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Left Fork of Leprechaun Canyon, North Wash
Thursday, April 9
Already more than half of the way through our whirlwind trip! Today's outing was going to be fun: a descent of a very tight and moderately technical slot canyon. As you may know from reading some of my previous reports, southern Utah's slots can be really tight: think having to slither sideways with no pack. This one was right up there with the best: narrow, sinuous, sometimes very tight and dark, and with a few rappel-necessary drops thrown in. A nice change of pace that fit right in with this year's theme of hitting all the highlights!
You just watch it, Mister!
The slot canyon we were aiming for is in an area called The North Wash, south of Hanksville and north of Lake Powell. The canyons were 'discovered' (for the purposes of canyoneering) relatively recently. They are mostly short and very tight, and have been named for various Irish things, and hence they are called the Irish slots. There are several fun semi-technical and technical slots here, and we were doing one called Leprechaun Canyon. To be precise, we were doing the Left Fork of Leprechaun Canyon, since there three different forks of said canyon that can be descended. The route in this fork was also relatively short, meaning we could proceed without feeling rushed and enjoy the canyon in a safe manner.

I had obtained the necessary beta from the 'net, carefully noting where the proper entrance point into the canyon was. There is nothing signed or marked in this area, and it would be easy to descend into the wrong drainage -- a potentially dangerous situation -- if you weren't paying attention.

We also had carefully looked over the forecast for today. Rainy weather and a tight slot canyon are not a good mix for fragile little humans, but fortunately, the weather looked excellent for the day. The strong winds of yesterday had calmed, and there was no precipitation in the forecast.
courtesy BConnell
Leprechaun Trailhead
Land below Leprechaun
Starting up
Heading off from the nondescript little parking area off of Utah 276, we walked up the little wash that drained Leprechaun Canyon. After a few tens of minutes, we came to a little side branch that marked the spot where we were to head left up a smooth slickrock ridge. This would be our approach, which would lead above and along the edge of the canyon to it's head, where we would descend in and do the slot from the top to the bottom. Then we'd simply hike back through the wash back to the car.
Heading up to the left
Lower Leprechaun
Alpine above Slickrock
The steep slickrock ridge soon brought us high enough to view the canyon, complete with narrow little ribbons of shadow down in the bottom that we knew marked the line of the slots. Behind us were magnificent views of the recently snow-dusted Henry Mountains -- they formed an impressive and contrasting background to the dry desert terrain at our feet.
courtesy BConnell
Leprechaun's Main Fork
Hiking along the rim
Andrew crests a rise
As we walked along the rim of Leprechaun, we sized up the task ahead of us. The overall length of the slot was not too long, although progress through the slots can be slow. We could see the shallow section at the head of the left fork where we needed to descend to get to the first rappel point. It didn't look too bad either.
Leprechaun, Left Fork
Expansive Desert View
Looking down to Start
We hiked along the rim, countouring around to the entry point, which was a jumbled set of broken blocks from the upper rim that allowed us to pick our way down to the slot-forming slickrock layer. From there, we descended the short distance down the smooth slopes to the junction of two shallow drainages, and the start of the left fork. A narrow gash and some dark shade below marked the start of the slot proper, and the first rappel point.
courtesy BConnell
Entrance Point
Starting descent into Left Fork
Junction marks the start
We had hoped that some good anchors would be left behind for us to re-use, and sure enough, there they were. As everyone geared up with harness and helmet, we inspected the anchor. It was a deadman (actually, several deadmen) -- small boulders buried in sand in a small pothole, with webbing going around the boulders. I dug out some of them and inspected the quality of the webbing around them, then did some double-body weight tugging tests. All seemed good.
courtesy BConnell
Bob looks Apprehensive
A bit of training
Anchor setup
After this, we went through a bit of prep with some of the new-to-climbing-gear folks in the group (yes Bob, this means you!), explaining the details of rappelling. We then set the rope up, and with an extra loop of slightly-slack webbing attached to several folks as a backup, I descended down into the slot. There was only a tiny bit of [fetid] water in a small pothole partway down the rappel, and the bottom was dry. I then acted as the bottom belayer for the next rappeller, then passed that duty on to the next person, and so on, with Caroline coming down last without using our backup webbing (we had thoroughly tested and over-tested the existing webbing and anchor at this point). Bob found his first rap a little awkward and intimidating, but in the end, he passed with flying colors. Bravo!
courtesy BConnell
A deadman
Below First Rappel
Jenn on First Rap
Pu Descends First Rap
Bob's First Rappel
The Second Rappel
I knew from the description that the next rappel was only a few feet downcanyon, so as everyone was rappelling down, I quickly moved down to it and had a look. It too had a good anchor setup already in place, so with a quick backup piece of my own, I set things up. Streamlining and parallelizing the process with this sort of stuff always results in time dividends! With everybody down and the rope shuttled over to this spot, we quickly set it up and started the second rappel (which is shorter and less awkward than the first rap).
courtesy BConnell
Behind the Bum!
Narrow but Sunny
Andrew in Leprechaun
Below the second rappel, we wormed our way along the tight slot. In many places, it works best to take your pack off and hold it behind you, because you need to twist sideways to get through, and the extra width of a pack won't allow that. In a few spots, the slot got deeper, darker, and steeper. In a few spots, a bit of careful downclimb (without needing ropes) was required.

In other spots, the slot was pretty shallow, with walls angled back and lots of sunlight streaming in. We kept one eye on the sky, but things remained clear and calm. So far, so good!
courtesy BConnell
courtesy BConnell
Bob in Leprechaun
A little Tighter
Deeper and Darker
courtesy BConnell
courtesy BConnell
Brian's Stem Technique
Third Rappel
The third rappel also had good anchors. We were in to the swing of things now, so with reasonable efficiency we had things set up, complete with a horse-team of four sitting, heels-dug-in canyoneers acting as a secondary backup for my anchor-testing rappel.
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