The Desert – Fall, 1965

On November 4, 1965, Harvey Carter and I did the first ascent of the Convent, by a route he named the Salvation Chimney.


The Convent, Salvation Chimney route, photo center


The route starts at the small tower with a leaning block atop it.


Me, aiding up towards the chimneys


Me, on the summit of the Convent. The Sisters are the next features down the ridge, with Castleton Tower at the far end. The La Sal Mountains are to the southeast.


Me, rappeling out of the bombbay chimney

Nothing equals the ridge that runs from the Convent to Castleton Tower, for great climbs and great looks.


The Convent, with the Salvation Chimney route a little over half-way to the right.


The whole ridge


From the river road, the Convent’s east (other) face

Also, in November of 1965, a few of us decided to visit the new Canyonlands National Park. The group included Richard McCracken, Mary Cary (soon to be Mary McCracken), a Frenchwoman by the name of Maya, a Canadian hitchhiker by the name of Dave and my girlfriend from Aspen, who I cannot recall! We six crammed ourselves and packs into Mary’s Rambler. We arrived at night, and as we entered the park, we passed a dark building with a sign that said: “Please register”. We of course paid no attention to that request, and continued to the end of the road at Grandview Point. It was Richard’s plan to find a way to climb off of Grandview Point and continue down to the Green River. We briefly discussed whether we should leave a note on the car, but decided it wasn’t necessary. We succeeded in doing an unroped climb off the Point, and onto the bench below. The down climb was on the side of the mesa seen in this photo (below)


Grandview Point, Canyonlands NP


Sunset, Canyonlands NP


Canyonlands silhouette, Maya, Nov. 1965

We then walked to the edge of the overhanging White Rim, and started to walk along it, looking for a place to descend.


White Rim pinnacle, and over-hanging White Rim, Canyonlands NP

We found a spot where a deep crack intersected the cliff face, opening a window out on to the lower and less-than-vertical part of the cliff. An arm of sandstone provided an anchor for the rappel rope. This was the only rappel rope that we had taken along, and was left hanging for our return.


Window in the White Rim, Canyonlands NP. Mary (McCracken photo)


Me, rappelling out of window in the White Rim (McCracken photo)

Then, within yards of the Green River, we came to a hard layer that created an overhang in the drainage, with our only rappel rope left hanging behind us.


This hard and over-hanging layer prevented us from descending to the Green River, which was located just around the corner. We followed the ledge around that same corner, to where we could, quite literally, piss into the river.

We returned to the White Rim, and prussiked up our rope. We then walked east around Junction Butte, which stands out from the end of Grandview Point. This brought us to the section of the White Rim trail that is in closer proximity to the Colorado River than to the Green River. We continued a few miles further, to the area of the Monument Basin overlooks, and camped there for the night. The next day we left the White Rim, and climbed to the saddle between Junction Butte and Grandview Point. From there, we could contour back around to the west side of Grandview Point, to the base of our descent route, and climb back up to the car.


On the White Rim, Canyonlands NP, with Elaterite Butte in the distance


On the White Rim, Canyonlands NP


On the White Rim, Canyonlands NP

We were at the saddle, and heard gunfire.  We next saw a caravan of pink jeeps, led by a green Park Service vehicle, heading our way. It was the San Juan County Sheriff’s Posse, immortalized by Edward Abbey. Remember “Bishop Love”?  The vehicles climbed a little ways up a very crude jeep track towards us and stopped. Then an official with an electric bullhorn asked us if we were “the party in the Rambler”. Oh boy! We said we were. They asked us to come down. We replied that we intended to continue up. He then said: “Mary, please bring your friends down”. Well, they were forced, finally, to climb up to us, which didn’t please them at all. The Park Service ranger then ordered us to return with them in their convoy. We were first driven back north to their base camp on the White Rim jeep tail. There, they had the coffee pots on the fire and the body bags laid out. Then it was back up the Shafer Trail, and on to the Ranger Station. It was late at night by the time they were through with us. We were told that we might get billed for the “rescue”. Then they returned us to the car. They had broken a window of the car to search for identification. In the car they had found two pairs of womans’ shoes, an axe that Dave the hitchhiker had been carrying, and his “hitchhiking” sign. This led to the theory that a hitchhiker had been picked up by the women, who then dispatched them with the axe. Alternate theories were that: 1. we were suicides, and 2. we were climbers that had fallen to our deaths. They had assumed, of course, that it was physically impossible to down climb off the Point (or looked for our tracks that went from the car straight to the cliff edge). But … we never got billed.

Postscript: A year later, Richard and Mary returned to Canyonlands NP, and again got in trouble – this time for not registering properly. They had mailed the NPS a brief note just before pushing off onto the Green River, at Green River, Utah. Again, the Park Service went to considerable trouble on their behalf, before they walked, all smiles, into the Squaw Flat CG. There, they encountered the same ranger that had dealt with us the year before!

Utah, Fall 1965 (postcard)

Utah, Fall 1965 (postcard)


Backside of above postcard. We went from Canyonlands to the Escalante, Fall, 1965.

Our group continued to the Escalante area. Our first hike was into Davis Gulch.

Davis Gulch, Nov. 1965

Entering Davis Gulch (see figures on lower left), Nov. 1965

Davis Gulch, Nov. 1965

Davis Gulch, Nov. 1965

Davis Gulch, Nov. 1965

Davis Gulch, Nov. 1965

On our return, we passed the regular entry/exit route (see above photo) and continued upstream to see what we would find. We found a cul-de-sac at the gulch’s upper end, with the only exit a scary climb up Moqui steps – steps hewn into the rock by paleo-Indians. Myself and girlfriend did the climb by the last light of day, and (as Richard recently reminded me), it scared the hell out of her. She later took revenge by taking Richard (a beginner skier) to the top of Aspen Mountain, having told him that she would provide instruction. Instead, she said: “See yah!”

Next was Coyote Gulch, which we followed to its confluence with the Escalante River. We hiked a few miles down the Escalante River and then returned by the same route.

At the trailhead for Coyote Gulch

At the trailhead for Coyote Gulch, Nov. 1965


Coyote Gulch, Nov. 1965. Chamisa and threatening skies, as we hike towards the gulch

Coyote Gulch, Fall, 1965

Jughandle or Cliff Arch, Coyote Gulch, Nov. 1965

Coyote Gulch, Fall, 1965

Coyote Gulch, Nov. 1965

Coyote Gulch, Fall, 1965

Coyote Gulch, Nov. 1965

Coyote Gulch, Fall, 1965

Coyote Gulch, Maya, Nov. 1965

Coyote Gulch, Nov. 1965

Coyote Gulch, Nov. 1965

Coyote Gulch, Fall, 1965

Escalante River, Dave

Coyote Gulch, Fall, 1965

Escalante River. Richard McCracken climbs “Moqui steps” that give access to a rincon.

Coyote Gulch, Fall, 1965

Escalante River

Coyote Gulch, Fall, 1965

Stevens Arch, on the Escalante River

Coyote Gulch, Fall, 1965

Coyote Gulch

I re-enrolled at UC-Berkeley in the Spring semester of 1966, which is seen in the following post.

About Evensteven

I am a photographer and author, and live in Embudo, New Mexico, alongside the Rio Grande. I have published a book of photography and accompanying text on running the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon. The first (print) edition is out of print, but a second edition is available as an iBook (eBook) through the iTunes bookstore. All Grand Canyon, river and nature lovers will enjoy my book: The Grand: I have also published six additional iBooks: 1. The Salt River: 2. Coyote Buttes: 3. Four Cornered, the Land: 4. Four Cornered, The Rivers: 5. Rio Marañon: 6. Rio Grande:
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