Rappelling Alongside Pool Arch

Going down the first rappel with Pool Arch in the foreground

To commemorate Sadie’s and my recent marriage we decided to go canyoneering. To avoid any trouble with Timed Entry permits to Arches we decided to descend alongside Pool Arch in Pritchett Canyon, outside the park. So six people and two dogs started out on the 4×4 road called Pritchett Canyon Trail.

A short while along the road there is a slot on the left with a cairn, that is not the start of the canyon. If you follow your GPS, further down there is a very clear broken slot. This becomes a V-slot with 8 ft of what I would call 3rd Class, however is listed as 4th Class on Road Trip Ryan.

Exiting the top, it opens into a lush gully with cryptobiotic soil (don’t bust the crust!). Hiking in this gully (three-fourths of the way up the canyon) there is another constriction which is 3rd class on right and 4th on left.

Second climbing section where left side is Class 4 and right side is Class 3

At the top of the 3rd Class section, the canyon opens up again into a brushy gulley. Finally four-fifths down the canyon there is a small scramble.

Picture of the lush desert valley we were hiking in.

The right side opens up and you will reach a large tree on your right across from Pool Arch. For this first rappel (R1) you drop 145 ft from a living tree into a sandy alcove alongside Pool Arch. The rappel is slightly overhung in sections and pretty vertical regardless.

First rappel anchor and a Piton “Adventure Sausage” loaded up for rappel
Sadie rappelling down off the tree
Me 3/4 of the way down the rappel after the free hanging section

Exiting the alcove there is a v-notch “slide” to walk down into the pool underneath Pool Arch. The water was mid-thigh for most people walking along the edge exiting the pool.

Me walking through the pool under Pool Arch.

Almost immediately after the pool, there is a noticeable pothole on the right. This is where you turn almost 180 degrees to go into the descent. The pothole can be easily bypassed on the left by going up and around or slightly more exposed on the right by following the wear tracks.

Bypassed pothole viewed from the other side. Sadie is walking on the more exposed side where there are wear tracks

The canyon constricts to become slotty and twisty until encountering a large tree growing out of the canyon which is bypassed by a handline into ankle deep water.

The canyon get a little slotty for a short while
Using the handline to bypass the tree

This next rappel (R2) was off two bolts and looks to be 80ft to the bottom but is actually 60 ft to a raised shelf before a pothole. It is easiest to exit this rappel by heading climbers-right on a sandy trail.

Giving a fireman’s belay on the second rappel

There is a little optional stemming to be done to bypass some ankle high water. The canyon drops a little and then its the final rappel (R3) with one bolt accessible. We used this bolt to rappel 20 ft (distance) to the two bolt anchor under the lip. Our most experienced member setup a safety line from the single bolt to the two bolt anchor from a short rope so people could remain in-system the whole time from the first bolt. Then its a 100 ft, almost entirely free hanging rappel to the ground.

Handline from first bolt to the third rappel
The short section of rappelling before it goes free hanging

By this time (R3), the dogs knew what was going to happen and assumed their positions. On each rappel, Sadie strapped our miniature Dachshund into his doggie backpack and Jaymie attached their 60lbs Cattle-Pitbull mix to their harness so he was “sitting” on Jaymie’s lap. I can’t say the dogs love the rappel but they seem to tolerate it and do love being with us and romping around the canyons. Dog-canyoneering is definitely a more advanced technique.

Then boom! marriage rappels done and a short walk down the same 4×4 road you walked in on for about 1.5 miles brings us back to the cars. 6 hours car-car with a group of six and two dogs.

The whole crew!