great thumb mesa

Dump Truck – an unpublished slot under Great Thumb Mesa

Another unpublished canyon in the Matkat system is one we named Dump Truck. It’s the east Sinyella Fault arm of the big east tributary arm of Matkat. It was named Dump Truck because the exit was so huge spilling out into the east arm of Matkat in an un-missable way when walking the Redwall rim in that area. The exit of Dump Truck meets with the exit of Panameta. This fact alone made it quite interesting because Panameta was simply incredible. Would Dump Truck be as good? I looked at the exit of Dump Truck on many trips while exploring the arms of Matkat or heading over to Olo Canyon. I always had a foreboding feeling about it. Of course, it went on the list but we were in no hurry to get to it. It looked like a big exit. REALLY Big! At least half of the Redwall layer. In fact, we weren’t sure the standard 250′ exploration rope would even reach. Frankly, for a long time it kind of scared the crap out of us. Finally, in April 2011 we walked by Dump Truck on the way to Olo and decided to go down it a ways just to scout it out. It had some really nice patios and potholes before the first rappel. We returned the following year to attempt a first descent. Todd Martin and I had a chance to get comfortable with this canyon over the course of 3 years before finally deciding to attempt a descent. But when our other hiking partners saw the exit they immediately revolted. None of them wanted to do it. We spent a few hours talking about “the plan” and various contingencies before they slowly started to warm up to the idea of trying a first. Staring at the exit of this slot was THAT impactful! Nerves calmed down as the descent progressed until we hit a huge keeper. Those foreboding feelings rushed back as, with no retreat options available, we pondered a way to escape.
The pothole was really a swimming pool sized feature at least 30′ deep spanning the walls of the slot. There was no way to throw a potshot far enough to get it across the pool, and it didn’t matter anyway: we had no potshots and we had no hooks. Keepers are so unusual in Grand Canyon, and weight is so critical, that we hadn’t been carrying any escape gear for a few years. But Todd thought the water level was just high enough to try a beach whale move at the exit. He barely made it. His effort caused the exit lip to become quite slippery and the rest of us all needed a partner assist to get out. But the keeper guarded a stunningly long limestone hallway with daisy-chained pools down the center. It was quite beautiful.

Everyone was so amped up after the keeper that stomachs started rolling in anticipation of the huge exit – another reason that the name Dump Truck seemed so fitting! Would the rope reach? The exit sequence was tricky. The patio emptied into the very narrow terminal slot requiring some rappels to make progress. Finally, confronted by a long narrow pool, we swam carefully toward the abyss. The lip of the pool guarded the big drop. Fortunately, we set a bomber anchor and over the lip we all went one by one. The feeling of exhilaration when my feet finally touched down to safety was unequaled by any other slot descent. Rope length? Two hundred feet exactly! It’s really hard to judge scale in this place!

Please take great care if you do this slot and come prepared with hooks to escape the keeper. It’s an advanced slot canyon best left for highly experienced canyoneers.

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