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Purge-A-Tory Canyon - Coconino National Forest

Summary: A never visited technical canyoneering trip down a brushy tributary of Sycamore Canyon. To complete this canyon you'll need 2x200' ropes, 60' webbing, harness and helmet.
Directions: Purge-A-Tory Canyon is located south of Flagstaff in the Coconino National Forest. From Prescott drive north on Highway 89 past Chino Valley. Between mileposts 346-347, turn east (right) at the sign for Highway 71 which is initially paved, but soon becomes dirt (ok for passenger cars). Follow Highway 71 for 10 miles until you reach an intersection at a paved road. Turn left (north) on this road, which is listed as Forest Road 173 on the map but is signed as 73. Just after mile marker 176 turn right (east) on Forest Road (FR) 354 at the sign for the Overland Trailhead (well graded dirt). After driving 7.2 miles FR 354 branches right and FR 105 continues straight. Stay straight on FR 105 until you reach right branching roads for FR 125 and FR 127. Turn right onto FR 127. After 2 miles FR 126 splits off to the right, stay on FR 127 for 4 more miles to where the road ends at a small campsite. (GPS Point - UTM: 12S 407251mE, 3874926mN, WGS84 Datum).
Road Conditions: High Clearance Vehicle
Navigation: Difficult
Length: ~8 miles
Date Hiked: May 2008
Weather Conditions: Sunny and warm
Required Skills:
Hike Description:

From the parking spot, route find east through the scrub to identify the rounded mound of Pocket Hill. The first objective is to skirt Pocket Hill to the left (north). Once around the hill, follow cow trails southeast for as long as you can towards the V-shaped canyon below. When the trail fades, thrash your way through the thick brush choosing a path of least resistance to arrive (somewhat scratched) at the bottom of the Purge-A-Tory drainage. Once in the drainage simply head down canyon. There are a few downclimbs and sections of thick brush to reach a 45' cliff. Rappel this obstacle using a large boulder at the top for an anchor. Not far below is another rappel of 20' from a constructed rock pile. Below is a 20' downclimb into a small pool, followed by a Coconino sandstone chute, which may also be negotiated without a rope. Next you'll come to a chute that has a steep 20' drop off at the end. Rig webbing around a cluster of stout shrubs on the left to rap down the chute. The chute is followed by a double nuisance drop from a tree on the right. Once down, wrap webbing around the large boulder in the middle of the canyon to perform a 200' rappel into a nice alcove which marks the boundary between the Coconino and the Supai sandstone layers. Pull your rope, but don't remove your harness yet. Continue down through the Supai which features a few nice sections of narrows and several down climbs to reach the last mandatory rappel, which is about 20' in length using a tree on canyon right as the anchor. A bit further down canyon, you'll encounter a double drop (each into pools). Good climbers can bypass the first downclimb and pool using a ledge on the left, but the second pool is unavoidable. With the obstacles behind, continue the remainder of the way to the junction with Sycamore Canyon (which is happily brush-free). Once in Sycamore, turn right and rockhop down canyon for a mile and a half or so (passing Taylor Cabin as you do so) to reach an un-named drainage which enters from the right (GPS Point - UTM: 12S 409146mE, 3871719mN, WGS84 Datum). Turn right and head up this drainage. The canyon twists and turns, as it climbs gently through the strata you so recently descended to eventually arrive at an obvious fork. Take the right fork, which soon begins climbing at a steeper grade as the boulders increase in size. A few climbs are required as you continue up canyon, including one moderately tricky climb on the right (facing up canyon) to avoid a shear pour off. Though the climb isn't terribly difficult, there are a few sections with a little exposure, and the climb is followed by a rather unpleasant thrash through thorny plants to get back into the canyon above. Continue up, up and up, climbing where necessary to eventually reach a minor split in the upper reaches of the drainage. Stay right to eventually climb up and out to the rim above. Simply follow the drainage north until you hit the road you drove in on earlier in the day. Turn right and follow this road a short distance back to your vehicle.

Rating (1-5 stars):
The author and three friends completed the route in 10 hours. Unfortunately none of us brought enough water and the weather was warmer than expected resulting in some dehydration and, in one case, the early stages of heat stroke (thus the name, if you know what I mean).
Maps: Click here for a map of the route.
Books: None used
Photos: Click picture for larger view, click your browser's 'Back' button to return to this page.

Rappel #2. Rappel #3
The big rap. Downclimb into a pool.