Robber’s Roost Canyoneering Trip Report

So what does someone who canyoneers for a job day in and day out do when they get time off?  Well, they go canyoneering.  I often get asked that question, and I tell people my days off look a lot like my days on, only I really try to seek out somewhere new so it’s more of an adventure.

This last ‘weekend’ Jon (another Zion Adventure Company guide), my girlfriend Julie, and I went on an ‘adventure’ to the “Robber’s Roost” area of Southern Utah.  It can be found roughly here:,-110.32026,12z on a map.  Don’t see much?  Exactly.  It’s out there.  In fact, it’s about as ‘out there’ as one can get to in Utah by any sort of somewhat conventional transportation.  By ‘conventional’ transportation, one really needs a reliable high clearance four wheel drive vehicle to navigate the 50 something miles of rocky dirt roads.


The nice thing about a Toyota Land Cruiser is that they’re rugged yet reliable


The other nice thing about Land Cruisers is that they’re pretty easy to fix when they break down… even with whatever you happen to have in your canyoneering backpack.


The day we arrived, we went into a canyon called High Spur.  If it were less technical and more accessible to the masses of photographers who can fairly easily google their way into Antelope canyon, I’m sure pictures of High Spur would come standard as your default desktop background.  Since it’s not, and since Seth Hamel was otherwise occupied photographing Coyote Gulch, you’ll have to settle for a couple of pictures of a place way too beautiful for our little point and shoot camera to capture.  It’s worth seeing for yourself anyhow.

IMG_0705Quite possibly, it was prettier around every corner


Unlike Antelope Canyon, you don’t need a guide to tell you when and where to take a picture.  Even having never been there, that part seemed pretty self-evident.


High Spur even made Jon look good (by backlighting him).


There have been a few times when it’s been funny that my name happens to be “B.J.”.  This so happened to be one of those times.


Our second day we went into Blue John.  Yeah, the one from the movie (and the one every canyoneering guide has gotten asked about nearly everyday since).   However, the ‘one’ pictured in the movie, though technically still in Utah, was a little closer to Hollywood.  That said, it wasn’t the sensationalizing of this canyon that made it…sensational.


If it were easy, everyone would do it… without having to cut their own arm off.


Seen here is the last known picture of John Ritze’s left arm.  He recently told me he’d give his right arm for a movie/book deal.


Even for someone who goes into canyons most days, this certainly wasn’t my everyday.


After a good long physical day, it sure is nice to have a cozy tent awaiting us back at camp… oh wait…sandstorm.


Before the long drive back to Zion, we wanted to get one more canyon in on our last morning.  With a relatively brief hike in and out, and a shorter but concentrated technical section, we found Smallcatraz a great ‘one more for the road’ objective.


Jon and Julie squeezing one more canyon into the trip.




…For those looking for more info…


Day 1: High Spur Canyon 3A II PG.

More beta and info found here on the website here:

In addition, of all the roads along the way, we found the last ten or so miles into High Spur the most rugged (high clearance 4WD only).  In addition, we purchased USGS topo maps for this and our other canyons at the Hans Flat ranger station en route.


Day 2: Blue John Canyon (“Squeeze Fork into East Fork) 3A/B III.

We referred to Tom’s information from his website found here:

We thought the Squeeze fork start was certainly a highlight, but as the sign in the above photo indicated, it’s not recommended for everybody.  Indeed it contained some very physical sections and technical maneuvering to negotiate.  The “long pool” referred to on Tom’s map was indeed wet and FREEZING, but only about as deep as our waist (which wasn’t exactly a comfort).


Day 3: Smallcatraz 3A II

We referred to the info/beta found here:

Our one discrepancy was that on the driving directions, we found the initial mileage from the “Y” a few tenths of miles too far.  From the Y, if you cross a cattle guard with a barbed wire fence on both sides, you’ve gone too far (the intersection is the nearest turn behind you at that point).  Also, “the drill hole” referred to is simply a short stubby capped pipe coming out of the ground.


About Dave

Dave Buckingham guides, outfits, and waxes poetic on all things canyoneering at Zion Adventure Company. When Dave isn’t exploring desert canyons or waterskiing on Lake Powell, you might find him fixing his boat, walking his dog, or tooting his own horn (it’s a trumpet) here in Springdale.
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