Ascent to Navajo Dome-South Ridge on 1989-05-02

Climber: Greg Slayden

Other People:Solo Ascent
Only Party on Mountain
Date:Tuesday, May 2, 1989
Ascent Type:Unsuccessful - Turned Back
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:Car
Point Reached:Navajo Dome - South Ridge
    Elevation:6000 ft / 1828 m
    Remaining Elevation:489 ft / 149 m (43% left to go)

Ascent Trip Report

I wanted to do a hike in Capitol Reef National Park--however, most of the parks signature feature, the Waterpocket Fold, seemed to be in the remote southern part of the park, accessible only on horrible sandy roads. So I decided instead to try and climb to the top of Navajo Dome (which I thought was called Capitol Dome), a huge round stony rock that reared above the highway that had no trail at all. I should have gotten info on the area from a ranger, but I instead decided to wing it.

So I drove back on Route 24 a little ways to a little parking area for the nature trail to Hickman Bridge, a natural bridge a ways back into the desert. There I put my canteens in my pack and started up the trail, which first paralleled the verdant banks of the Fremont River before climbing up steep desert slopes on switchbacks to a sort of plateau. The landscape was exactly like that near Moab, UT, where Gabe and I had gone mountain biking, with low, scrubby bushes, cactus, rock and sand punctuated by massive formations of smooth rock.

I left the nature trail about half a mile from the road and struck off cross-country to my right, towards a long, high sandstone formation. I had to cross a eroded sandy wash, watch out for cactus, and work my way through some dry thorn bushes before reaching the base of the massive wall, where the footing was on flat rocky talus. I thought that my destination dome was on top of this wall, so I followed it south until a major transverse cleft, where jumbled boulders had fallen in a gap between two walls, seemed to provide access. I probed a couple of routes, with tricky footing on the steep rocks and sandstone slopes, before I was able to get myself to the first terrace, so to speak, of the huge elongated dome-like formation. I was now on pure rock, but all I could do was walk around on my narrow terraces, since it was nearly vertical rock up to the next terrace.

I climbed up one or two more levels, but couldn’t make it any further. Besides, I had soon worked my way around the formation to its southern end, and I saw that I was not on the actual Navajo (Capitol) Dome, since it was clearly the next one over. So I continued around on the terrace I was on until I was on the other side of the “wall”, where it flattened out and I descended off of the smooth rock to a dry sandy wash, which I decided to follow down to the Fremont River and the road and then back to my car.

Well, it was a nice thought, anyway. My wash became a steep sided canyon very quickly, and the bottom of it was filled with extra thick vegetation, probably because of the residual water that remained there after the rare rainstorms of the desert. I found myself lowering myself down preposterously steep walls where falling would have been all too easy and forcing my way through thick stands of thorn bushes after my harrowing descent. It was getting hot, too, as it tends to do in the desert, and I felt like I was trapped in this awfully difficult terrain.

I finally saw the road and river below me, but this was because the canyon I was in stopped suddenly at a massive cliff that dropped straight down to the river. I guess it became a spectacular waterfall when it rained. I had to climb out of the canyon, work my way along the edge of the cliffs, retreat back to the plateau where the trail was, cross that, including the wash I had originally crossed from the trail, but way downstream, where it was a steep, difficult little canyon. I regained the Hickman Bridge nature trail at the same point where I had left it, considerably more hot, tired, and impressed with the desert terrain than I had been when I had left it. I moseyed on down to the car, shook the sand out of my shoes, and drove back to the Visitor Center.
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:640 ft / 195 m
    Total Elevation Loss:640 ft / 195 m
    Round-Trip Distance:2.3 mi / 3.7 km
    Grade/Class:Class 3
    Quality:3 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail, Bushwhack, Scramble
    Weather:Pleasant, Breezy, Clear
Ascent Statistics
    Gain on way in:640 ft / 195 m
    Distance:1.2 mi / 1.9 km
    Start Trailhead:Hickman Bridge  5360 ft / 1633 m
Descent Statistics
    Loss on way out:640 ft / 195 m
    Distance:1.1 mi / 1.8 km
    End Trailhead:Hickman Bridge  5360 ft / 1633 m
GPS Data for Ascent/Trip

 GPS Waypoints - Hover or click to see name and lat/long
Peaks:  climbed and  unclimbed by Greg Slayden
Click Here for a Full Screen Map
Note: GPS Tracks may not be accurate, and may not show the best route. Do not follow this route blindly. Conditions change frequently. Use of a GPS unit in the outdoors, even with a pre-loaded track, is no substitute for experience and good judgment. accepts NO responsibility or liability from use of this data.

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