Canyoneering Skinny Canyon Warning

The "Skinny" on skinny slots.  Wow!! Sums it up nicely. Ok it's not enough.....

Some canyons are extremely skinny and are not a good choice for everyone.  If you are claustrophobic or just plain too big, Do Not go into one of these canyons.  Two classic examples of skinny canyons are Shenanigans and the Middle Fork of Leprechaun Canyons.  Both in the North Wash area of Utah.

It seems to be a common rule of thumb to say that people over 180 pounds should not go into skinny slots like Middle Leprechaun and Shenanigans Canyons. That rule of thumb may be a general concept but can be misleading and or just not descriptive enough. It depends on body shape in comparison to where it lines up with canyon shape. The 180 pound weight limit is a good starting point for a cut off but this is with height weight proportionate people. If you are 5 foot and weigh 160 pounds, you might not fit.

A friend of mine is a little taller than I am and about the same build, both pretty close to (ok slightly over) that 180 pound limit. We were together with others one day in Middle Leprechaun then in Shenanigans the next day. We both had very different perceptions as to which canyon was the skinniest.

In Middle Leprechaun I had a few spots where I needed to squeeze - push - wiggle - bend - and move up or down to fit. Shenanigans on the other hand I found tight but not too much effort at all. In Shenanigans I just slide on through and in a few spots had to gently squeeze through with most of the air let out of my lungs and all was golden. So for me both canyons were tight but I found Middle Leprechaun to be the tighter of the two.  The tight section in Middle Lep was shorter in duration though.

In middle Leprechaun my friend needed to do all the same squeeze - push - wiggle - bend - etc just as I had to. But when we got to Shenanigans and got into the tight portion of the 4th narrows, he had significant trouble getting through. He was stuck in one spot for about 10 minutes trying to figure how he was going to fit. He tried the brute force method which proves useless very quickly. Luckily a smaller person was in front and was able to help work the puzzle with him on where to move to get through. At one point my friend needed to take a knee and travel a few feet on one knee (looked very uncomfortable). It was a little difficult for him to get up from the one knee position in that confined space.  Help from behind proved useful again to help get him upright.

What this tells me as to which is the skinniest canyon....... the same answer you get with so many other things; It Depends!

It seems it depends on the body shape and on canyon shape. The body shape difference between my friend and I is the chest. He has more of a barrel chest than I do, which led to most of his issues. I suspect in women the main difference would be the hips and butt. Plain old chest size still doesn't account for why I thought Middle Leprechaun was tighter than Shenanigans. That would be more canyon shape in relation to body shape. If the big part of your body lines up with a narrow point in between the walls you're going to have issues. But if you are shorter or taller, your big part may not line up with that narrow spot.

Another lesson on this is the big people should have a little person on each side of them, if your group size allows. Assistance can be very useful from in front and from the back.

It is still recommended that the Middle Fork of Leprechaun is done first.  The tight section is not as long and it will be easier to get someone through if they are having trouble.  If they are mentally stable and are able to fit through Middle Lep, then carry on to Shenanigans.

When planning a trip through one of these skinny canyons, bring the right gear along.  Squeezing through the tight sections will tear up clothing, back packs and anything else you take with you.  Elbow pads and knee pads are a good idea to add to the gear list.  The pads will spare you a lot of pain as you stem between the walls on down climbs or simply stemming between the walls to move down canyon.  The back back you use needs to be as small as possible so it can fit through the tight stuff as well, think small day hike backpack.  Even small packs become a burden as you try to drag them along with you.  The material the pack is made from should be something heavy like cordura or denim.  Also wear clothing you do not mind being ripped to shreds.  So when planning gear for the skinny canyons.... Think small, tough and disposable.  Everything you take in there will begin to be ripped apart. 

As a fun side note:
When in one of these skinny slots you find it is sometime a lot of work to move through. Along with the work is an over load to the senses as you realize just how tiny and constricted these places are. With the work and awe happening at the same time these skinny slots sweep every thought of the outside world right out of your head; you truly are living "in the moment"! Don't be surprised if your weekend venture feels like a weeklong vacation after doing this type of slot for the first time. All in all I loved these canyons. I can see myself going back into the narrow spot in the 4th narrows of Shenanigans and sitting down for a picnic with friends. It is awe inspiring to say the least to lay on the floor in there and just stare up.