October 25, 2019
On the Friday of our geocaching/camping trip, and after hiking Buck and Pasture canyons the previous day, I went canyoneering in the West Fork of White Roost Canyon with four other adventurous souls. Chris, Paul, Mark, Georgia, and I got a relatively late start and didn’t begin dropping into the canyon until a quarter ’til noon. While driving there I spotted a familiar-looking drilling rig at the ranch at Texas Hill, and after returning home and looking for a photo I’d seen online, I think I can confidently say it’s the Tasker oil drilling rig seen in this USGS photo from 1917.
We parked my Jeep at the trailhead and were surprised to see a shit-ton of people there. We chatted with a few and were relieved to learn that they were heading into the main fork of White Roost Canyon, and luckily we never saw another person until we were out of the canyon later that evening. After dropping into the head of the West Fork we encountered our first rappel. The information we’d read (from two different sources) describes the first two or three drops as downclimbs, but we opted to rappel them all. I suppose that means we’re all novices, but the existing rappel anchors at each drop suggest that many others also rappel these sections.
Next up was a downclimb below a chockstone, followed by the longest rappel of about 75 feet. After a little more downclimbing the canyon opened up and we thought we were done with the technical section. Everybody packed away harnesses and helmets and we stopped for a late 3PM lunch and a long rest.
After our respite we headed down-canyon and it began to slot up again. We encountered another drop that certainly didn’t look like we could downclimb it. At this point everybody became a little panicky. Our sources of information both described this as an easy downclimb. Road Trip Ryan says, “There are many downclimbs in this section, but all are very reasonable.” Michael Kelsey’s Robber’s Roost book calls this “a dark slanted PG [Plenty Good, but not life threatening] slot” that is “challenging enough to be fun.” We sent Chris–our largest but most competent climber–down first, and waited for his report before sending the rest of the group into the slot. After what seemed an eternity, and a lot of barely audible back-and-forth conversation, we could faintly hear Chris hollering that he’d made it through and to send Paul down. Mark went after Paul, then Georgia followed, and I took up the rear. We all rappelled the first drop into the slanted slot, but after that it really was mostly downclimbing, albeit difficult. We all had to remove our packs to fit through the skinny slot, and those of us who had headlamps took advantage of them in the dark confines. It took us nearly two hours to get through this supposedly easy downclimb! We were all a little frazzled after this section and we hoped there were no more surprises waiting ahead.
The canyon opened up ahead of us as the shadows crept up over the tops of the eastern walls. The rest of the canyon was easy walking. We passed the junction with the main fork of White Roost and I hiked up it a short distance while the others waited. I rejoined them and we soon reached our exit–a stock trail presumably built by John H. White in 1904, and probably improved many times since then. It was just after 6PM and Chris and I thought our ladies might be worried, so he sent a message from his inReach to let them know we were almost out. We climbed back to the road and started walking the one mile back to the Jeep, and saw some headlights approaching us. A guy from Colorado who had been canyoneering all week with some friends saw us from the trailhead a mile away and drove down to offer a ride, which we graciously accepted. We got back to the Jeep and thanked our new friend and then drove back to camp in the dark.
Photo Gallery: West Fork of White Roost Canyon