenance, Robbers Roost, UT


"By the time we reached the crux section of the canyon, we had been enveloped by a blizzard; the snow that whipped through the canyon stung our eyes and froze our hands. The crux was truly a mind bender; the narrow slot gave way to an abrupt drop over the 155-foot-high mouth of a huge cave. We spent an hour rigging our ropes. With no secure anchor points, we ended up burying a sling under a pile of rocks at the bottom of a large pothole and attaching the rope to it. I went first, carefully sliding out of the slot and into a vertical void, the floor of the canyon invisible in the swirl of snow. Would the rope be long enough? The question was answered when I was halfway down: the rope was long enough but my trajectory would have taken me through the limbs of an oak tree and into a large pool. Not good! With some gentle swinging I managed to hit a dry landing zone. Ginger took her time lowering packs over the fifteen-story drop. From below I saw that the brunt of the storm had descended on her. The rock was now plastered with rime ice and, perilously perched on the edge of the abyss, every move on her part had to be carefully executed. A mistake could have meant the ultimate splat. At long last I saw Ginger's legs emerge from the slot; she slowly spun down the rope, afraid a sudden jerk would dislodge it from its precarious anchor. There were no further obstacles below. The Mind Bender Fork was a done deal."

Steve Allen, Canyoneering 2, p. 51-52


First technical obstacle in Mind Bender Canyon (a 3-foot downclimb).

Dave on one of the short raps early in the canyon.

Dave lounging beside a fun little arch, MB Fork.

Dave at a two-stage downclimb/rap.

Mind Bender Fork

I had always admired Steve Allen's ability to spin a good tale. No reason to let the truth get in the way of a good story, we always say. His dramatic tale of the descent of Mind Bender Canyon is a case in point - certainly dramatic, certainly a tale. But I suspect even in those early days, SA was capable of building safe, secure 'natural' anchors even in difficult circumstances. I also suspect that SA knows now (if he did not know then) that clipping a safety sling into the anchor might be a wise idea when doing stuff near a drop.

My first visit to Mind Bender, in March 2004, was rather disappointing. A nice social canyon, but it really had none of the meat SA described - kinda a dud, actually. The geometry at the last rap was excellent and easy for building 'truck' deadmen, and there were abundant volcanic (ie strong, not-sandstone) rocks to use. We built a deadman (well less than an hour's work) and rapped with confidence in the strength of our anchor.

This spring (2008), it was reported that bolts had been added to the final rap in Mindbender, and pictures of the same were apparent in Mr. K's new book (page 92 for those following along at home), looking freshly drilled (and with a possible bolt kit bag lying nearby). As self-appointed anti-bolt Brown Shirt (aka environmental fruitcake or hard-core canyoneer), I vowed to remove these ASAP, and was pleased to find that Mr. K's description of the canyon included a warning that these bolts were likely to be removed. He also indicated that the bolts were there in March 2007, obviously freshly drilled. My apologies for not getting to this task sooner.

On this weekend, I was able to recruit Dave Buckingham to abet my removal of the bolts. Some discussion will likely ensue. Here's some. I was concerned the deadman would be difficult to build at this location, and/or that a blocking pothole might make the finding of suitable rocks difficult. Hauling rocks up from below (at 150 feet) would be somewhat impractical, though this works well in the neighboring canyon, Not Mindbender. There IS a blocking pothole, but there are also solid rocks very close to the edge that could be used.

Final rap in Mind Bender. Bolts up high and left, with long, multi-colored webbing extending from them.

There's been considerable mis-information about this rap, so here's some pictures. Pothole near the lip of the rappel. Ideal geometry for building a deadman. Force on anchor will be directly up, then a good edge to run the webbing over, which dramatically reduces the forces on the anchor. There are a few ledges below the lip, so rappellers can downclimb a ways before getting on rappel.

Bolt Supplies Available in the CUSA Store!

Two bolts placed for this rappel. The bolts themselves were placed quite well. The left one was a 3/8" Powersbolt, well set. The right was a 15mm stud-type bolt, with a high-quality steel (or stainless steel) stud. They are placed quite a ways from the edge of the drop, up this low-angle slope (a comfortable ledge to sit or stand on, but not entirely flat).

Bolts are often placed in a location where they allow the use of minimal webbing (if any at all) while still providing an excellent line of pull, and an easy transition to on-rappel. When placed in this way, they (often) minimize the rope-grooving created by pulling the rope across the edge. These bolts were not placed in this way, but were placed well out of the watercourse.

Bolts were removed, and holes patched. My apologies, no pictures of the patched holes (it was late, we were in a hurry).

There is a "blocking pothole" upcanyon maybe 30 feet. The blocking drop is short (10'?) and could be up-climbed with a partner-boost. Before rapping in (from a nice, clean, precise deadman anchor), we farmed rocks from up-canyon. There is available a wide selection of igneous rocks of many sizes. I asked Dave to find a 'larger rock' to use as a base rock, and he came up with this one which weighed about 100 lbs. Davey nicely 'gift-wrapped' it, then worked it into the sand, a bit, and stacked a few rocks on top.

Dave at the finished anchor.

Final rap in Mind Bender. Davey on rappel. Length = 150 feet.

Kinda not-too-green this time of year.

Final rap in Mind Bender.

Then we hoofed it out, got to the "moki" exit right at dark. Dave was impressed by my lead of the steps in the dark, and finding my way to the top of the mesa, in the full dark.

Thanks Davy, for being my accomplice on this mission.