Barney Springs Canyon - Sedona
||This hike was previously listed as a
'Secret' on my site. It now appears in the 2nd edition of
Canyoneering Arizona by
Tyler Williams, so I am making the information available. I do not agree
with Tyler's decision to disclose the location of this hike. I believe the
difficulty and remote location of this canyon could pose a serious danger to
the unprepared and those without the requisite skills. If you attempt this
hike, please be very careful, and please leave the bolt kit in the pack
unless no other option exists and the safety of the group is at stake. This
canyon has been descended many times without bolts and none are needed. If
you can not complete this canyon without placing bolts please do not attempt
this hike. No map or driving directions are provided with the description
||A long and challenging technical
canyon hike with lots of bouldering, bush whacking and scrambling over dead,
rotted logs. Many of the rappels feature awkward starts and undercut edges.
This canyon is recommended for experienced canyoneers familiar with the use
of natural anchors only. To complete this
hike you will need: 2x150' ropes (or a 100' and a 200' which is what my party
carried), harness, descender, webbing, helmet, dry bag, carabiners and a wet
suit in all but the hottest weather (and maybe even then too).
!Warning! This canyon has one very large and deep keeper pot hole (a
water filled bowl shaped pool that is difficult to exit) which could pose a
serious danger to those unprepared!
This canyon is located at the mid-point of the West Fork of Oak Creek Canyon
on the south side and requires a car spot. The first time the author
completed this canyon we spotted a car upstream of Oak Creek where it
crosses the road (bad idea, this made for a long arduous hike out). The next
time a car was spotted at the bottom of the canyon (at the Call of the
Canyon Trailhead). This requires a very long drive after the hike to
retrieve your vehicle.
||High Clearance Vehicle
||10-12 hours or more (perhaps much more)
||July 2003, July 2005
||Hot, with cold water
||From the car park, begin hiking until you can locate a
minor drainage leading off from the road. Follow the brushy wash as it leads
down a hill to connect with a larger tributary. The brush abates a bit as
you rock hop down canyon, though you will encounter the first of many piles
of dead and rotting logs you must climb over. Watch your footing when
traveling over these piles, they are unstable and shift and break with every
step. Eventually you will reach a minor dry fall of 20'. You can put on your
harness and rappel down this small fall or work your way around on the right
(though the latter is an unpleasant thrash). You then pass through a few
short sections of narrows until before long (about an hour and a half from
the start of your trip) you reach the beginning of the technical section.
The first rappel is a short 2-stage drop that can be rigged from a tree on
canyon left. Both drops are only about 15' though and can be down climbed
with some difficulty. Immediately afterwards is a 20' rappel from a dead
log situated 15' back from the edge. This rappel, like just about every
rappel in this canyon, has an undercut and awkward start to it. Once down, a
short walk will bring you to rappel #3 and you have a choice: rig the rappel
from a rotting log pile straight down the canyon, or risk a somewhat sketchy
traverse to canyon right and rig from several sturdy trees (I would
recommend the latter since it provides a clean start and easy rope pull).
The rappel is about 60' (from the edge of the ledge to the ground), 20' of
which is free hanging. A short distance below this rappel you will reach the
confluence with a major fork of the canyon and another drop off. Continue
down canyon by working your way around on the left into a steep break in the
rock which will allow you to descend using a narrow ledge. Continue hiking
(climbing over dead log piles, avoiding brush etc.) until you reach the next
two rappels, which occur in quick succession. Rappel #4 is 40' from a sling
through a pinch point formed by boulders at the top (note: do not use the
sling located on far canyon right, it will force your rope into a narrow
crack during the rappel, increasing the possibility of getting it stuck),
rappel #5 is 25' from another sling around a choke stone and has a
particularly troublesome start. Moving on, you soon enter the deepest (and
nicest) section of canyon. The obstacles begin with a 15' chimney next to a
large boulder, followed by a 45' rap from a choke stone, followed by a
sloping 100 footer (rap #7 if your counting) from a dead log leaning between
the canyon walls. If you've managed to keep your feet dry to this
point, that will no longer be the case. A short walk through a wet
hallway will bring you to a short, icy swim. Just around the corner is a
tricky down climb followed by a 4' jump into pool and another short swim.
Turn the corner and the next drop (30' from a choke stone at the top around
a corner into a keeper pot hole) awaits.
According to Williams, it is possible to climb up on the right side of the
canyon and avoid the pot hole (I have not used this route). Here are my
recommendations if you choose to tackle the keeper. Before entering the keeper pool I'd
strongly suggest setting up a rope as a hand line for one member of your
party to descend and look around the corner at the water levels in the pool.
The amount of water will directly impact the level of difficulty you will
face trying to get out the other side. Pull yourself to the top of the drop,
formulate your plan, your back up plan, your contingency plans and make sure
you can get back up the rope if all of those fail. The pot hole is quite
large, the water is deep and cold and the side you must escape has a
perfectly smooth and steeply sloping lip. Once one member of your group is
out, they can assist the rest of the party. Rappel #9 (50') lies just beyond
the pool. Do not pull your rope from above the keeper pool, instead, connect
your ropes together to use the anchor point above the keeper pot hole for
this drop as well (Note: Recent reports are that a bolt has been placed as
an anchor for this rappel). Once everyone is safely through this section, a few down
climbs and a little walking will bring you to your final rappel (your
tenth), an 80 footer from a tree on canyon right. Stay to canyon left at the
bottom of the rap to avoid a pool. Take off your harness, stow the ropes and
rock hop your way down stream until you reach a confluence with the West
Fork of Oak Creek Canyon (traveling at a steady pace with a group of 4, it took the author 7
hours to reach this point). Unfortunately, while you have successfully
overcome many obstacles to reach this point, you are still nowhere near
civilization. Depending on where you spotted a second car, you'll turn up or
down this larger canyon. If you go up canyon you will wade many pools, climb
many boulders, push through considerable brush and complete 1 swim before
finally reaching a road and your vehicle. Down stream is easier walking with
the last 3 miles following an easy, well established trail.
The first time through, the author, his wife and two friends completed this hike in a grueling 12.5
hours, the last hour of which was spent hiking in total darkness with head
lamps. The keeper pot hole was escaped, with some difficulty, using a
partner assist, but not before I had become mildly hypothermic and begun
shivering uncontrollably (even though day time highs were around 100F). The
next trip, the author and a friend completed the hike in 10 hours. Water
levels for the keeper were somewhat higher and escape was easier.
||None provided, though I strongly recommend using a map.
(2nd edition) - Tyler Williams
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||Downclimb into icy pool.
keeper pot hole.