A Loop of the East & Main Forks of Blue John Canyon (Robbers Roost)

Where: Robbers Roost, Utah Canyonlands
When: October 2006
Partners: Rick Kent & Mike Cressman

In fall 2006, Rick Kent, Mike Cressman and I made our first visits to Robbers Roost. It is an amazing place of rolling, gentle hills that give way to slots that sliver up out of nowhere and lead the intrepid explorer into the abyss...or so I envisioned it. But that's not far off the mark.

Generally speaking, the Roost is a benign sort of place that is a parade of fun for the appropriately geared and talented backcountry explorer. Some rope, a harness and rappel device, a helmet, some solid scrambling and climbing skills, and a GPS can get the job done for most of these nice little slots. And Blue John Canyon fits nicely into this formula.

Scoring solid beta from Tom's Utah Canyoneering Guide, Rick, Mike and I packed up early from our hotel in Green River, Utah and made the drive over to the Roost and what would prove to be our camp at a funky spot called Granary Springs. I didn't notice any springs, but I did notice a decrepit building with the words 'Motel 6' spray painted onto the side of it. Despite the mouse turds and the rampant hantavirus, Rick would find it a lovely place to bed down for a couple nights (while Mike opted for the slickrock, and I, the truck).

We wasted no time in collecting our packs and beginning the beautiful hike that would take us to the drop-in for the East Fork of Blue John Canyon. Tom had said that a loop of the East and Main Forks was a great full-day outing that offered up nice narrows, a few technical obstacles, and the challenge of some technical climbing to escape up the main fork of the canyon.

When the slot of the East Fork presented itself, we easily downclimbed into it. Mellow at first, the canyon soon became deeply entrenched and we had a blast squeezing through. Some interesting stemming above the slot, followed by a sequence down an awkward drop, and it seemed like only an hour before we were at the confluence of the Main Fork.

Rather than retreat up the Main Fork right away, we wandered down-canyon for a ways to the "Ralston slot", where we downclimbed into the dark, narrow canyon and worked to the rappel station at the top of the "big drop."

Our plans did not include a descent down into Horseshoe Canyon, so we returned up-canyon and began the fantastic journey back toward Granary Spring via a series of challenging up-climbs in the slot. Mid-5th class climbing in a few spots, complicated by the weight and bulk of our packs, got the job done. We returned to our camp at nightfall.

*Photos courtesy of Rick Kent