Bear Canyon

In his book “Arizona Technical Canyoneering” Todd Martin predicts that Bear Canyon will become a classic due to it’s easy accessibility, short time requirements and not-very-difficulty. It’s a great canyon, since a lot of the beginner canyons are somewhat unimpressive. This canyon has a little bit of everything, including gorgeous, mossy narrows, and can be done in 3-5 hours. A lot of times a canyon this ‘wild’ will take 10-12 hours, so this is a real treat!

You probably (don’t) recognize this canyon as the setting for the snake in a pothole story. (see here for the snake in a pothole story).. The snake was removed the week before we descended the canyon, and I was afraid/hoping that the snake had fallen back in the pothole or maybe had a stupid friend who hadn’t learned from his buddy’s mistakes. I cheerfully informed Adam that if I found a rattlesnake in that pothole I would use components of my backpack and various gear to construct a snake hook and gracefully free the snake from the canyon. I told Adam he should record this on video for my blog. HE told ME that if I made any move towards a rattlesnake in a pothole that he would punch me in the face, therefore “saving both of our lives.”

Bear Canyon’s technical section is short, but it definitely gives you that ‘deep in a canyon’ feel anyways.

The slot canyon is full of twisty narrows…

Deep, black, freezing cold pools…

rappels into dark, scary slots…

and scenery that makes you feel like you’re anywhere but Arizona.

There were some fun obstacles, but nothing too tricky. Some moderate downclimbing, stemming to avoid manky puddles and a lot of logs to balance beam on.

The canyon dumped us out in West Clear Creek which was not only west, but also clear. After sloshing along in the creek for a bit we found the trail to get us out of the canyon and back to our car. The hike out was a lot harder than I expected! Maybe it was the zero sleep I got the night before from my almost-deflated sleeping pad & sub-zero core body temperature, maybe it was the wet, heavy wetsuit and climbing harness in my bag. Maybe it was me being out of shape, but that climb out felt like Camelback Mountain on a bad day!

Here’s a funny anecdotal story:
The night before we’d camped along FR42e and had a tiny bit of daylight left after setting up our tent. I had the ambitious goal to throw a rope up in a tree and teach ourselves how to ascend ropes (a necessary emergency skill). Tying a carabiner to the rope, Adam tried and tried and tried but the other branches kept getting in the way.

A new tactic: the other side of the tree. But this didn’t work either. I tried a few throws but almost knocked myself out with the carabiner attached to the rope. Adam decided to tie a rock to the rope instead for a little more flying power and aimed it for the crotch where two branches…branched. The rock flew very well on it’s first try, and lodged itself firmly into that crotch.

Oops. But here comes Kristi with her bright ideas and eagerness to ascend a rope. I thought I would just climb up that rope, climb into the tree, push the rock out the other side and rappel down. But giving the rope a test tug, the tree bowed down towards us with uncomfortable ease. We realized then that our tree was actually 3 trees, and the one we’d chosen was growing towards us at a 30 degree angle. Our rope wasn’t going to support my body weight that far out from the leaning trunk.

We threw rocks to push the stuck rock over the other side, we threw rocks to pop the rock up out of the crotch, I threw rocks at Adam. One of our rocks pushed it about a foot closer to us. Adam cheerleader stunted me to see if I could reach it while balancing on his shoulders but I was scared he would drop me and couldn’t manage to let go of his shoulders. We tried to find branches to pull it down, but none were long enough. Eventually we drove his truck over and I stood on it to pull the rock down. We did not get to practice ascending, but we got to practice unsticking ropes! However, I doubt we’ll have the truck to save us if it happens in a canyon.

More Bear Canyon pics; Adam took the good ones, I took the not as good ones.

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Buy Todd Martin’s book so you too can experience Bear Canyon!


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