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Starting Water Wash

Big, scary and beautiful.

This canyon was first descended and documented in the 1990's or early 2000's. Michael Kelsey put a description in his guidebook, Technical Slot Guide to the Colorado Plateau, rating the canyon highly.

His description was somewhat incomplete, and he cautioned when I called him that conditions may have changed drastically since his description was written, and the canyon may, or may not, have debris blockages, keeper potholes, a lack of anchors, or other hazards.

Looking at satellite maps, Starting Water Wash is absolutely huge and committing. The cliff walls are 1000+ feet high, and the slot appears to be in blackness for nearly a mile.

It took me a year to get up the guts to run this one. Suhei and I committed to it in late May 2020, taking advantage of the long days, and pulled our ropes.

Some bolts were rusty. We made several natural anchors, and discovered that the Kelsey description was completely wrong for some sections. Our own expertise and decisions saved us in several spots.

What we discovered was a beautiful canyon, with low potential for extremely difficult obstacles, with a trickling stream through a paradise oasis at the end.

The exit was so long, hot, dry, dangerous and frustrating that it almost made the slot not worth it. Almost.

Don't poach it. It's so long, difficult, remote, and risky that you shouldn't be out here illegally. A series of several rescues in this very canyon around the year 2000 is what led to the blanket closure of ALL canyons on the Navajo Reservation decades ago. Additionally, the area is privately owned by local Navajo who had had their cattle and sheep stolen, their homes raided by thieves, and their valuables pillaged. Understandably, they're wary of all outsiders. Please stay away until the times have changed.

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