At the top of the chockstone
About 100 feet further up-canyon was the next tricky obstacle - A pool that gradually deepened to about waist-deep, then ended with another somewhat awkward chockstone climb. We decided that the quickest way for most of us to surmount this was some stemming across above the water, which allowed us to stem right over the chockstone. This required a some lofty positions about 10 feet above the pool.
I crossed first, then had all of the packs passed to me, then waited as Jenn and Roy stemmed over. Ewart decided to surmount the chockstone the old fashioned way, so I got out the rope again and we thrashed him up out of the water and over the boulder.
With that obstacle out of the way, it was another couple of hundred feed of walking to the next (and, as it turned out, final) obstacle of the main fork's narrows - a jumble of chockstones. The jumble had a narrow passage that you could climb up through, which we all managed to successfully squeeze through, although a touch snug for Ewart.
Beyond the 'tight-fit' chockstone passage, the 'V' of the narrows widened away, and soon the slot was simply a scenic sandy path with sloping slickrock on either side. Presently, we came to the confluence of the main fork and the west fork of Red Breaks Canyon.
Final narrows before confluence
Not being experts at slot-canyoning, we had found the section of narrows somewhat tiring, and we needed a good break. We had also gone through the narrows quite slowly, and it was now past 2pm. We therefore stopped for nice rest break and a snack at the scenic and wide-open confluence.
Confluence Main and West Forks
In my planning for this dayhike, I had toyed with the idea of tackling the longer and even tighter slot of the west fork. However, given our pace and the time of day, I figured that that would not be in the best interests of a relaxing, well-rounded day. Plus, I had a scenic gem in mind that I had not revealed to the rest of the group, and I didn't want a slot that took us too long to prevent us from seeing it.
Completing a bypass
So, after our break, we continued up the main fork, aiming for a further sub-tributary that would take us out of the canyon system and into an area of navajo slickrock to the east. The main fork had a few small sections of slot that we easily bypassed, and mostly it was wide and open.
More Easy Narrows
When we came to the sub-tributary that lead northeast, we found that it required scrambling up some slickrock slopes that we found a touch too steep (although they were quite doable if you were a little more brave than us). We instead backtracked a few hundred feet and climbed a shallow slickrock drainage that provided easy passage to the rim above, and followed along above on the pine-dotted benchlands. Further east, we located an easy scramble back down into the drainage. We had to modify our descent slightly when a small rattlesnack refused to move from the optimal descent route.
Looking northwest up side drainage
We were now out of the main Red Breaks drainage system, and were walking in the beautiful open slickrock just to the east. The terrain consisted of beautifully cross-bedded navajo sandstone, undulating away in all directions. Frequently there would be small scenic domes and hoodoos. A rounded ridgeline of slickrock led south, and we more or less followed this, angling back in the general direction of our hike's start point. The undulating slick rock ridge was crossed by the headward beginnings of canyons, and we had to hike down into and back out of several of these.
Beautiful slickrock hiking
It was turning out to be a longer and more tiring day than I had anticipated. The overall time and distance of the hike, combined with the extra bit of routefinding here and there and the hilly up-and-down nature of the terrain out here on the slickrock all came together to wear us down a bit. It crossed my mind to not try and locate my little scenic surprise, but that thought soon passed: I knew it was somewhere along this ridgeline, which we had to follow anyway as part of our circular loop; it was also not far ahead, according to the rough waypoint I had placed into my GPS unit. It did seem to require a bit more slickrock climbing that was absolutely necessary, I noticed, but no one was complaining too vociferously yet.