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A Tight Squeeze
Exit from Coyote Gulch
Wednesday, May 4
Wednesday dawned, like all of the days before it, clear and calm. Although we knew that we had a bit of a stiff climb coming up, overall our exit back to the car would not be all that hard: hike down Coyote Gulch for a kilometre or so, then up a large sand dune to Crack-in-the-wall, 700 feet above. Some sideways shuffling and pack-lifting through Crack-in-the-wall would get us onto the canyon rim, where we would then walk a few more kilometres over featureless desert to the end of Fortymile Ridge Road. And finally, the least appealing part of the journey would be a boring walk (or run) of five kilometres, back to the Fortymile Ridge Water Tank trailhead to fetch the rental vehicle. There was no point in all of us doing that journey, so I volunteered to do the vehicle shuttling and the rest would wait at the road's end.
Early morning in Coyote Gulch
Start of the long climb
A short splash down Coyote Gulch brought us, in fifteen minutes, to the end of the wading. We switched back into hiking boots, then started up the sandy track that led to Crack-in-the-wall. The grade is at times steep, and the sand was soft and dry. With a full pack, it was a bit of a chore to ascend.
Tiring sandy climb
The landscape opens...
Looking up to the rim
The reward for perservering on the ascent are ever-widening views back down to the confluence area of Coyote Gulch and the Escalante. Ancient remnants of past meanders in the river systems tower out of the sand: huge, rounded fins of Navajo Sandstone.
Fins and towers
Looking up-Escalante
Roy and lower Escalante
Slowly but surely, the short section of rim at the apex of the huge sand dune -- where Crack-in-the-Wall is located -- grew closer. Finally, forty-five minutes after starting off at stream-level in Coyote Gulch, we reach the shaded based of the cliff at Crack-in-the-Wall. Time for a well-earned break, a drink, and a cool-off period.
Silhouetted below the crack
Crack-in-the-Wall is a thin slab of sandstone that has peeled slightly away from the main wall of the canyon. The space between the separated slab and the wall of the canyon is the crack that is Crack-in-the-Wall. It is the only non-technical way to surmount the last 30 feet or so of canyon wall up to the rim.
Break below the crack
Normally one uses a a bit of light rope to haul packs up past the tightest part of Crack-in-the-Wall. However, we had forgotten to bring our light rope, and all we had was a length of very narrow twine. However, earlier in the morning we had noticed a mother-daughter pair that was also ascending up to Crack-in-the-Wall. We had seen this duo day before at the short scramble in Coyote Gulch, and we recalled that they had a short bit of haul rope. We could see them now below us, toiling up to our location. We decided it would be more convenient to wait for their arrival, then ask politely if we could borrow their rope for a few minutes.
The mother-daughter couple were more than amenable to sharing their ropes, so Roy and I squeezed through the lower part of the crack (the narrowest part), up to a point that would be wide enough for packs, and sent down the short rope so that Ewart could tie the end onto a pack. One by one, we brought up all of the packs to this intermediate point.
courtesy JInnes
Pack ferrying
The next challenge turned out to be getting Ewart through the lowest, narrowest part of the crack. It turns out that he is just a little bit too big for that stretch of crack. This was a problem, since he simply had to get through here. We were not going to accept his offer to let him backtrack all the way back up the canyon and out the way we came in!
courtesy JInnes
Ewart's tight squeeze
In the end, we had Ewart climb up over the top of the crack, shuffling along with his feet perched atop my shoulders. This was extremely awkward, to say the least. Ewart's heavy backpacking boots were digging painfully into my shoulders (I should have gotten Ewart to do this in his sock feet). And, Ewart nearly had his foot twisted off as he finally slid back down into the crack as it widened. Ewart definitely left a bit of skin behind on the sandstone. But most importantly, he was through the really narrow part - the crack further up was wide enough for him.

A bit more pack-ferrying and scrambling brought us up to the top of Crack-in-the-Wall.
courtesy JInnes
courtesy JInnes
Up and along
Upper Crack-in-the-Wall
At the top of Crack-in-the-Wall, there is a climb up a short chimney that brings one suddenly out into the open at the rim of the canyon, right at its edge. A great spot to sit and drink in the fantastic vista. And to eat lunch.
Upper Crack-in-the-Wall
Top exit, Crack-in-the-Wall
Resting after the ordeal
Mid-morning snack
Resting at scenic overlook
Desert Wasteland above
Rested, hydrated, and fed, we started off on the final portion of the journey - the long hot walk back across the flats to the end of Fortymile Ridge Road. There is a well-marked route back to the trailhead from here: small cairns guided the way over the slickrock, and a well-formed footpath through the sandy sections.
courtesy JInnes
Ewart heads out
Roy in the desert
Changing Batteries
courtesy JInnes
Roy in the desert
One last little hill
Arriving at Fortymile Trailhead
The walk back to the trailhead only took one hour, but the featureless flats that we had crossed made it seem longer. Overall it had taken us less than four hours, including the time-consuming shenanigans at Crack-in-the-Wall, to get from our campsite to here.
Below is a video sequence containing scenes from the third and final day of our Coyote Gulch Backpack. Click directly on the image below to start it.

Video, Coyote Gulch Backpack Day 3 - Click on video to start

There was still one final task to perform before this outing could be considered complete: the retrieval of the rental car, which was sitting five kilometres away at the water-tank trailhead. I put my pack and camera bag aside, and prepared for the tedious walk-and-jog along the jeep road to retrieve it.

There was a young guy packing up a Toyota Sequoia filled with all manner of outdoor gear, obviously getting ready to leave. He overheard our plans, and graciously offered to give me a lift, since he was heading out (and right past the water-tank trailhead). I gratefully accepted, and climbed into his truck. This would be much, much better!

I had a little chat with Todd (or perhaps it was Tim, I can't quite remember) as we drove along. He was from Montana, and this was his first time exploring the wilds of the desert southwest. And he had been quite impressed. He told me a little about his planned itinerary and asked questions about what I thought was best. I suggested many of the excellent spots we had visited on past trips: Buckskin Gulch, Little Death Hollow, the various districts of Canyonlands, the Boulder Mail Trail, Spooky and Coyote Gulches, Capitol Reef, Angel's Landing, and so on. There is a lot to see!

Soon we were arrived at the water-tank trailhead, were I was let off. A few minutes more and I was back at the end of the road to pick up the others.
Interactive Trackmap - Coyote Gulch Day 3 - Click Map to Expand
Hike Data - Coyote Gulch Backpack, Day 3
Start Time: 8:17a.m.
End Time: 12:07p.m.
Duration: 3h49m
Distance: 4.63 km (2.88 mi)
Average Speed: 1.2 km/hr (0.8 mph)
Start Elevation: 3618ft (1103m) *
Max Elevation: 4677ft (1426m) *
Min Elevation: 3618ft (1103m) *
End Elevation: 4677ft (1425m) *
* : +/- 75 feet
Total Elevation Gain: 969ft (295m) *
Total Elevation Loss: 45ft (14m) *
* : +/- 75 feet
Elevation Graph
Below is a trackmap that shows all three days of the Coyote Gulch backpack, put together. Note that there are no picture points on this trackmap - if you want the picture points, then look at the trackmaps associated with each individual day.
Interactive Trackmap, entire Coyote Gulch Loop - Click map to Expand (Note: no pictures on this trackmap)
Hike Data - Entire Coyote Gulch Backpack
Distance: 27.35 km (16.99 mi)
Average Speed: 1.6 km/hr (1.0 mph)
Time: 17h17m
Start Elevation: 4805ft (1465m) *
Max Elevation: 4805ft (1465m) *
Min Elevation: 3618ft (1103m) *
End Elevation: 4677ft (1425m) *
* : +/- 75 feet
Total Elevation Gain: 1635ft (498m) *
Total Elevation Loss: 1910ft (582m) *
* : +/- 75 feet
Elevation Graph
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[ Introduction | April 30 - Fairyland | May 1 - Red Breaks: Slots and Ashtrays | May 2 - Diversion into Coyote Gulch | May 3 - A Walk in Paradise : Coyote Gulch Day 2 | May 4 - A Tight Squeeze : Exit from Coyote Gulch | May 4 - Back on Track : Harris Wash Backpack | May 5 - Backcountry Rest Day : Harris Wash, Day 2 | May 6 - A Stiff March Out: Harris Wash, Day 3 | May 7 - One Last Outing: Taylor Creek Trail | Epilogue | Video Clip Index | Backcountry Barrie | GPS Data | Planning Page ]

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