The Mountaineers have
been going to the canyon country since at least the 1970s. Bill
Priedhorsky has been one of their regulars, and is now in his fifth
decade of canyon exploring in southeast Utah and northeast Arizona.
With any luck, he will make his hundredth trip in 2014 or sooner. So
what is the excitement about? At the August meeting of the
Mountaineers, Bill will tell the story of one canyon adventure, and
the story of one says something about the adventure of all.
The Antone Ridge crowd out on a day adventure, about to climb the
and see slickrock – bare sandstone – in every direction.
Antone Ridge is smack
in the middle of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument,
which comprises 1.9 million acres of the emptiest country in the 48
states. More often than not, we meet no one other than ourselves
during a week-long trip into the wilderness. Edward Abbey, in his
famous "Monkey Wrench Gang", captured the feel of the Escalante in a
few sentences: "They passed through the village of Boulder in the
middle of the night... They turned south and followed the ridge road
between forks of the Escalante River, dropped down into the canyon,
up the yonder side, among the pale domes – hundreds of feet high –
of cross-bedded sandstone. The ancient dunes that turned to rock
some years previous."
Antone Ridge camp lies
along a sluggish drainage on the plateau between Pine Creek and
Death Hollow. It is reached by a thousand-foot ascent of the Boulder
Mail Trail out of Escalante town. In the interest of comfort, our
May trip to Antone Ridge was assisted by llamas. They did the hard
carrying, we followed with daypacks. The expedition was a sight to
be seen, with 13 llamas, 12 Mountaineers, and 3 llama handlers
moving a half-ton of gear to camp. Once settled, we were surrounded
by slickrock in every direction, bare rock that extended for miles.
The rock held one secret after another - arches, domes, plateau
summits, pools and rivulets, and the chasm of Death Hollow. Thanks
to the llamas, we could carry in about 70 pounds per person. We were
not backpackers sitting on a rock and huddled over a tiny stove.
Instead, our camp centered around a social circle of chairs, and we
cooked gourmet – or at least gourmand – on a two-burner stove on
folding tables. The wine cellar was small, but sufficed for our 6
nights in camp. Although we had visited the same camp in the fall of
2005, we found new adventures every day that we went out. There were
day outings for all tastes, ranging from a mile jaunt down the creek
to a ten-mile loop with a little low-angle hanging from ropes.
Antone Ridge adventurer Karen and her friend.
Bill will tell the
story of the Antone Ridge adventure, and what it took to organize it
(hint: anyone can do it). If you leave Fuller Lodge half as excited
about the canyons as Bill, you just might sign up for one of the
fall llama outings, to the high sandstone country of
Hammond Canyon (September) or the convoluted terrain of
First and Main (October), named for its intersecting canyons,
and once again in the Escalante/Grand Staircase National Monument.
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