Had a whirlwind couple of days getting out to Escalante after a Grand Canyon river trip, but the stars aligned and I was able to hook up with Rick Green, Ram, Aaron, and Jenny West for a very cold and very early trip through Chop and Neon (Kaleidoscope and Edge of the Earth).

Escalante is still not in spring conditions. It was below freezing a few nights, and none of the trees have started to bud. Seems about 3 weeks late getting here. The forecast for us was relatively good, however, so with about 8 pounds of neoprene a piece, we set out.

We broke from traditional plan and did Choprock first, mainly because of a possible storm coming through. Ended up being a wise decision, even though I was personally concerned about the exposure, as we were fairly certain it was going to be tip-top full in there.

Approaching the choprock bench we only got a few hints about just how cold it was going to be, with isolated snow and ice here and there. The entrance to the canyon had a couple large patches of snow, and we all did the double take, “are you sure, I thought freezefest was over?” this spring is like one perpetual freezefest…

So, we all suited up. Proper neoprene was absolutely critical on this trip. I had a 4/3, with a 1.5 top, and a shorty over the top of that, with neo shorts. I don’t know what the total was, but it was barely sufficient. Place was damned cold! Good full suits with shorties over the top was the norm.

The biggest surprise besides the cold, was just how beautiful the place is in March. I was pleasantly surprised with how well the canyon lit up, and despite the riparian foliage, it was fantastic.

Water levels were high, but not dangerously high. However, all of the swim sections in the grim were full to the top of the bombays, meaning you had to stem from the bombay in water, up into the narrow crack to get out. We had pretty ideal conditions. A little more water and the place will be scary. A little less and it might be doable staying low, but the climb out could be harder. Good news is, the logjams seem to be pretty minimal and stable right now.

It was a cold cold trip through, but a very memorable one.


The next day we approached neon from the triborough bridges entry, expecting again to have lots of water. What we encountered was still very surprising. Neon has more water than we could’ve imagined. From triborough down to the sport routes, we had water continually, with multiple swims, and very long corridors of knee to waist high wading. It was tiring and exhausting. Below the sport routes we encountered very high conditions, which required at least two 5-10 minute swims, and many more short ones. It was the longest sustained water I’ve seen in any canyon in some time. Both potholes are under a couple feet of water, and easy to negotiate. However, big thick wetsuits are going to be mandatory in there for the next month I would guess. Did I mention it was COLD?

Oh yeah, and I swamped my camera in there… Dammit! So only a couple photos.