Trip Report: Virgin River Gorge Canyoneering

Virgin River Gorge Canyoneering
By Tom Hamann
CANYONEER 03/15/2019 MOD+

On Thursday the 14th of March, Bret, Kevin, Heidi, Jeff, Ying, June, and Tom met at the Virgin River Hotel in Mesquite Nevada for a canyoneering adventure. We were anxious to get started with the spring canyoneering season. On Friday morning, we got an early start and made our way to the Virgin River Gorge in Arizona. The Golf Canyon approach begins on the north bound shoulder of I-15. The approach immediately begins with one of the harder physical challenges of the day, wading across a cold and fast-moving section of the Virgin River. The river was about 3 feet deep and 75-feet wide at this section.
The water was cold but would not bother us for long as the mostly uphill and rocky 2.5-mile approach up Sullivan’s Canyon quickly warmed us up. Golf Canyon has many challenges with numerous down climbs and close to a dozen rappels. With a group of seven this can take a long time but with Bret Matthews and Kevin Earl leading the way with great rope management, we came down the canyon quicker than expected. We all took part in building deadman anchors, human backup anchors, and setting up the various rappels ranging from 17 feet to 99 feet. Golf Canyon was a great adventure, a physical challenge and a technical canyoneering class all in one great day.
After a well-deserved prime rib dinner and good nights rest at the hotel we were ready for day two. We were joined by Wilmer bringing our group to eight. In the morning we went to Ghost Rider Canyon which has a shorter approach and a only a hand full of down climbs and rappels. This canyon took us less than three hours which made it the perfect warmup after our long day yesterday. I made a mental note that with its beautiful campsites clean and bolted rappels, it would be the perfect weekend trip for those new to technical canyoneering. The rappels started at ten feet high and ended with a 79-footer with an easy start.
In the afternoon we went to Boltergeist Canyon in Utah. Once again class was in session with Bret and Kevin’s help, we all set up single rope rappels with releasable figure eight blocks and a self-belaying zip line to avoid a rappel into a water filled slot. Again, it was amazing to see how fast the eight of us could go down the canyon. People would still be coming down one rappel while the next one was already set up and had its first decent. With perfect weather we finished up the day with a long warm scramble up to the canyon rim finishing off day two.
On Sunday our last day we decided to not attempt Cherry Canyon as the Virgin River was a little deeper and faster at this location. So Instead we decided to do Boltergeist again dropping into the canyon at a different location and using different anchors most of the way down. I must admit I was a little skeptical about doing the same canyon two days in a row, as I get bored easily. I was very surprised that by using different anchors we encountered very different obstacles. This allowed Kevin to show us down climbing technique in a long chimney that I didn’t even remember seeing the day before. However, the long warm scramble up to the canyon rim didn’t change much.
After a very scenic lunch spot and discussions about adventures past and adventures yet to come, we were on our way home. Thank you to Bret Matthews and Kevin Earl for a very educating and adventurous technical canyoneering trip.

Trip Report by Tom Hamann

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