Alcatraz Canyon is one of my favorites. It’s a great full day, intermediate canyon in Robber’s Roost. Featuring fun rappels with big views, and beautiful, challenging narrows. I was pretty exhausted by the end of it, but REALLY HAPPY because it was so freaking fun.
Alcatraz starts like a Mountain Dew commercial, with a 50 m ( 165 ft. ) rappel off your car bumper. With such a dramatic start, it is hard to imagine the canyon getting any better or more adventurous, but it does! Aside from the go-big-or-go-home entrance rappel, the rest of the canyon is a deep, dark, sinuous slot.
Gear: 1-60 m ( 197 ft. ) rope, and 1-30 m ( 99 ft. ) rope. Wetsuit in most conditions, or long sleeves and pants in hot conditions. We didn’t need wetsuits in mid-April, but this is obviously dependent on the timing of the last rainstorm.
Rappels: 3-4 to 60 m ( 197 ft. )
Water: Several small pools
Flashflood risk: High. The canyon has a small drainage, but is very narrow. It would not take much rain directly over the canyon to flood.
We woke up to a breezy morning with high clouds in the sky. We made pancakes and bacon, then got ready and drove to the trailhead at 10:45 AM. The views at the start are incredible, and top it off with a 165 ft rappel from the car! We rappelled off of a single strand and left the rope fixed to the car for later retrieval.
The canyon quickly narrows. RRR describes it as a physical canyon and it really was – long sections of high stemming or squeezing through tight narrows.
About 20 minutes down the canyon we encountered a water-filled pothole with a 30 ft rappel to exit. We both got into the freezing water, I put myself on rappel, and Dan helped me get out (i.e., beach whale). I had to straddle the exit while Dan draped himself onto the pothole lip (there wasn’t quite enough room for two people), and then I rappelled down so that he could get out of the water.
Then more slots, even MORE narrow and more strenuous.
It got darker, and Dan turned on his headlamp. It felt like a cave which was borderline panic-inducing since I really don’t like caving. I did one cave in college and hated it. As we slithered into the heart of the cave (it was a tight one), the outdoor club leader at the time said “everyone turn off your lights!” The darkness was like a heavy, smothering blanket, and I sat quietly, hoping I wouldn’t let out an involuntary scream. I was convinced there would be a freak earthquake and the entrance would be blocked forever. Which in that scenario, the whole cave would have likely collapsed = no need to escape. Yay for surviving such a close call…
Throughout the canyon we encountered a lot of water, ranging from ankle to stomach-level deep. I was glad that I committed to getting my shoes wet at the first pool of water, because efforting to keep the shoes dry would have doubled our time in canyon and increased the likelihood of contracting swamp wounds.
Alcatraz Canyon Exit
By the exit of the slot (~2 PM) I was descending into the hazy anger that is fatigued hunger. We sat in a sunny spot to dry out and eat lunch.
We thought it was going to be a relatively easy hike out but it wasn’t. It ended up being 2 hours of hot hiking back to the truck. Up and down and all around different capstones and canyons.
Our reward was the sweet relief that comes after physical exertion, and an incredible camp spot overlooking the canyon’s start. I watched the clouds float by while Dan napped (I tried but was unsuccessful) and listened to music.
In the evening we sat in the back of the truck talking, drinking beer, listening to music, and watching the sunset. Look at how great we are.
Just before dark we cooked tacos and some random vegetables. Dan made a fire. The stars came out and I felt that warm fuzzy contentment that I keep chasing.