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courtesy BConnell
courtesy BConnell
Getting more open
Wider Vistas
Following the trickle
courtesy JInnes
Final Cleaning
Not long after our shoe-cleaning, the flow of water ends entirely, and we're now walking in the dry creek-bed. It's a nice hard surface, making it easy to walk (rather than sand). But that also means that it is composed of mud and clay, meaning it would be a gooey mess if it were wet. But today it's hard and perfect - almost like pavement.

I pay close attention to the left-hand canyon walls here; they are lowering as we walk up-canyon and I know from the description of the loop route that there is an "exit ramp" that we need to take soon. Within about ten minutes I do spot a slopey rib of slickrock that looks pretty climbable, but I'm at the back of the pack and everyone has gone by it by the time I decide I need to go up and explore if this is in fact they way we want to climb out (I don't spot any marker cairns).
Glimpse of Fiftymile Mountain
Dry Creekbed
The exit ramp
I quickly scramble up the cross-bedded and well-textured slickrock. It goes quite easily (easy class 3) and soon I am halfway up. I can see that it gets easier and easier the higher one goes, and it also goes exactly in the direction we want. So, this must be the spot. I call down for the others to come back and exit out this way.
courtesy JInnes
Preparing to exit
Exit Scrambling
Monitoring progress
Everybody has no problem with the scramble out. Well, except maybe Gino, who reports halfway up that he's "a bit scared of heights". Hm, didn't know that. Still, with a little bit of constructive coaching, he does fine, and soon we are walking up the smooth slickrock at the top of the climb. We top out and can immediately spot the glint of our two jeeps, which I reckon are approximately 1 mile (1.6km) away across the desert scrub of Sooner Flat.
Rim slickrock
Leaving 40-mile Gulch
Trailhead in sight
Taking a more-or-less direct line, we begin the cross-desert trek back to the car. It's nothing particularly difficult, but it is mildly tedious walking through the often-soft sand. It takes us almost exactly half an hour to walk the mile back to the car, and we arrive shortly before 2pm.
courtesy JInnes
Across the flats
Arriving Willow Gulch trailhead
Arriving Willow Gulch trailhead
So, that backpack had worked out perfectly: four and a half hours of hiking the afternoon before, and four and a half hours getting back this morning and early afternoon. Everyone had nicely gotten their feet wet (both literally and figuratively) and were in the swing of the trip, and it wasn't too late for us to reasonably get set up for a start on Death Hollow the following day. Very good. Very good, indeed.
Interactive trackmap with photo points - Willow/40 mile Gulches loop - click map to view
Willow-40mi Day 1
(Track color: )
Start Time: 1:37PM
End Time: 6:02PM
Duration: 4h24m
Distance: 6.47 km (4.02 mi)
Average Speed: 1.5 km/hr (0.9 mph)
Start Elevation: 4177ft (1273m) *
Max Elevation: 4182ft (1275m) *
Min Elevation: 3717ft (1133m) *
End Elevation: 3803ft (1159m) *
* : +/- 75 feet
Total Elevation Gain: 134ft (41m) *
Total Elevation Loss: 539ft (164m) *
 
 
* : +/- 75 feet
Elevation Graph
Willow-40mi Day 2
(Track color: )
Start Time: 9:05AM
End Time: 1:44PM
Duration: 4h38m
Distance: 6.92 km (4.3 mi)
Average Speed: 1.5 km/hr (0.9 mph)
Start Elevation: 3646ft (1111m) *
Max Elevation: 4299ft (1310m) *
Min Elevation: 3624ft (1105m) *
End Elevation: 4189ft (1277m) *
* : +/- 75 feet
Total Elevation Gain: 785ft (239m) *
Total Elevation Loss: 228ft (69m) *
 
 
* : +/- 75 feet
Elevation Graph
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