Christopher Creek Gorge

Christopher Creek Gorge
Tonto National Forest
Payson, Az
Class 3C II

Christopher Creek

Christopher Creek is kind of a household name in Arizona. Its easy access from the highway and the perennial wash flowing all year long make it a popular hang-out in the summer. Some of the more adventurous visitors hike downstream, scrambling, swimming and sliding their way through the gorgeous sculpted granite (or whatever kind of rock it is) (edit: Quartzsite, is what I’ve been told). Most hikers turn around at one of the bigger drops, and this is where Chris Creek becomes a canyoneering route and Kristi puts on her helmet. Actually I put on my helmet at the beginning because I have this image of me slipping and falling while just walking and the SAR team saying “why was her helmet on her backpack?”. I also have an image of me looking this awesome:


Here are some pretty pictures of the hike to get you all jazzed up for the rest of the blog entry.

beautiful cascade into turquoise/ mud-brown waters.


little box canyon area

Adam said I couldn't walk across the logs. why does he hate fun? 😦

Christopher Creek is a semi-technical canyon, meaning that besides rappelling there isn’t much technical skill involved. It’s not uncommon (and perhaps not advised) to do the canyon without ropes, just jumping the bigger 20-30 foot drops and downclimbing the rest. We rappelled, because I like rappelling and I’m a nervous downclimber. I think we did around 5 rappels, the longest of which was 40 feet.

And some of the rappels, in no particular order.

setting up the anchor

This anchor was weird…I didn’t really like the idea of the two pieces of webbing tied together, but I also didn’t feel like climbing up and resetting the pinch point with new webbing. There is a single bolt here, you can see it under where the green & orange webbing is tied together, a little to the right. It felt solid, so I had Adam tie some webbing to it to back up the existing anchor. Not sure if this was a great idea or not, but it felt right. We tried to make it so that the load was shared between the natural anchor and the bolt, but we knew that if the natual anchor failed, the bolt would be shock-loaded. That sucks, but it’s either shock-load the bolt & hope it holds or have no back-up at all. Anyways, this is a discussion for the Bogley community, not you guys.

No chance you’re still reading, but I have more information about this rappel. There was another single bolt placed on the rock which is visible directly over the waterfall. This craptastic time-bomb bolt is being discussed at length on the ACA forums here: Scenario – Christopher Creek bolt. OK, now pictures of the rappel:

water drop, ftl.

same rappel

view down the waterfall; we rappelled off to the side

a good example of one of those 'optional rappels.' Adam started to downclimb, but then we set up a handline. The overhang took him by surprise, so I just saved myself some hassel and rappelled the whole one foot down. Lucky we didn't try anything fancy, the water wasn't too deep right there.

This next rappel was zero fun. We had two anchor options; an old decrepit sling around a boulder directly down the raging waterfall, or two less decrepit slings around a boulder off to the side. Largely based on our desire to not be pummeled by a freezing cold waterfall, we chose #2. The better of two options, but only by comparison. The anchor was a good foot and a half lower than the edge of the rappel, meaning that once we clipped in, we had to slide on our stomaches over the face of the boulder, holding onto something, somewhere with only one hand (keeping our brake hand on the rope but out away from our bodies so it wouldn’t get pinched), while dangling our legs off the overhang, where there were obviously no footholds. And then….let go, hoping you wouldn’t swing too much once your rappel device caught. It was terrifying, and I have no idea how we both managed it. I’m sure there’s a much simpler way to execute this rappel, screamingly obvious to everyone reading this. Maybe keep it to yourselves so you don’t embarrass me.

The rappel line we picked is under the boulder to the right. The boulder over the waterfall doesn't really look like it would have made an easier rappel, which is somewhat comforting.

I'm smiling because I'm still alive

My favorite part of the canyon were the slides. Fun and kind of safe for the whole family!

gecko hand

the same slide as above, minus the kristi.

water slide!

This next one was my favorite slide. The group in front of us were having a great time sliding down on their bellies. They instructed me to lay lengthwise across the top of the slide, damming up the water so that when I turned and slid down, the water pressure would send me down faster.

the boys complained of nipple pain when going on their bellies, so I chose to use my butt

get on your tummy!

Go directly to 3:30. Don’t question it, just do it!

There was one accidental slide that happened to me, where I couldn’t find a foothold and slid down the slickrock on my butt. Adam reached out with his arm to stop me and succeeded, his hand catching on the end of my nose to stop me. Ouch.

And there were downclimbs, but nothing too scary unless your name is Kristi.

Adam downclimbs like a boss

maybe I should start wearing pants

Adam, can you come spot me? Adam. Adam! I need help. ADAM!! Can you hear me?! No, why are you taking a picture?!! WTF are you doing?! Stop smiling, I need help! ADAM!!!!!!! ...Oh, what? I couldn't hear you over the waterfall...

a zoom-in of the last pic....hahahahaha

The water in Christopher Creek says cold all year-round because it is direct melt-off from an Alaskan glacier. OK, that last part wasn’t true but the water was cold. Adam told me I was not allowed to wear a wetsuit because it is an easy canyon.  I usually like to think he cares more about my health and comfort than how stylish I look, but after that comment I wasn’t sure. Then I looked at this photo set, saw what I was wearing, and I am now convinced that he doesn’t care about style. As long as I am not in a wetsuit in an easy canyon.

Anyways, so the cold water. We were in it for the vast majority of the time, and I was in it a lot more than Adam at the beginning. This was my first swimmy canyon so I swam whenever I could, while Adam hopped in and out. After 30 minutes, when I was all pooped out and hypothermic, I adopted his methods and swam less. Drying off never happened, and I have decided this is a great summer canyon because not once did I feel hot (it was 95ish outside, I think).

towards the beginning; where I would swim and Adam would climb up whenever he could. I eventually figured out why.

just keep swimming

a lot of times it's easier to back stroke

me looking awkward like it's my job

a little bit of stemming followed by a long swim

the rappels gave us practice with swimming disconnects- no devices lost!!

Once the canyon opened up, we looked for one of many trails to the right heading up and out of the canyon. We had heard that the hike out was pretty brutal but we accidentally timed it perfectly with afternoon psuedo-thunderstorm clouds. They blocked the sun, cooled the temperatures down a bit, and blessed us with a little breeze as we bushwacked our way up two big hills back to the car.

We had also heard a lot of bitching about the parking inconveniences related to the ADOT construction on the highway. The traditional parking area is now a construction yard and everyone has made a big todoodle about this, even going so far as to tell others to pick a new canyon for now. Weird, because we were barely inconvenienced at all. There are plenty of parking options along the highway in the general area, but those who like to play it safe can pay $6 to park at the Christopher Creek Campground and add a mile and half to their road walk back to the car. This should not be a big deal for people who just spent the last 5 hours canyoneering..

We found a parking spot about a quarter mile past the trailhead, adding only a little bit of walking distance. As a bonus, I found a dead June Bug on the shoulder of the highway and brought him home for my friend Lana. I think that June Bugs are the coolest insect I’ve ever seen. They remind me of my very first car, a green VW beetle. I didn’t take a picture, but here is a picture from a guy on Bogley. I linked the picture to him so hopefully he doesn’t get mad.

so cute!!!

Here’s a redundant link to the guy who took the June bug picture, but it also shows his other awesome pictures and gives a better idea of how fun the hike was: Bogley Trip Report – Christopher Creek.

And here are some links to beta we used for information about the hike:
Todd’s Hiking Guide
Experience Arizona Travel Blog
Hike Arizona

And here’s my PhotoBucket album for the rest of the pics from our trip: Christopher Creek Gorge


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