Winter Camp slot

Stephen Fischer Photography

Rating: 3A-II

You could say this canyon is a one-slot wonder.  The primary attraction is a steep pitch that descends over an intermediate ledge into a dark slot for the second half, that is impossible to see the bottom.  Thus you must trust your guide book on the rope length, as it reports a requirement of 190', while Don's rope is 200'. The other motivating factors for us to try this route, is that we were in the general area and this slot is supposed to be dry.  Without proper gear for immersion on this trip to entertain some other potentially more interesting wet canyons, Winter Camp slot became our target for the day.

Getting to Winter Camp ended up taking longer than expected, with a travel time of about 2 hours from Moab via the Dome Plateau trail that comes in counter-clockwise from the eastern side.  Although we knew ahead of time that a high clearance 4wd vehicle would be required to get here, the rockier aspects of the route required a slower pace.  I don't think Don Larson or Cliff Hall minded too much, as we met them out here a few days earlier after one of their CruiseMoab 4wd jamborees and training-fests  This ended up being another opportunity to put into practice some of their improved skills.  For those wishing to reach the location more quickly, the Yellow Cat road from exit 193 off I-70 is faster and does not require a 4wd to get here.  We used this later route as our exit for returning back to Moab that evening.

Once at the canyon rim (see image 3), I elected to go first and try this out, also giving myself the opportunity to photograph the rest of the group on their way down. The pitch to the intermediate ledge was relatively easy.  I stayed on rope while gathering up the rest of it that did not fall to the bottom, as it got hung up on an old snag on this ledge instead. I threw the remainder of this into the darkness to the bottom.  There was a certain disconcerting feeling of not knowing for sure if your rope hit the bottom, got snagged on something on the way down, or who knows what. 

Rappeling from the second ledge also ended up being a concern as it starts from a very tight wedge with a snag caught in the middle of it.  I figured in order to pass through it I needed to remove my pack and leave it behind on the ledge, and then have the next person retrieve it and lower it to me.  But after clearing the snag, I was able to continue downward without issue, and eventually spotting the bottom after entering into a free rappel phase of this descent.  Reassuringly I saw that the rope did indeed touch the bottom, provding much relief to my concerns of what could possibly go wrong?

In hindsight, this exercise made me wonder if I was properly prepared or made the right tactical decisions in case the guide book was wrong, or the rope was too short.  What would I have done if I was 20' short of rope from the bottom?  Given I had left my pack up at the ledge above me, I did not have any gear in order to effect an emergency ascent, or to rig an extra line in order to complete the descent.  In the future, I think it would be more prudent to keep the pack with me, potentially bunny-strapping it below me in case I need to reaccess any of the gear in it while on rope on the way down. In addition, potentially having a back-up ascender on my harness just in case may come in handy for such situations.

The rest of the hike meanders through the bottom of the slot for about another mile before finding an exit point out to the north.  Along the way we encountered a variety of desert plantlife, some in bloom that tend to thrive down in such slot bottoms with more moisture and where they open up more to the sky.


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