When the temperatures drop, it’s time to head south-west! Around mid-November it felt like time to head to Las Vegas and connect with some of our canyoneering buddies and meet more of the wonderful Las Vegas canyoneering community.

The first canyon we descended was my old nemesis, Mud Spring, located in the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area. You see, about three years ago, Max and I descended this fine canyon, just the two of us, and as a canyoneer I was as green as a Brussel sprout. It was probably the 10th canyon that we had ever done and this was before we realized we could go out with other people who knew what they were doing. We were on vacation in Las Vegas and had previously done Ghost Rider and Keyhole, which are totally appropriate for beginners. Mud Spring is a considerable step up from these canyons in both length and difficulty, especially if you don’t have someone to show you where to go! There are no permits required for this canyon, but you will need to set up a shuttle which requires two vehicles with high clearance as you will be driving on roads that are not maintained. Beta is available here: Canyoneering Mud Spring Canyon in Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, Nevada (stavislost.com)

It was a warm day at the end of March in 2021. We were under the impression from the beta that you could avoid the water, so we didn’t bring dry bags or a change of clothes. I also had very limited bouldering experience, and the canyon turned out to be a straight shot 2,000 feet down with no level terrain and endless fields of giant boulders. We also missed the easier exit trail, instead route-finding and bushwhacking down the dense, boulder-filled watercourse in the dark for what felt like hours. To summarize that fateful trip from 2021: it took us 11 hours, I got soaked and drowned my phone when I rappelled down to a deep pool and failed to successfully stem over it, requiring Max to jump into the water and pull me out. The bouldering destroyed both my pants and harness, leading to the subsequent discovery of shufflebutts. Out we hiked in the cold darkness, still wet, until we saw the lights of Las Vegas in the distance and the biggest orange moon I’d ever seen rose on the horizon. It was beautiful. I resolved never to go back 😊.

Fast forward three years and several hundred canyons later. Life is very different. For this trip, we had a great group: Chelsea Heveran, Cesar Emilio Castro Torres, Bruce Small and Jon Carty and his son Derrik. We were also determined to stay dry (but I brought a dry bag and neoprene socks just in case). We started early in the morning and set up the shuttle. The hike up is on an excellent trail, and Bruce showed us a new drop into the canyon that trades some of the brush and bouldering for two rappels down to the beginning of the technical section.

The first part of the canyon is very beautiful, with six rappels in fairly quick succession. The canyon consists of white and yellow sandstone dropping from dryfall to dryfall, with sculpted chutes to walk down. There are many small potholes holding water that are avoidable. The vertical nature of this canyon offers open views of the surrounding countryside as you are going down. One of the last rappels in this section contains a fairly deep but narrow pothole at the end of the rappel that can be avoided with a handline and guidance on where to step. This is where I got soaked the last time. I didn’t think my legs would be long enough to stay dry, but with Cesar’s excellent guidance, I made it!

After the first technical section, the canyon opens up and it’s time for the bouldering challenge of the day! There is a fairly long walk/scramble down canyon until you emerge on a huge open ledge with stunning views of the high canyon walls and the canyon below. There are a couple of options at this point. There is a rappel into a pothole that sometimes holds water that can be tricky to avoid. There is also a way to go around and climb down into thick brush to get to the canyon floor. Our group split up to pursue both options and met at the bottom.

We had now arrived at the last technical section of the canyon, and one of the places we got into trouble with water last time. The next rappel goes into a beautiful, fluted watercourse that has water at the bottom. It turns out that the water can be avoided by climbing up over the “nose” of the rappel while on rope instead of heading down into the watercourse, allowing you to go around the pool and land on a ledge below the dry fall. After that, there is a small scramble up a hillside to avoid a large pool of water (we did figure this out last time!) and then a final pleasant rappel down a sheer wall to the bottom of the canyon.

The exit involves some serious boulders and vegetation in the watercourse, but we were able to find a trail that took us out of the watercourse quickly and eventually merged with a larger trail system. We got out well before dark, with a smile on our faces. It’s a fairly easy canyon after all. We’ll be going back there next month 😊.

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