Canyoneering Route Description

Sandthrax Canyon - 4A III X
North Wash, Utah

Quick Facts

12-30-17, 10 people, 1 Day (Travel time in route 5.5 hours) Pictures Icon

Time Required - 4 to 7 hours
Distance - 1.7 miles Total, 0.4 miles Technical
Rappels - 2 Rappels, Longest Rappel 30 feet.  This is an advanced X canyon. Do not under estimate.  See General comments.
Elevation Range - 4460 - 4780 Feet
Shuttle Required - No Miles Vehicle - Passenger Permit Required - No

Gear Used for Canyon

Rappelling and anchor gear, Ropes and or pull cords for rappels up to 30 feet and 30 feet of 1 inch webbing just in case. 

The recommended gear for the crux upclimb is a couple number 6 cams for the first part then a Trango Big Bro 4 for the top portion (a Big Bro 3 can be used but is pretty maxed out). A good idea is to have a 40ish foot dynamic rope to belay the first up the upclimb. A couple etriers may also prove helpful.

General Comments

Sandthrax Canyon is a short canyon rated as an X canyon due to high stemming and the risks associated with that. The crux of Sandthrax Canyon is an off-width upclimb of about 15 feet that starts from 20 feet off the deck. If you fall, you will likely also fall down what you climbed and the additional 20 feet below the start ledge. The crux upclimb is generally reported to be about a 5.10 off-width upclimb and very awkward at that. I tagged along with a group with solid skills and was fortunate enough to have a top haul up the upclimb.

Tall people have been able to dynamically lunge over the top of the crux but this is generally a bad idea as you will be 60 or more feet off the deck and will need mad skills to lunge over the awkward semi-featureless top. People have also been able to toss packs or bags up into the crux to use as a belay for the first person.  Doing a toss of some sort still requires good of-width climbing skills.

Any way you slice it, the crux is not an obstacle to take lightly. There have been people not able to bass the crux and get stuck in canyon. Other parties have accidentally dropped into Sandthrax not knowing where they were which has equally bad outcomes.

Do not descend Sandthrax Canyon if you do not have people on your team with solid off-width climbing skills and the proper equipment to protect the climb. The crux upclimb is out of reach for the skills of many canyoneers.

A couple years prior to my first full trip through Sandthrax, Malia and I decided to look at Sandthrax during Freeze Fest but had no intentions of tackling the crux or full canyon. We called our adventure the Double Ended Halfthrax Sampler. We descended the first 600-ish feet (leaving a rope set for the upper rappel) then retreated back up canyon. Then we hiked around to the bottom and upclimbed Sandthrax to the top of the Crux upclimb (it looks scary from the top too). On the way up the bottom is a 20 foot tall silo that with effort I was able to stem up leading to more stemming up to the top of the crux. If you have solid stemming skills, want to test your ability and just want to lay eyes on the crux, the Double Ended Halfthrax Sampler may be just the ticket!

Thanks to Tom C. for allowing me to jump on his trip with an already large group size and me still having knee issues due to recent surgery.  Also thanks to Braden and Jim for teaming up to work the crux of Sandthrax. They put in a lot of effort teaming up to get past the crux then providing belay and pack hauling for those who followed.

Driving Directions

To get to the Trailhead

From the junction of highways 276 and 95, travel south east on 95 for 2.2 miles to a dirt road on the left (north east) leading into the Sandthrax primitive camp area (lSandthraxCmp).  Turn left into the camp area then continue east through Sandthrax camp to park to begin your route.

Warning:  Halfway through the Sandthrax Camp area is a short section of deep soft sand.  Evaluate your vehicles ability to cross this sand before driving in.  If there is ANY doubt, do not drive through.  Instead park the car and walk the remaining 400 feet to the east end of camp.  It is not worth getting stuck in sand just to avoid walking an extra 400 feet.

To leave the Exit Vehicle / Escape Pod

No exit vehicle is needed.  This is done as a loop route.

Maps

GPS coordinate information listed at the bottom.  For information about waypoint naming and map symbols, refer to the Glossary page.

Map Link Icon
Click the links for maps of the route.
Map of the entire route.

Details

The Approach:
From From the Sandthrax camp area (lSandthraxCmp) walk to the east end of the Sandthrax camp area, follow a use trail through light vegetation up to a small slickrock saddle (Sandthrax01). From the saddle hook left to contour around then following northeast along a large white rock shelf.

Example Pic.

At the end of the white slickrock shelf (Sandthrax02) scramble up to the left going up moderately steep slickrock about 400 feet to where you can turn right and begin route-finding northeast roughly following the rim of Sandthrax Canyon on your right (southeast). There is no one best way through this area but the aim is to route find about 0.6 miles northeast roughly following the rim of Sandthrax.

About 0.4 miles along the rim is a short narrow ledge to walk (Sandthrax03) or you can cross lower dropping down then up through a shallow bowl. There is no one best way through this route but each time I have followed this route we always pass through this spot.  Continue northeast about 0.25 miles to where you can walk down to the head of Sandthrax Canyon (ySandthraxTp). 

The Canyoneering / Technical Section:
From the head of Sandthrax Canyon (ySandthraxTp) go down a moderately challenging downclimb of about 15 feet then continue galumphing down canyon a little over 200 feet to rap 1.

Rap 1 (dSandthraxR1) anchored LDC from a pinch point between a boulder and the canyon wall and drops about 30 feet down an almost vertical wall. Continue galumphing and low stemming gradually descending down through sculpted walls.

Shortly down canyon is a sharp right-left jog in the canyon and a partner assitable downclimb (Sandthrax04) of about 15 feet. Shortly after is a skinny spot followed by an easy downclimb of about 8 feet.  Down canyon is a short section of high stemming and as the canyon becomes very skinny it is best to go high not low.

Shortly after is an elevator down climb (Sandthrax05) of about 20 feet into a silo like feature. We found a handline left here but staying in the crack makes the handline un-needed. Near the bottom of the downclimb is a upclimb of about 8 feet up a nose on the LDC side with an awkward transition or you can continue down lower then climb up about 10 feet farther down canyon between tight walls. If you can make the awkward transition, staying high will use less energy.

Continuing down canyon is moderately easy stemming to about 40 feet off the deck.

A little over 300 feet down canyon you can see a void (Sandthrax06) below (that looks like ground but is not) with a narrow but easy stem style downclimb into the void. Downclimb down to the void and continue stemming down canyon once down. It is possible for tall people to go very high over this spot and come down later but will need to negotiate down a bombay like feature.

About 200 feet down canyon is a silo (Sandthrax07) where all but the tallest people will need to go down about 15 feet to cross at a narrow spot by a scoop / ledge on the LDC side then stem up at an angle to go back up about 15 feet again.

About 100 feet farther is another silo (Sandthrax08) to cross by stemming down about 15 feet and crossing where narrow by scoops / ledges on both sides. Taller people can cross a little higher using the scoop on the LDC side while shorter people can go a few feet lower and use the scoop on the RDC side. Going back up after crossing this silo is a little more difficult / awkward than the last one.

Shortly after are a few chock stones large enough to take a break on (Sandthrax09) after crossing a silo. From the chock stones continue down canyon stemming between skinny walls about 80 feet to another silo.

This next silo (Sandthrax10) is where you will be about 60 feet off the deck that is overall an awkward crossing and more menacing then the previous silos. Very tall people can stay high crossing without going up or down much. Most people will need to drop down about 12 feet down to a ledge on the RDC side to cross into an awkward stem to then stem up about 20 feet. After one person is across they can stem up and wedge in to belay those who follow.

Note:
In 2017 there was a bolted hanger and piton on the up canyon end and a bolted hanger on the down canyon end of this silo. I assume these will soon be removed by the community as this is a bolt free area. So do not count on these being here.

Immediately after this silo is a stem / elevator downclimb of about 60 feet into the hole for the crux of Sandthrax Canyon. The bottom of the downclimb is at a ledge on the LDC side still about 20 feet off the deck large enough for about 2 people. That ledge is where you begin strategizing your plan for getting up the crux upclimb.

The Sandthrax Crux (Sandthrax11Crx) starts from a ledge on the LDC side at the bottom of the upclimb and is about 20 feet off the deck with twisted winding walls with protrusions sure to beat you up if you fall in. To start the upclimb, you stem over the hole and awkwardly get into an off-width crack on the RDC side. The 15 foot upclimb has the bottom very slightly over hanging with a flat smooth outward flaring LDC wall and a smooth RDC wall that prevents full on stemming making it an off-width upclimb. About 2/3 of the way up, the crack narrows more and becomes more difficult. Due to the slight overhang of the first part, if you fell you would also drop down into the 20 foot hole below the start ledge.

Note:  Recommended gear is a couple number 6 cams for the first part then a Trango Big Bro 4 for the top portion (a Big Bro 3 can be used but is pretty maxed out).

After the crux, continue down canyon with moderately difficult stemming slowly sweeping down then back up again as you go past a huge and pretty conchoidal fracture along the LDC wall.  About 300 feet down canyon is is rap 2.

Rap 2 (dSandthraxR2) anchored RDC up high from a small bridge in a solution pocket and drops about 20 feet.

Note: This rap can be up and down climbed by bridging over the drop then stemming the vertical section about 8 feet down canyon. Bridging the drop puts you in a position to fall 40 feet or so if you slip. Upclimbing for some reason feels less dangerous than downclimbing.

Note: In 2017 we found a piton anchor which may be removed in the future.

Walk down canyon about 150 feet to a short section of easy galumphing / stemming with a few not very wide silos with good features making them easy to stem over. About 100 feet of stemming leads to a stem style downclimb at the end and the last of the technical section (ySandthraxBt).

The Exit:
From the end of the technical section (ySandthraxBt) the canyon opens up after a stem down climb of about 20 feet. To exit walk the wide wash about 0.3 miles back to the Sandthrax camp area (lSandthraxCmp).

GPS Waypoint Information

GPX Files Available for DOWNLOAD.
Downloadable GPX files for many of the canyons listed here are now available at the BG-Gear Store.  In addition to the waypoints, the GPX files also offer routes and tracks for the canyon.  Over time more GPX files will be added.

If you want to avoid manually adding waypoints into your GPS or mapping software, want the additional routes and tracks or simply want to support the efforts put into BluuGnome, head over to the BG-Gear Store and grab the files that interest you.

Elevations are approximate.  Waypoints with no elevation data will display NaN in place of the elevation.

For information about my waypoint naming convention and map symbols, refer to the Glossary page.

Notes for GPS information:
BEFORE
entering coordinates from this website, please ensure your system (GPS or mapping software) is set to the same datum used here.  Waypoint coordinates are listed with WGS84 datum and in Lat/Lon hddd.ddddd° format.  Entering coordinate information with inconsistent datum's can result in the waypoints being off by hundreds of feet.  It is important to keep this in mind when entering waypoints from any source.

Sandthrax (1) - Approach
  1. lSandthraxCmp          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 38.01645   W -110.53319        Elev: 4,460 Feet
    Sandthrax Camp primative camp area.
  2. Sandthrax01          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 38.01559   W -110.53028        Elev: NaN Feet
    From the east end of the Sandthrax camp area, follow a use trail through light vegetation up to a small slickrock saddle here. From the saddle hook left to contour around then following northeast along a large white rock shelf.
  3. Sandthrax02          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 38.01624   W -110.52881        Elev: NaN Feet
    At the end of the white slickrock shelf scramble up to the left going up moderately steep slickrock about 400 feet to where you can turn right and begin route-finding northeast roughly following the rim of Sandthrax Canyon on your right (southeast). There is no one best way through this area but the aim is to route find about 0.6 miles northeast roughly following the rim of Sandthrax.
  4. Sandthrax03          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 38.02057   W -110.52488        Elev: 4,780 Feet
    Short narrow ledge to walk or you can cross lower dropping down then up through a shallow bowl. There is no one best way through this route but each time I have followed this route we always pass through this spot. Continue northeast about 0.25 miles to where you can walk down to the head of Sandthrax Canyon.
  5. ySandthraxTp          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 38.02198   W -110.52064        Elev: 4,790 Feet
    Top entry for Sandthrax Canyon in a large flat area at the top of a narrow slot. To drop into Sandthrax, go down a moderately challenging downclimb of about 15 feet then continue galumphing down canyon. To go to Who Knew Canyon, walk northeast up the wide flat drainage up from Sandthrax. To continue the exit from Who Knew Canyon reverse the approach route by route finding southwest along the north rim of Sandthrax about 0.75 miles back to the Sandthrax camp area. (DO NOT drop down into Sandthrax Canyon)
Sandthrax (2) - Canyon and Exit
  1. ySandthraxTp          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 38.02198   W -110.52064        Elev: 4,790 Feet
    Top entry for Sandthrax Canyon in a large flat area at the top of a narrow slot. To drop into Sandthrax, go down a moderately challenging downclimb of about 15 feet then continue galumphing down canyon. To go to Who Knew Canyon, walk northeast up the wide flat drainage up from Sandthrax. To continue the exit from Who Knew Canyon reverse the approach route by route finding southwest along the north rim of Sandthrax about 0.75 miles back to the Sandthrax camp area. (DO NOT drop down into Sandthrax Canyon)
  2. dSandthraxR1          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 38.02167   W -110.52133        Elev: NaN Feet
    Rap 1 - Sandthrax. Anchored LDC from a pinch point between a boulder and the canyon wall and drops about 30 feet down an almost vertical wall. Continue galumphing and low stemming gradually descending down through sculpted walls.
  3. Sandthrax04          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 38.02167   W -110.52158        Elev: NaN Feet
    Sharp right-left jog in the canyon and a partner assitable downclimb of about 15 feet. Shortly after is a skinny spot followed by an easy downclimb of about 8 feet. Down canyon is a short section of high stemming and as the canyon becomes very skinny it is best to go high not low.
  4. Sandthrax05          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 38.02152   W -110.52192        Elev: NaN Feet
    Elevator down climb of about 20 feet into a silo like feature. We found a handline left here but staying in the crack makes the handline un-needed. Near the bottom of the downclimb is a upclimb of about 8 feet up a nose on the LDC side with an awkward transition or you can continue down lower then climb up about 10 feet farther down canyon between tight walls. If you can make the awkward transition, staying high will use less energy. Continuing down canyon is moderately easy stemming to about 40 feet off the deck.
  5. Sandthrax06          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 38.02087   W -110.52294        Elev: NaN Feet
    Can see a void below (that looks like ground but is not) with a narrow but easy stem style downclimb into the void. Downclimb down to the void and continue stemming down canyon once down. It is possible for tall people to go very high over this spot and come down later but will need to negotiate down a bombay like feature.
  6. Sandthrax07          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 38.02044   W -110.52338        Elev: NaN Feet
    Silo where all but the tallest people will need to go down about 15 feet to cross at a narrow spot by a scoop / ledge on the LDC side then stem up at an angle to go back up about 15 feet again.
  7. Sandthrax08          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 38.02021   W -110.52362        Elev: NaN Feet
    Another silo to cross by stemming down about 15 feet and crossing where narrow by scoops / ledges on both sides. Taller people can cross a little higher using the scoop on the LDC side while shorter people can go a few feet lower and use the scoop on the RDC side. Going back up after crossing this silo is a little more difficult / awkward than the last one.
  8. Sandthrax09          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 38.02006   W -110.52385        Elev: NaN Feet
    A few chock stones large enough to take a break on after crossing a silo. From the chock stones continue down canyon stemming between skinny walls about 80 feet to another silo.
  9. Sandthrax10          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 38.01993   W -110.52405        Elev: NaN Feet
    Silo where you will be about 60 feet off the deck that is overall an awkward crossing and more menacing then the previous silos. Very tall people can stay high crossing without going up or down much. Most people will need to drop down about 12 feet down to a ledge on the RDC side to cross into an awkward stem to then stem up about 20 feet. After one person is across they can stem up and wedge in to belay those who follow. Note: In 2017 there was a bolted hanger and piton on the up canyon end and a bolted hanger on the down canyon end of this silo. I assume these will soon be removed by the community as this is a bolt free area. So do not count on these being here. Immediately after this silo is a stem / elevator downclimb of about 60 feet into the hole for the crux of Sandthrax Canyon. The bottom of the downclimb is at a ledge on the LDC side still about 20 feet off the deck large enough for about 2 people. That ledge is where you begin strategizing your plan for getting up the crux upclimb.
  10. Sandthrax11Crx          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 38.01978   W -110.52437        Elev: NaN Feet
    Sandthrax Crux starts from a ledge on the LDC side at the bottom of the upclimb is about 20 feet off the deck with twisted winding walls with protrusions sure to beat you up if you fall in. To start the upclimb, you stem over the hole and awkwardly get into an off-width crack on the RDC side. The 15 foot upclimb has the bottom very slightly over hanging with a flat smooth outward flaring LDC wall and a smooth RDC wall that prevents full on stemming making it an off-width upclimb. About 2/3 of the way up, the crack narrows more and becomes more difficult. Due to the slight overhang of the first part, if you fell you would also drop down into the 20 foot hole below the start ledge. Note: Recommended gear is a couple number 6 cams for the first part then a Trango Big Bro 4 for the top portion (a Big Bro 3 can be used but is pretty maxxed out). After the crux, continue down canyon with moderately difficult stemming slowly sweeping down then back up again as you go past a huge and pretty conchoidal fracture along the LDC wall.
  11. dSandthraxR2          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 38.01923   W -110.52519        Elev: NaN Feet
    Rap 2 - Sandthrax Canyon. Anchored RDC up high from a small bridge in a solution pocket and drops about 20 feet. Note: This rap can be up and down climbed by bridging over the drop then stemming the vertical section about 8 feet down canyon. Bridging the drop puts you in a position to fall 40 feet or so if you slip. Upclimbing for some reason feels less dangerous than downclimbing. Note: In 2017 we found a piton anchor which may be removed in the future. Walk down canyon about 150 feet to a short section of easy galumphing / stemming with a few not very wide silos with good features making them easy to stem over. About 100 feet of stemming leads to a stem style downclimb at the end and the last of the technical section.
  12. ySandthraxBt          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 38.01847   W -110.52616        Elev: 4,535 Feet
    Bottom of the Sandthrax route where the canyon opens up after a stem down climb of about 20 feet. To exit walk the wide wash about 0.3 miles back to the Sandthrax camp area.
  13. lSandthraxCmp          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 38.01645   W -110.53319        Elev: 4,460 Feet
    Sandthrax Camp primative camp area.