Hiking Mt. Dundas, Greenland

Paul and I are in Thule, doing some work for GrIT (Greenland Inland Traverse). After work we decided to do the classic climb of Mt Dundas- which is a steep but flat topped mountain just outside of town. Here’s a couple pics.

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Picture of Thule taken from the air during the 1960’s, Mt Dundas in background. The trail up the mountain is highlighted in red

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View from the top, looking north over Wolstenholme Fjord

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The view of Thule as it is today.

 

Backpacking Coyote Canyon

Took our nephew Joseph on his first backpacking trip to Coyote- one of the most beautiful canyons in the Escalante region. We planned a four day hike starting at the Dry Fork- near the famous slots of Peek-a-boo and Spooky Gulch.

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Peek-a-boo Gulch

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Peek-a-boo, Spooky, and Brimstone are tributaries of Coyote Dry Fork. You can drop your pack at the entrance and explore them as a side hike. The entrance to Peek-a-boo is a tricky little 15′ climb. Hand and foot holds have been pecked out of the rock to aid in climbing but they are worn now. We tied a rope around the waist as a simple belay. You can climb out of the gulch where it pinches at the end, no down-climb or rappel necessary.

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Upper Peek-a-boo

2    Spooky Gulch. We were told by a local guide that it needs to rain directly above these slots in order for them to flash flood. Still, it was an unnerving thought.

Side note: I always use tennis shoes on my hikes and packrafting trips. They drain water well, are comfortable, and easy to scramble in. The desert has been the one place where I’ve developed blisters due to the sand. This time we tried wearing ziplock bags on our feet then the sock on top. That idea kinda worked. It kept the sand off our feet but didn’t stop the sand from building up in our shoes. We were constantly pulling them off and dumping the sand out. I didn’t develop blisters but I’ve come to the conclusion that the desert may be the one place where I will need to wear traditional hiking boots with gaitors. I will still need the tennis shoes though when hiking in water. Bummer. I’m a lightweight backpacker and hate bringing multiple pairs of footwear. I don’t even bring camp shoes. Anyone have a better way of getting through the desert when encountering sand AND water?

IMG_4921IMG_4952Spooky Gulch

IMG_4939It can be pretty dark down there.

IMG_4996Nice sand dune near the entrance to Brimstone Gulch. Visiting Brimstone slot is a long, sandy hike down Coyote Dry Fork and fewer people put the effort in to see it. Maybe it’s the name- it certainly isn’t as cool as Peek-a-boo or Spooky. But in my opinion, Brimstone is the best of all three.

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Megga face plant while running down the dune! Ha! Sand everywhere but he was a good sport!

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Backpacks on, headed down Coyote Dry fork. As you can see, the canyon is very narrow at times. There isn’t any water for the first 11 miles and not very many people visit this area. We had to carry a gallon of water each for this section.

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Tumbleweed blocks the way. “Careful, could be snakes in there.”

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We found evidence that cows like this slot too. These tight spots aren’t as fun with backpack on.

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Lowered packs with rope.

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Reminds me of a scene from Indiana Jones.

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The canyon opens and the walls rise.

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Huge sandstone cave!

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Just kidding.

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Prickly Pear Cactus in bloom

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Looking forward to water!

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Nice camp spot. Joseph tried making friction-fire with bow drill he made from wood found along hike. Lots of smoke but no cigar.

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About to find water near Sleepy Hollow.

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Coyote Canyon proper. Now our tennis shoes and neoprene socks come in handy! You can walk in the water barefoot, which is nice, but the trail always cuts through the brush and there is a couple different species of poison ivy which can be hard to identify. We saw people in shorts and short sleeve shirts- including children. I have made this mistake myself and had to get epinephrine shots to counter the effects of this poisonous plant. Do yourself and your kids a favor and wear pants, long sleeve shirts, and gloves.

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Anasazi cliff dwellings

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Coyote Natural Bridge

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Cliff Arch

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The scramble up Crack-in-the-wall. It actually is a crack in the wall- go figure. Backpacks won’t fit through the slot.

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A 50′ rope is used to haul the packs up. The sandstone is very abrasive and can wear or cut your rope- have something thicker than string.

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The last little climb at the very top. Try to plan your ascent early in the morning or late at night to avoid the blistering heat.

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At the top of Crack-in-the-wall. I’ve drawn in red the two routes down into the canyon. The one on the left is the prominent trail into Coyote Canyon. The steep route on the right has quicker access to/from the Escalante River but their is some scrambling involved and some groups may feel more comfortable with a rope.

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The long hike back to the car on 40 Mile Bench.

Coyote is one of the more beautiful canyons in the Escalante but the secret is out. Fortunately, the long arduous hike holds back most the hordes. Its a great introduction for first time desert backpackers. A little route finding and rope work but nothing intimidating.

 

Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes

“The whole valley as far as the eye could reach was full of hundreds, no thousands- literally, tens of thousands- of smokes curling up from its fissured floor.”

                                                                                                        Robert F. Griggs 1916

Above: Novarupta- site of the largest volcanic eruption of the 20th century.

When Novarupta (a previously unknown volcano) erupted on the Alaska Peninsula in 1912, it spewed 2.6 cubic miles of ash across the valley floor resulting in what is now called, the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes. Today, most of the fumaroles are gone and the valley is no longer filled with smoke but the ash remains. Since the eruption, the rivers have carved chasms deep into the soft ash and the resulting landscape reminds me of sandstone canyons in Arizona and Utah.

I went on a solo, three day hike into the heart of the valley, not really having a plan. The rangers at Brooks Camp told me there was an old USGS hut on Baked Mountain. Since I was sick n’ tired of sleeping in a tent, the hut seemed like a great idea.

I didn’t bring my packraft but I saw some real possibilities there. The Ukak River below Ukak Falls has been done before. It’s a glacial river that has a blind entrance into the canyon and should be scouted first. Looks like sections of PR4. You could then paddle Iliuk Arm back to Brooks Camp.

The trail along the Buttress Range was a good one but once I headed across the vast ash-flow, I felt very small indeed, especially because the clouds were low and I couldn’t see the mountains in the distance.

I headed blindly across the ash, hoping to see the occasional footprint to guide me, but the wind that comes over the pass is like a bat out of hell and erased all the tracks except for one. A fresh dinner-plate sized paw print with claws extending several inches beyond it caught my full attention. I had just witnessed the massive 1500 pound bears of Brooks Camp and the idea that a giant grizzly was out there in the mist, freaked me out. Don’t get me wrong, I feel very privileged to travel in places where wild beasts still roam, that said, I might have started running towards the hut.

Above: Baked Mountain in the distance.

Anyway, the ‘hut’ was ON TOP of Baked Mountain. No one had bothered to mention that part and it wasn’t marked on my topo map.  I found it though and ended up spending two nights there.

USGS hut- Mt. Mageik in background.

A windstorm blows ash in the valley. Some hikers bring goggles.