North Fork of Iron Wash |

San Rafael Swell

Canyoneering North Fork of Iron Wash - San Rafael Swell Canyoneering North Fork of Iron Wash
San Rafael Swell

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TICKS & TODOS: 10 Todo Lists / 4 Ticks
LENGTH: 3-5 hours
GEAR: Standard Technical Gear
RAPPELS: 2 to 12 m ( 40 ft. )
WATER: General wading to waist deep with a possible short swim.
FLASHFLOOD: High in the technical section.
SEASON: Spring, Summer, Fall
Mon Hi:61 Lo:49 Tue Hi:63 Lo:43 Wed Hi:70 Lo:45 Thu Hi:74 Lo:48 Fri Hi:77 Lo:50
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If it weren't for its final obstacle, I am convinced the North Fork of Iron Wash would be deemed a Swell classic. The canyon offers a short approach, short exit, and very nice narrow section. The upper section, in particular, has many beautifully sculpted pools and small drops. A rarity in the Swell, the canyon also tends to have crystal clear, clean water. This canyon is a gem!

The downside? The end of the canyon has a serious obstacle to overcome, a 5 m ( 17 ft. ) deep keeper pothole. It HAS been conquered via several pack tosses, but it is very difficult. The common way around involves exposed lower 5th class chimneying up and over the obstacle, then a rappel down. This climb is not suitable for beginners, advanced canyoneers and climbers only. Even with competent leadership, the final climb is difficult to belay securely. A fall would be disastrous!

If you are lucky enough to descend the canyon when the final keeper is full, you will wonder what all the fuss is about!

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