Lower Baptist Draw & Upper Chute Canyon - 3A II
This is a continuation of my last report for Window Blind Peak on the trip Josh and I took through the desert in early March. After a nice night camping along the San Rafael River with ELaine and Josh, we agreed to do a slot canyon, and I found a good option not too far away in Lower Baptist Draw and Upper Chute Canyon. We drive back to the bridge over the river and along the long Temple Mountain Road back to I-70. We passed right under the freeway though, and continued south for 10 miles until we hit the first major junction with FS322 and headed right (west). After another 3.8 miles we hit another major junction with FS 1012 and again headed right where the Tan Seep is located. This whole country is wild and remote!
After another mile we continued left, now heading in a SW direction and went another 4 miles. Note the roads through this entire section are very well maintained and wide dirt roads suitable for just about any vehicle. However, once we turned left onto the unnamed road heading back east towards Baptist Draw, my old stationwagon got tested. Deep ruts in the very narrow road forced me to drive with one side on the middle between the ruts, and the other side slightly off the road on the edge. Luckily the area is not super rocky so the lower clearance of my car wasn't too much of an issue. Continued past a small spur road that branched off to the right after 3 miles on this rougher road and went another half mile or so along the Chute Canyon Overlook Road until we found a nice place to park at the top of the rim, not qite at the end of the road. Kelsey has a good description of this small parking and camping area in his guidebook, and I also have it marked in the map below with a blue dot. After a quick bite to eat, the three of us descended north down the slope into the basin just below, dodging remnant snowfields on the north facing slope as we went. Just off to the east there is an obvious teepee shaped rock peak we aimed for. We caught a nice trail that followed a bench and rounded the south side of this teepee rock before dropping a couple hundred feet into the Lower Baptist Draw drainage. Once in the drainage we turned right (south) and continued with easy walking through some shallow narrows interspersed with wide open areas. This was going to be Elaine's first slot canyon, and she was very excited!
Ryan has a pretty good description of this whole loop we did here, so I won't go into too much detail on the beta, but rather describe our experience as we enjoyed it. It is worth noting that our entire day was completely dry, no wading, no swimming and no water to deal with, which this canyon is sometimes known for holding water so that was a bonus. The Lower Baptist Draw canyon slowly began to get narrower and deeper but never really presented any obstacles. The narrows got very scenic and photogenic with only the occational narrow "walk sideways" sections. We came across the first drop after about 20 minutes or so in the canyon which was well equipped with a long piece of webbing to make a short 15 foot rappel. Beyond that there was nothing super memorable until the final rappel which drops 25 meters down a deep crack into the main Chute Canyon. There were 3 bolts on a slab just off to the right that required a short but exposed walk to get to. The rappel itself was really cool, as you dropped down into the crack with a gigantic chockstone wedged inside above you as you lowered down.
Right as we started south, down Upper Chute Canyon, we were confronted with a series of very large boulders to crawl over/under. They were pretty easy to negociate apart from the second one which required a short 7-8 meter rappel on a good anchor. After these boulders, we continued just hiking in a deep, and very scenic gorge style of canyon. While there weren't really any very narrow sections in Upper Chute, it was insanely scenic, and there was still areas of thin snow coverage in shaded areas since the sun rarely makes it down there. On average the canyon here is about 300 feet deep, so it is also considerable cooler as well. After maybe an hour and a half (guesstimate) of walking down Chute Canyon, we came to where Faultline Canyon cross the Chute Canyon drainage, and turned right (west). Initially, we hiked over a large sand dune, then dropped a short ways into the Faultline Canyon drainage which continued due west for what seems like a considerable distance. We opted to scramble north up class 4 rock at the first chance we could find to get back to the top of the hill separating Faultline Canyon and the broad unnamed drainage just to the north. We crossed through a wide saddle just west of a small hill that was capped with an island of the same Carmel Formation that we parked the car on at the mesa top.
We then descended into the unnamed drainage. By this point, there were some high clouds coming in, which was nice to have some shade for the open cross country hike back to the car. The final ascent back to the mesa top involved a short ascend up the south facing slope back to the mesa and a cross country walk north back to the road and the car. The total round trip length of the loop was about 8 miles, and offered an excellent half day outing which is just what we needed after sleeping in after finishing Window Blind Peak in the dark the previous day. We drove back out the way we came to the Temple Mountain Road exit on I-70 (Exit 131) where we dropped Elaine back off at her car so she could drive back to Grand Junction. Josh and I continued to Hanksville and arrived at Stans Burger Shack just in time before they closed for their awesome burgers and milkshakes. We crashed a couple miles outside Hanksville and made plans to do Alcatraz Canyon the next day.