by John Hart 







Rappels and Deep Potholes, This is the Swell.












One of the bigger raps in The Squeeze.



























Hauling out.









Setting Up













The San Rafael Swell is located north and south of Interstate 70 in Utah about 20 miles west of Green River.  It is a region of uplifted sandstone that has been cut laterally by numerous narrow canyons.  Many of these, like Lower Chute, Crack, and Little Wildhorse, are easy walk-throughs.  But a few are difficult technical routes requiring special skills for getting in and out of very deep potholes.  The degree of difficulty and the methods needed vary considerably with the water depth, so it is interesting to do these canyons more than once under different conditions. 


These are two of the longer and more technical canyons in the area (the others include Cable, the full Baptist Draw - Upper Chute,....).  Each May a group of enthusiasts converges on Hidden Splendor Airstrip to enjoy evenings beneath the clear desert sky, and days out in the slots.  The images in this trip report were taken in May 2002 at a Rendezvous organized by Tom Jones of Salt Lake City.


Apart from some route finding and few short but interesting down-climbs, the main excitement is getting through the deep potholes.  Called "keepers" because if you jump (or rope) into one unprepared, you probably won't get out.  Baby-bottom smooth sides, steep and sometimes overhung lips, and the potential for floating in quite cold water for a long time while orchestrating an escape, add to the complexity of getting through Qunadary Direct and The Squeeze.  I would never do these canyons alone.  Partner-assisted climbing is often enough to get it done.  But on other occasions special techniques using hooks, throw-bags, and perhaps even poles (or "cheater sticks"), may be required.  Great fun!




With a number of people, and low water, most of the big potholes in Quandary and The Squeeze were negotiable by buddy climbing.  This is reasonably fast and doesn't require scarring up the rock with bolt holes (BAD BAD BAD).  With mid-depth water the toss-bag technique, wherein a sand-weighted bag with a light rope attached is thrown over the far lip, or pushed over the lip with a pole, is necessary.  If the toss is awkward or too far, it may be necessary to resort to a hook (on the end of a pole), a pole ladder, or multiple lighter-weight throw bags.  Canyoneering = Engineering a canyon with minimal impact.  Oh Yeah.  


While getting through the big potholes is the challenge, these two slots are also very pretty, with colorful convoluted walls and interspersed narrows,  The route from Quandary back up through Ramp is highly recommended.  Ramp has some marvelous bowls and fluted sidewalls.  Seger's Hole (The Squeeze) is San Raf's tour de force.  With many many drops (something like 25 or more), it is definitely worth the effort.