On Thanksgiving morning, our friend Bart Knox joined us for a short canyon outside of Las Vegas in the Black Canyon area called Secret Canyon. There are a couple of interesting things about Secret Canyon in particular. Like many canyons in this area, Secret ends at the Colorado River and has geothermal activity in the lower section by the river. We weren’t sure if the pools were going to be deep enough for a soak but wanted to check the place out. It was going to be an interesting day either way, because the only way out of the canyon is either by kayak or ascending two rappels back up the way we came. Always a good time for skills practice! No permit is required for this canyon. Beta and a map of the route is located at: Secret Canyon (Nevada) – ropewiki. If you are interested in packrafting out, check out this blog: ⊗ Secret Canyon – The Intrepid Life.

We parked in a good-sized lot right off US-93, just a few miles past Hoover Dam. A trail runs through the area, so we followed it to our drop-in point. It’s definitely possible to scramble down into the Secret Canyon wash, but there was a perfectly good anchor available which we used for a short rappel.

We followed the wash for more than a mile through several colorful rock layers. There were some pink, red and brown hills surrounding the wash. The walking was fairly easy with just a few small downclimbs, and the temperature was just perfect for a warm winter day.

We strolled to the beginning of the technical section, which is a 60-foot rappel down a polished chute. The problem was that the only anchor we saw was a large piece of rusted rebar at the top. While that was a perfectly fine anchor to rappel from, it was also right above a very overhung rock that was going to be very challenging to ascend back up. We looked all over but couldn’t find any other obvious anchors, even though we were sure there must be something at an easier angle to re-ascend.

Down we went, leaving the rope in place. Right after this rappel is another smaller rappel of about 30-40 feet so we left a rope in place for that as well. This is where the hot springs started, but they were barely a trickle. Aside from some colorful algae, it looked like most of the springs had been filled in with sand. Oh well. Conditions always vary with these things. We were content to go relax by the Colorado and enjoy the views over lunch. Right across the beach from our location are the popular Goldstrike Canyon hot springs and there were quite a few kayaks and people on the beach. Maybe next time we’ll bring an inflatable and paddle across to the other side.

After lunch we decided to start our pilgrimage back. We scrambled up to the second rappel and ascended the rope. That was a good warm-up for the main event. After a lengthy consultation of the best way to tackle the overhang, Bart decided to go for it and made it almost to the top of the rock but couldn’t maneuver properly to get traction to get out, so he came back down. Max hatched a plan while watching Bart and went next. After a short struggle, he was able to reach the anchor and pull himself up. That was great news, but we needed a different place to get out. After a few minutes, Max rigged up an alternative anchor system that would allow us to ascend up a crack on the right side of the boulder, anchored by himself.

I went next and got some good skills practice in shifting weight between two foot loops that allowed me to squeeze my ascender up the crack in the rock to the top and exit out. It was at this point that I was sitting on the rim and pondering why there wasn’t a bolt on the wall to make this really easy… when I spotted the very pair of bolts we needed tucked away under an overhang!! I guess better late than never? Bart was already on his way up when we communicated this news to him. He was able to find a safe spot halfway up to disconnect from the rope and we transferred the rope for him to exit out in style. Once safely out, we all had a few good laughs at this ridiculous situation.

We were all pretty tired from climbing ropes for the past hour, so we headed back up the wash. About halfway back, we took a right to get into a different wash that brought us to an old road which we hiked back to the car.

In the parking lot, we ran into a gentleman who asked us if we had gone to the hot springs, although we probably looked really weird with our canyoneering gear on. It turns out that there is indeed a hiking route to some hot springs on the other side of the canyon, a bit of a cross-country slog but he said they were quite good at the moment. I guess we’ll have to come back another time to soak. I think we had enough adventure for one day.

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