Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Buffalo River, Arkansas, April 2016

Where has Horseshoe Canyon Ranch been in our lives all these years? As Saxon expats, we missed the rock climbing in sandstone - the sandstone layer in Missouri is pitifully thin, and no good climbing exists in the vicinity of our town. We had heard about climbing down in Arkansas, but never really checked it out - until now. We had bought two new guide books, and after having pitched tent at Steele Creek Campground, we arrived at Horseshoe Canyon Ranch at noon on Thursday, checked in, signed our waiver and received our wristbands, and headed for the rock area with the largest number of medium difficulty routes, the Cliffs of Insanity.
And they were insane. AMAZING! Solid rock, huge jugs as handholds - plates and knobs you would not dare to hold on back home because they might break off are iron hard and you can hang from them without fear. The protection of the sports climbing routes is excellent; seven bolts for 60 feet of route - a far cry from the sparse rings in Saxon Switzerland. We found the difficulty rating to be rather forgiving, compared to other areas. Had a great afternoon, climbed seven routes in sunny 70 degree weather and only saw one other party.
Since it was just the two of us, we did not have anybody to take actual climbing pictures.
On Friday, we drove to Kyle's Landing (the gravel road about which we had read so many warnings online turned out to be easily passable for our car) and started the hike up Indian Creek. It was a chilly overcast morning, no sun, but the canyon was beautiful, with many flowers, pools and lots of waterfalls. We passed Copperhead Falls
and Tunnel Cave Falls where the creek emerges out of a cave.

Until this point, the hike was easy, following faint tracks along the creek. To continue past Tunnel Cave, however, one has to climb up a cliff, which is a bit challenging since it is very wet. Fortunately there are several fixed ropes that can be used as aides. After navigating this ascent and climbing through a hole in the cliff wall, we continued our hike up stream to the Eye of the Needle and then past it, until the upper end of the canyon. We walked until we found a trail that lead us back to the Buffalo River Trail and Kyle's Landing.

The night to Saturday was colder still and chilly even in our down sleeping bags inside the tent; we had to scrape the ice off the car. We drove to Erbie on the other side of the river and hiked Cecil Cove trail. After 1.5 mile, we took a detour to explore Thunder Canyon, a beautiful little slot canyon. Following the canyon past pools and little waterfalls along slippery wet rock ledges lead us to 71ft tall Thunder Canyon Fall that falls into a 14 ft deep pool.

On the way back, it happened. Did I mention slippery rock?

I am not in the picture - because these are my very wet clothes. Everything happened quickly. The pool was deep and the water very cold. Unfortunately I was the one carrying the camera.Thankfully, the SD card with the pictures was salvageable; the camera's fate is yet undetermined, it is currently drying out in a  bag of rice.
Undeterred, we forged on - after a half hour break in the sun to dry my pants. We closed the loop via Goat Bluff Trail with beautiful views of the Buffalo River.
On Sunday morning, we packed up and drove to HCR for more climbing. We were hesitant to check out the popular North Forty area because of the crowds, but found that it was no problem: with such an abundance of routes, you can simply move a few yards over to the next one if people are on the one you wanted to climb. The routes are a bit shorter here, most of the ones we did were only 40 to 50 ft. We climbed greedily, like a starving person shoveling food - we wanted to get as many routes as possible before it was time to leave and did not take time for food breaks. Five hours and 13 routes later we were ready to go home... with firm plans to come back very soon.
20+ miles of hiking, 20 climbing routes, all in four days including travel - a perfect trip! See you album for more pictures.