Thursday, April 30, 2009

The Trip Through Upper Salome... Hell's Hole

There is a lot of packing going on in my life at the moment. The first overnight canyoneering trip I will have, and the last canyoneering adventure for me in Arizona, is what I now prepare for.

Upper Salome promises to be physically grueling, but visually rewarding, canyoneering adventure through 3 canyons and over 18 miles of tough terrain. Located just outside of Globe in the Tonto National Forest, Salome is known for its stunning pink granite slot canyons. I have been lucky to have good friends who have devoted a good part of their free time over the past few years to perfecting their skills and attaining the equipment necessary for the exciting sport referred to in the US as, "canyoneering." (in Europe they like to refer to it as "canyoning." We can just never agree on things) The upper Salome trip through Park Canyon, Workman's Creek, and eventually Upper Salome is one of the classic Arizona canyoneering trips. It is known for its especially difficult trecks through poison ivy, miles of wet boulder hopping, and freezing cold water. This is the first overnight canyoneering trip I will be venturing on and need to be prepared with all the gear necessary to spend a night in the canyon. The reward for all this work is more than worth it. The coup de grace area on the trip is in Hell's Hole at a place named "The Grotto."

Jeff, Amber, me, Tanja, Deke, and Chris pose in front of "The Grotto"

"The Grotto" was the topic of much conversation in the mid 90's when a full page photograph of the streaked granite walls and the high flowing waterfall were published in the Arizona Highways Magazine. Outdoor explorers went to work trying to define the undisclosed location. Even though its location is now general knowledge, the work required to get there and back paired with the difficult route finding still suspend the canyon in lonliness.

We drove up on a Friday evening and set up camp near the Reynolds Camp Ground beside the Circle Ranch Trailhead, our starting point. Chris set to work on the fire and I put up the tent. In an unfortunate happenstance, Chris pulled his back when trying to retrieve a rock buried in the dirt which he was gathering for the campfire ring. He was in quite a bit of pain. In efforts to promote self medication we enjoyed beers together until everyone else showed up, trying to ignore the incredibly disruptive camp site next to us. For lack of a better term, they were rednecks, and they blasted Toby Keith and other equally annoying country ballad singers until the late night, screaming at the moon every so often, and blinding us with the flood lights they supplied to illuminate their idiocy. We met everyone who was joining us on the trip: Deke; a night vision researcher for the military, Jeff; an owner of an outdoor adventure tour guide company, Tanja; woman in her mid 30's from Czech Republic (?), Amber; a tri-athelete and emergency room doctor, Chris; my ex-neighbor and economist, and me.

Chris waits for the rest at the bottom of our first repel into Park Canyon.

Tanja going down our second repel in Park Canyon: double repel for the easy pull

Lots of tricky down climbs, especially when you're trying to stay out of the cold water

Maneuvering around the pools at the beginning of Upper Salome

Jeff gallivants through the canyon

Another repel in the lower part of Park Canyon, gorgeous little pink granite bowl

The water was an odd cloudy green, turquoise color.

Getting suited up and hydrated, ready to get wet!

Hiking down canyon, mile 10 or so at this point

Getting wet in Salome

Coming down a mildly violent waterfall slide past The Grotto


  1. Not going to lie, I was hoping for something more. I told you to do this om Wed. Nice pic tho!

  2. Patience, dear grasshopper. More to come means MORE TO COME! It will be filled out more to your liking soon!

  3. The next post -- THAILAND! Here's to safe travel (it can't be any tougher than rappelling down slot canyons, right?)

  4. Wow - thanks for the trip info! I hope that Upper Salome is my first overnight canyoneering experience as well. Sounds beautiful and I can't wait to do it!