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Death Hollow, Day 2 - Pools. Lots of them.
Wednesday, October 2
Day 2 in Death Hollow. It is a still, clear, beautiful morning. A good night's sleep has done a lot to reset the stress-o-meter, and everyone wakes up in good spirits. As we pack up, we look forward to the day's canyoneering adventures.
Dawn - Day 2, Death Hollow
Dawn - Day 2, Death Hollow
Our Water Source
As far as I could understand from the route reports, today was the crux day: the day with supposedly the most challenging canyoneering of the trip. I kept reminding people of this fact, hoping to ensure that we were mentally prepared for what was to come - namely, narrows, downclimbing, and getting wet in muddy and dank pools of unknown depth and length. I wasn't sure of how much water there would be or how long it would take, as the actual conditions could vary widely based on recent weather, time of year, and for that matter, the interpretation of the particular trip report writer. However, it all boiled down to a basic goal: get through all of the hardest bits, then find a campsite. Simple, right?
Morning Prep
It is generally wise to start as early as possible on days when the route or the obstacles are not clearly understood. Despite some gentle urging, we weren't able to get ourselves organized and moving before 8:30 a.m., which means we lost out on about an hour and a half of usable light out of the day. Still, 8:30 a.m. is not that bad. Probably we'd be just fine.

A few moments downcanyon from camp we encountered the first chockstone boulder and unavoidable pool (the same one that had finally made us decide to camp where we did). When I say unavoidable, I mean down at creek level. In this stretch of canyon, it was possible to climb out and around on some adjacent slickrock - which we did, to avoid having to get out the water shoes. A climb up about 60-70 feet on the right allowed us to walk about 200 yards down-canyon and around the initial pool (or pools, there may have been more).
The first 2nd-day Obstacle
Climbing around obstacle
Returning to Canyon Bottom
Back in the now-dry-again creekbed, we proceed downcanyon, where it immediately began to narrow up into a roughly ten foot-wide slot. Rounded boulders of hard rock littered the streambed, necessitating a lot of clambering and boulder-hopping.
courtesy JInnes
courtesy BConnell
Creekbed Clambering
Rounded Boulders
Rounded Boulders
courtesy BConnell
More boulder clambering
It was only about another couple of hundred yards before we encountered the first of several chockstone-water drops. That is, a large boulder wedged directly into the narrow slot with a bunch of smaller boulders and dirt and sand in front of it. The fact that the chockstone is holding back the material in the creekbed is what causes the drop (in this case, maybe only about ten feet). And frequently, the low point downstream of the chockstone is the last place that water pools before it finally dries up (from the last flash flood or from runoff).

Anyway, in this particular case, there was indeed water below the chockstone. It was stagnant and muddy water, and we couldn't determine the depth simply by looking at it. Time for water shoes and neoprene socks. Gino offered to descend the drop first and check it out. It turns out not to be more than knee deep so we don't get out anything more than the shoes and the socks. We also get out my static rope, which we use to give a reassuring belay down the drop to everyone.
courtesy JInnes
courtesy JInnes
courtesy BConnell
The obstacles begin
Assistive Descent
Assistive Descent
Ok, so first water obstacle over. Let's continue on!

It's not more than 75 yards before we get to the next significant chockstone-pool dropoff. This one is twice the height and the pool is again deeper and longer (maybe waist deep at most). We get out neoprene lowers. More careful lowering and ferrying of packs occurs.
courtesy JInnes
courtesy JInnes
courtesy JInnes
Time for full Neoprene
A bigger drop
Ferrying Packs
courtesy JInnes
Ferrying Packs (from above)
Careful Wading
A few more chockstones and pools follow, and we go through the same processes. It's actually rather fun - none of the wades is more than waist deep, so we're not having to deal with cold swimming or keeping floating packs dry or anything like that. But it's slow going. And some of our group are starting to show mild signs of hypothermia, despite having put on all of their water warm-wear.
courtesy BConnell
courtesy BConnell
courtesy JInnes
The logistics of Canyoneering
Andrew in Death Hollow
Completing a pool
Fortunately and happily, it isn't too much longer before we emerge into a wider stretch of canyon, and the warm morning sun quickly heats us back up -- and allows us to make normal walking speed downcanyon for a while.

It takes us about 20 more minutes of warm sunny canyon-bottom hiking to near an important marker junction: the confluence with the Right Fork of Death Hollow. I hear from almost all route descriptions that there's a more challenging chockstone-pool obstacle just before the Right Fork, but I also understand there's a bypass route around it. I soon spot a small cairn on the left slickrock bank of the creekbed, and conclude that this must be the start of said bypass. I explain to the others, and they are keen to do a little climbing in exchange for skipping a cold and wet stretch.
courtesy BConnell
Back to boulder clambering
A welcome sunny stretch
A section of nice slot
courtesy JInnes
Easy Stretch
Sunny and bouldery
Right Fork Detour
The bypass works quite well. One can see where others have travelled here, and its relatively easy to follow that up and over a small notch in the ridgeline separating the main fork from the right fork. A sandy path then leads steeply down into the bed of the Right Fork. Turning right (downstream), we walk around a few big potholes and find ourselves at the confluence, where we take our lunch break.
Detour left through the cleft
Completing Detour
Right Fork Potholes
Having reached the confluence with the Right Fork gives us a checkpoint on our progress... and it's... well, it's slow. It's now been nearly 3 hours since we left camp, and we've managed just 2.5 kilometres. That's an overall speed of less than 1 kilometer per hour and is somewhat concerning. But, we tell ourselves, the water levels have seemed low so far, and because of that, we figure that maybe continued low water levels will mean that we don't have as much challenging stuff ahead as the route descriptions would have us believe, and as a result, our speed will pick up...
courtesy JInnes
courtesy BConnell
courtesy BConnell
First drop after Right Fork
First drop after Right Fork
A slopey drop-in
We continue on downcanyon after lunch. And our hope for less water? well, not so much. In fact, it is the reverse. The chockstone/water pool drops soon resume, except this time, they are a little deeper and longer. We have all started to realize that our cautious, careful one-at-a-time flow through these obstacles is the real culprit for the slowness, and we attempt to streamline things a little bit by doing more in parallel - ferrying, climbing, scouting. Gino especially has taken on a role of lead-ahead scout and was often busy sussing out the nature of the next obstacle before we had even completed the current one.
courtesy BConnell
courtesy JInnes
courtesy BConnell
Stemming a pool
Look ma, no hands
Ferrying a watery slot
courtesy BConnell
courtesy BConnell
Completing watery slot section
Another long watery slot
Another long watery slot
courtesy JInnes
courtesy BConnell
Descending to a watery slot
Easy descent assist
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