Lower Baptist Draw/Upper Chute Canyon

Slot Canyons of the San Rafael Swell, Utah

March 11 - 14, 2007

Dave Svilar, Jill, Ben and Shawna


Sun beams filter through the La Sal Mountains with Temple Mountain in the foreground.  For three nights we enjoyed some of the finest camping imaginable - at the edge of a mesa top overlooking hundreds of miles of empty desert.  Best of all, we did not see another person and it was completely free of cost.  During our stay in this unforgettable locale my one frustration was my inability to capture the grand vistas with the D200.  This is part of a series of shots stitched together to form a panorama.  Unlike most shots I didn't have to work for this one as it was taken just a few paces from our tent.  This place was true Desert Solitaire.

Sometimes a person cannot rest until an old score is finally settled.  After our failures from a year ago (no AlpineFever update due to slides lost in mail) Ben would find his mind wandering the winding depths of the Lower Baptist Draw.  Throughout the summer his mind would not let the unknown adventure that awaited in Lower Baptist and Upper Chute Canyons rest.  Much like a vigorous case of the herpes his obsession over these slots receded during the winter months, but as the weather slowly improved and a spring break trip to the desert started to become a reality the obsession returned as strong as it had been the previous summer.

Rewind exactly one year, take away the good weather of 2007 and add a Fred.  Our group, frustrated by bitterly cold weather was determined to salvage the trip by attempting to tackle a supposed Swell classic - Lower Baptist Draw and Upper Chute slot canyons.  After a late start and some minor routefinding issues (turn at the juniper tree) we finally descended into Lower Baptist Draw late in the day.  The desert was covered in snow, and where the snow had melted away mud had been left in its place.  We found the slot to be in a condition Jill and I had never seen in previous years.  Large piles of snow and numerous frozen puddles made the slot seem even more un-inviting than normal.  Coming to our first rappel and assessing our wet and cold situation and factoring in a lack of time we turned around in defeat.

Although brief and unsuccessful that taste of this area had left an indelible impression that, one year later, refused to subside.  The degree to which this area gripped Ben's mind, and for that matter my own, is testament to the magic of this spot in the middle of the desolate San Rafael Swell. 

blah, blah, blah...  I never liked the way this report started and don't have the stamina to finish.  Please ignore the above writing and enjoy the pics instead.

Jill's headlamp illuminates our tent.  San Rafael Reef and Henry Mountains in the distance.


Beginning of the slot in Lower Baptist Draw.  Shawna leads the way over familiar territory.  One year ago the same spot was covered with ice and snow.


Ben makes the first rappel at last year's turnaround point.


Lower Baptist merges with Chute Canyon at this 70 foot rappel.  Shawna and Jill demonstrate safe and controlled rappeling techniques.


Scenes from our wonderful camp.




Desolate, yet beautiful scenery from atop the the plateau where we camped.
Jill stylin' on this baby rappel.


... and a cloud of dust.  Jill amongst scenery that typifies the majority of our hike.


The only time we got wet.  Shawna rappels into an ankle deep pool.



The Wildernest lords over the Swell.  Ben is convinced this contraption provides the ultimate in truck camping.


Dave tossing rope on the long rappel from Baptist into Chute.


The girls don't care where we are or what we're doing.  They just want the opportunity to come along and find stuff to laught at.


Cute couples pictures.  Magtutus on top Svilars on bottom.... perhaps I should re-phrase that.
Give us meat.  Unlike the Svilars the Magtutu's actually eat well away from home.  Large chops from the Magtutu ranch complimented by rice and salad.


The second in a succession of 2007 Toyota flats.  My jack suffered from erectile dysfunction forcing me to dig out the road with an ice tool - that just happened to be along for a trip to the desert.  Good thing, because the Magtutus had left and this road is lucky to see even one car during the course of a day.

- completed June 2008

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