Past Meetup

Hells Gate via Tonto Creek (non-tech canyoneering)

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Exploring the beautiful pink granite country on the Mogollon Rim on a wild adventure down Tonto Creek to Hells Gate. This is for advanced backpackers only in good physical shape. On approval only.

We'll meet up Friday night at 6pm at the Ft. McDowell Casino and drive up to Payson and head east on the 260 past Star Valley, staging a shuttle vehicle at the Hells Gate #37 trailhead. Continue on the dirt road to Bear Flats and Car camp for the night next to Tonto Creek.
Early Saturday morning we'll start hiking down river of Tonto creek. For approx 1/4 of a mile we'll be able to stay dry with heavy bushwacking but eventually be in the creek. For 8 hours we will be in and out of a very silty creek, rock hopping, bushwacking, wading and swimming in a boulder riddled creek bottom for about 5 miles to camp. We'll make a big feast of carne asada fajitas and adult beverages.
Sunday morning we'll continue down Tonto for another 2.5 miles until we reach Hells Gate. This is a beautiful, long swim through towering pink granite cliffs, guaranteed to amaze even the most seasoned outdoors person. Shortly after the Hells Gate swim we'll reach the confluence of Haigler Creek and find Hells Gate Trail #37. A quick lunch and we'll begin our steep ascent out of the canyon for 7.5 dry/hot miles. We'll reach the shuttle vehicle approx by 4pm and pick up the car(s) at Bear Flats and head back into Payson for some delicious buffalo burgers and a cold beer.

Because of the sheer ruggedness of this terrain, this is for advanced backpackers/canyoneers. Although its non-technical, it is one of the most physically and mentally demanding trips in AZ. We'll have to negotiate very slippery pink granite, huge under water boulders, silty water that allows virtually zero visability and extreme bushwacking, the going is very slow. In a nutshell, this trip is best described as Bone-Jarring. We'll have a minimum of 50 swims anywhere from 10 yards to 100+. If the water levels are high it's not an exaggeration to see 80 swims.
You'll need overnight gear, Lightweight gear, smaller packs, good traction shoes that drain quickly, double dry bag everything. Triple dry bag electronics.
This is a trip not to miss. If you're up for an extreme adventure and ready to put your body through the gauntlet, I highly recommend!

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