Park Avenue Canyons (Arches NP)

Party: Mum, Dad and I
Canyons: Not Tierdrop, Teirdrop and U-Turn

The Dirt is Alive!:
If you look closely, you can see a microscopic community of life in the soil. Dark, lumpy surfaces are mature biological soil crust: a mixture of cyanobacteria, mosses, lichens, fungi, and algae.
Young, living soil looks a lot like sand, and it needs to be left undisturbed for many years to mature and help plants grow. Just one footprint does years of damage.
Dark, mature soil crusts are the basis of life in this desert. One footprint destroys years of growth.
This remarkable soil community holds the sand together, absorbs moisture, produces critical nutrients for plants, and provides seed beds for new plants to take hold.
Please don’t walk on it. Stay on designated trails to protect living soil and plants.

After a fun first day exploring the highest point in the park, it was time to explore some of the canyoning routes in the Park Avenue area. This area is quite close to the entrance of the park, and coupled with their short approach we thought they’d be a good place to start.

After parking, we headed a short way back along the road, a brown sign with a small person repelling/abseiling, pointing us in the direction of the otherwise hidden TH. Following a well formed sandy trail, we headed for the obvious weakness in the cliff that would enable us to gain the top.


Taking a short break on a fabulous bench about half way up, we juggled some of the gear around to adjust pack masses. Continuing across the slickrock we spotted the obvious beginning of a canyon route… but heading over to it, we determined it was actually Tierdrop… we were looking for Not Tierdrop – it had longer pitches (less mass to carry later) as well as a slightly better rating.

The anchor wasn’t hard to find. Webbing/tape ran from a hidden tree for 15-20m to the lip of the pitch (something unfamiliar to my parents). I dropped down first. The 30m rope we had used just reached a small rounded bench. You could easily slide down the rest of the way… we considered using our 70m rope here and leaving it rigged so we could simply pull it up for the next canyon. But it seemed a little risky as we weren’t sure of what was to come.

Dad belaying Mum down the first pitch.

Just below was the second pitch. It also had an extended anchor running from a tree. It was a tiered pitch and you could easily build a second anchor on the shelf if needed. Whilst fixing the webbing, another group could be heard, and then seen above. (If they had plans to do this route, they changed them. And we later heard them coming down U-Turn).

Dad rapping down the second pitch.

We followed the wash down skirting around on the rock to avoid disturbing the cryptobiotic soil. You could then scurry down a small sandy gully. It looked like that was it for the canyon.

The view from just above the gully.

From here we followed the bench around on the left. Finding a NPS arrow at the point before wrapping back around to the bottom of Tierdrop. We could see rope grooves where you’d pull your rope down here, though the slot in the corner look much more interesting.

Following the self around further, there was soon an obvious well used weakness that dropped down into the wash. Following this soon linked up with the main Park Avenue trail.


Mum needed a toilet and Dad wanted to talk. So we made plans to meet back at the lookout in an hour and a half. I’d go for a quick solo through Tierdrop (it had the lowest rating).

The view from the lookout/viewpoint.

I made good time getting to the drop-in point, and decided to downclimb the first drop. Sliding down, I popped my feet into some erosional pockets, traversed a bit and then tried to reach my feet down to a lower line of similar features. It required high concentration, and I regretted not simply dropping a rope down. I even checked many of the pockets to see if I could find a thread. No dice. Eventually I got down to the lower layer by matching a hand with a foot… from there it was a fast slide down to the bottom. Phew!

Another 30m pitch followed. I can’t really recall it except for the cairn anchor. Soon, I was at the top of the pitch we’d seen from the bottom on the previous route… I was a little disappointed, I guess I had expected there to be a little more in between what I had already done.

There was an obvious anchor CR. I inspected it, extended it a bit to lessen any rope rub and was about to go down, when I recalled the inviting slot we’d seen from the bottom. I unthreaded my descender and jogged over finding a marginal cairn anchor… this looked like more fun! so I ran over to derig what I had just set up.

A selfie going down P3.

At the bottom, I followed the now familiar route to rejoin the trail. I cached my pack with webbing and rope just before the junction, but on the trail ran into my parents. Perfect timing. Plans had changed, and the car was now back at the main TH, so I ran back to grab my pack, taking a photo for a family on the way. (About an hour twenty for the route).

Dropping some gear off at the car, we all proceeded back up to the top. Skirting around the top to the start of U-Turn the views where fantastic!

Sitting at the drop in point for U-Turn.

We decided to chill for a while. Enjoying the scenery and warmth from the sun. It wasn’t long before a large group (15?) made there way up… at first they looked a little unsure which way to go, but spotting us, soon headed up to join us. We considered starting the canyon, but agreed we could use some more chill time.

The group was a hiking club from Salt Lake City. It looked like it was the first trip for many. Though a couple of kits caught my eye… racks, cows tails… ahh there it was, a Croll dangling from a half moon mallion. They were cavers. I just so happened to have my caving T-shirt on and we chatted for a while – maybe I’d be able to join a trip with the Salt Lake Grotto? We waited a while after the first and second pitches had been vacated and then continued on our way.

Dad looking down at P1.

The first pitch wasn’t a long way down (P1 x ~10m) and had a single bolt hidden behind a rock. The second pitch that shortly followed was also quite short (P2 xx ~20m)

Mum descending first on P1.
Dad on P2.

The canyon then opened with views far better than what we had on the Tierdrop routes. This was definitely my favourite of the three. We clambered up onto a rock to take a group photo.


Scrambling down we headed far to the left to go down an alternate pitch to the bolted one the other group was still descending. (P3 33m). Whilst pulling the rope, I realised no one had removed the knot at the end of the rope… luckily this was an optional pitch: I ran back around and fixed it from the top.

This was followed shortly by another pitch (P4 30m).

Dad dropping down P3.
Mum dropping down P4. Note that the other group is standing on the sand dunes. Please avoid doing this. Follow the NPS arrow around to the right past the interesting tree and continue following the bench around to the parking lot – see the route I’ve uploaded on Ropewiki.
An interesting tree on the exit route.

Continuing along the bench we enjoyed the views in the failing light. When we reached the lookout, the setting sun turned the clouds a brilliant pink.



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