High Stemming is where you will be climbing above the canyon floor using your back, feet, hands, and anything else you can
make span the slot and keep forward progression. This happens when it is too narrow to squeeze through at the canyon floor, and you must climb up
and over the constriction.
This is one of those instances where canyoneering goes from being a casual and
fun romp to a serious endeavour with serious consequences. In high stemming canyons, there is generally no way to protect the
less experienced. All members of your group MUST be capable and comfortable of the completing the climbing challenges involved. A
slip or fall in most high stemming situations would result in serious injury or death. These are not suitable for most
weekend warrior canyoneers.
But wait, there is more! If chimneying down canyon 10', 20', or 40+' above the canyon floor doesn't get your blood pumping,
there is another insidious feature present in many stemming canyons... the DREADED SILO. This occurs when the canyon widens
in a spot and requires either a big reach to chimney over, or chimneying down to the canyon floor and back up the other
side. Very physical, hard, and dangerous positions are often found when encountering silos.
A couple of good (and extreme examples): DDI in Escalante. The walls are crumbly, and the bottom to narrow to fit through.
The solution? Chimneying up to 30+ feet off the canyon floor on crumbly walls for literally several hours. We found a
slightly scooped spot on our trip and had lunch chimneying 20 feet above the canyon floor. Often getting up high enough
to start stemming down canyon requires 5.7 or harder unprotected off-width climbing. Sandthrax is a good example of this
where to continue down canyon travel requires 5.10 off-width climbing to get above the constriction. One group was stranded when they
encountered the obstacle and didn't have the gear needed to climb it. Hard stuff.
You have been warned! Stay out of here unless you are well seasoned, preferably with a trad climbing
background and hunger for desert choss. Sawtooth, Lower Sand Slide Slots, Lost Park Canyon, and Burr Slot (in that order)
might be a good VERY GENTLE introduction to what high stemming can be like. Sandthrax, DDI, and the likes are
more extreme examples, with most others fitting somewhere in between.
Escalante area is likely best known for its stunning backpacking opportunities. There are also plenty of hiking and canyoneering adventures. This makes a great spring and fall destination and would take a lifetime to fully explore.
Canyoneering is king in North Wash, and likely the reason most visit. North Wash canyons tend to be short, narrow, and physical. This is the place to bring long sleeves and long pants. With easy access, next to the highway, this makes a good choice for groups.
The Roost is a very remote area of south eastern Utah. Canyoneering adventures in Robbers Roost tend to be fairly dry, and have long exits. The area was used in the late 1800's and early 1900's by outlaws, hence the name.