Box Canyon is just a beautiful little classic, and really deserves to be considered a trade route in the area. The only thing really stopping it from seeing many more descents is the difficulty of access – getting across the Squamish River. Aside from that, with reasonable, summertime flows, the canyon presents no formidable obstacles to descent by canyoneers who aren’t grizzled veterans.
Because we expect that the canyon will see (relatively) frequent descents, we felt that it would be best to equip the canyon with bolted anchors for the rappels, and in discussions with others, that seemed to be the consensus. A few days ago, June 10, three of us descended the canyon with a power drill, and installed 12 new bolts on the way.
Jeff, Chris and I arrived at the put-in point under cloudy skies – which was an improvement over the pouring rain that we left behind in Vancouver! We canoed across the Squamish in moderately high conditions, and started hiking in. We could hear Monmouth roaring from quite a distance, and were wondering just how much would be coming out of Box.
When we reached the confluence, we felt that the flow was higher than we’d ever descended the canyon in previously (highest was in September 2013 – with a group of about 17 people!) but we felt that it was not unreasonable, so we continued.
The water was flowing pretty hard, making things exhilarating – and rather loud!
When we reached the third rappel (which already consisted of one hand-drilled bolt from the first descent) we found a rope tied on to the bolt, and draped around to the other side of the large boulder in the middle of the canyon. It then dropped down into the flow below from that side. The rope was pretty tattered in the stream. We cut it away from the anchor, and dropped it down into the canyon, intending to remove it as we went by. We also discussed adding a new rappel anchor at the top of the final cascade on this (long, winding) rap, which would improve the rope pull.
When we got down into the rappel itself, we found that the flow was too high to either clean the abandoned rope, or to drill the new anchor’s bolts. A project for lower flow…
The remainder of the canyon went well, and we finished the canyon 5 hours after dropping in at the top. The canyon would normally take us around three hours, so hauling the drill in and out of doubled dry bags, drilling the holes, installing bolts, rapides, and webbing, at seven locations took about two extra hours. I think that went quite well, and we really had some good teamwork going.
We returned to the canoe, and headed back up the minor channel to the top of the island (against some pretty solid current!) and crossed the significantly higher river back to our morning’s launch spot. After packing everything up again, we were off to the Howe Sound Inn for deep fried pickles, pints, and some well-deserved dinner!
The anchors that were in the canyon previously were primarily slung logs, in a variety of locations. The webbing and solidity of the anchor had to be checked each time. Naturally, with bolts, they still do – but they are in a more convenient location to do so. A major problem with the old anchors is that many of them were down in the watercourse, or were otherwise difficult to rig a contingency anchor, and some of them made for an awkward start to the rap. The new bolted anchors make rigging a contingency easy and accessible, and improve the rappel entry.
Obviously, the new bolted anchors also provide redundancy, and are also located in spots that will likely be protected from damage by the highest flows the canyon sees. They also simplify anchor evaluation by less experienced canyoneers.
We decided to leave one rappel unbolted – rappel number two. This is anchored off of a slung log right in the middle of the canyon, with a relatively easy start, and convenient position for rigging.