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August 17, 2011

"Slickrock in Every Direction"

by Bill Priedhorsky - Bio

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 plateau
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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