Thursday, May 5, 2011

Double Ding Dang

Double because I basically did each one twice. Ding and Dang Canyons are two pretty slot canyons in the San Rafael Swell, easily accessible about 1.5 miles past the Little Wild Horse Canyon trailhead (high clearance 2WD needed).

The guidebook I was using (Michael Kelsey, Hiking and Exploring Utah's San Rafael Swell) said that the usual route was to go up Ding Canyon and then down Dang Canyon, and that you must have 2 people and maybe a short rope to descend a 3-meter chokestone and dryfall in Dang Canyon. I was solo, so I figured I would go as far as I could safely, and back out from there.

From the trailhead it took about 20 minutes of easy walking in an open wash to reach the bottom junction of Ding and Dang Canyons.

Ding Canyon is indeed a very pretty canyon with several sets of narrows sections. There is one section with two larger plunge pools (both of them keepers!) that are bypassed on the right/east side. A couple of the obstacles were challenging enough that I took off my pack and set it up above the chokestone; none required any roping of packs, but I was glad to have some basic climbing skills.

After a little over an hour I reached the top of Ding Canyon, and it took 20 minutes to follow a well-defined trail over to the top of Dang Canyon.

The first obstacle going down Dang Canyon is an 8-foot dryfall; there was a bolt and anchor in the chockstone. This seemed unnecessary, as it was easy to bypass this on the right (west) side.
The next obstacle was easy to bypass on the left (east) by walking along the ledges. Finally I came to the 3-meter drop. There was an anchor visible, with a carabiner and some webbing. There was no way that I was going to try that one on my own though.
Soooo, I turned around, went back up Dang, over to Ding, down Ding, over to the bottom of Dang, and started up Dang Canyon from the bottom. Some hikers I met in Ding Canyon said they'd heard there was a lot of water in Dang Canyon. I don't know if it was a  lot  of water, but I rapidly got tired of bridging, turned around and went back out the bottom of Dang as well. I left about a quarter-mile of Dang Canyon

These are indeed very pretty canyons with nice narrows sections, easily accessible if you have a 2WD high clearance vehicle or the energy for an extra 3 miles of hiking from well-maintained road. Little Wild Horse and Bell Canyons are the canonical examples, but even Ding Canyon by itself is a nice introduction.

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