Category Archives: Trip Reports

West Fork of White Roost Canyon

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.

Century-old Tasker oil drilling rig at Texas Hill
Century-old Tasker oil drilling rig at Texas Hill

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.

First glimpse into the West Fork of White Roost
First glimpse into the West Fork of White Roost

Descending some slickrock
Descending some slickrock

Chris on the first short rappel
Chris on the first short rappel

Mark on rappel
Mark on rappel

The group above the second drop
The group above the second drop

Georgia dropping into a dark slot
Georgia dropping into a dark slot

Mark on the second rappel
Mark on the second rappel

Prepping for the third rappel
Prepping for the third rappel

Georgia making the awkward start
Georgia making the awkward start

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.

Dropping packs down a downclimb
Dropping packs down a downclimb

Paul downclimbing below a chockstone
Paul downclimbing below a chockstone

Approaching the “final” rappel
Approaching the "final" rappel

Paul (probably making a smartass remark) going down the 75′ rap
Paul (probably making a smartass remark) going down the 75' rap

Georgia completing the long drop
Georgia completing the long drop

Mark starting down the big drop
Mark starting down the big drop

No cell service but everybody’s on their phones
No cell service but everybody's on their phones

Looking up at the longest rappel
Looking up at the longest rappel

Straddling a narrow slot
Straddling a narrow slot

The canyon opens up
The canyon opens up

Chris hauling out some rope
Chris hauling out some rope

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.

Some more narrows
Some more narrows

An unexpected rappel
An unexpected rappel

Chris heading into the slanted slot
Chris heading into the slanted slot

A dark, skinny, slanted slot
A dark, skinny, slanted slot

Bottom of the final slot
Bottom of the final slot

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.

Easy walking down the canyon
Easy walking down the canyon

Enjoying the rising shadows on the canyon walls
Enjoying the rising shadows on the canyon walls

View up the main fork of White Roost Canyon
View up the main fork of White Roost Canyon

Almost to the exit
Almost to the exit

Starting up the exit
Starting up the exit

Walking up an old stock trail
Walking up an old stock trail

Steep climb
Steep climb

Blasted-out livestock trail
Blasted-out livestock trail

Constructed trail
Constructed trail

Walking across Navajo Sandstone domes
Walking across Navajo Sandstone domes

Last of the Navajo Sandstone
Last of the Navajo Sandstone

Above the Carmel Formation
Above the Carmel Formation

Earth’s shadow while walking out to the road
Earth's shadow while walking out to the road


Photo Gallery: West Fork of White Roost Canyon