The Inselberg cyclonic sand pit

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The Inselberg cyclonic sand pit

Journey to the Cosmic Navel
The enormous weathering pit is slightly oval, 200 feet across. Its depth ranges from 65 feet to 16 at the breached part of the rim. The pedestal is 30 feet tall. Three men provide scale.
With sticky shoes, some people will be able to make the downclimb into the pit without a rope but most will want the security of a line. These four men located the Cosmic Navel on their third try.
On the sand floor both the pinnacle and dune have a strong presence. The dune changes shape, height, and position with every strong wind event.
The smooth floor of the North Fork of Harris Wash is covered in stone ripples and swirls.
Locating the weathering pit is a navigational challenge. From the parking area off Old Sheffield Road, walk southeast and climb Point 5,974’ (or circumvent it on the east). Gain the saddle between Point 6,015’ and Point 5,887’. Cross the Northeast Fork of Red Breaks and the North Fork of Harris Wash. The pit is near the crest of Point 5,847’ on the southeast side.

The Inselberg cyclonic sand pit

The enormous weathering pit is slightly oval, 200 feet across. Its depth ranges from 65 feet to 16 at the breached part of the rim. The pedestal is 30 feet tall. Three men provide scale.
With sticky shoes, some people will be able to make the downclimb into the pit without a rope but most will want the security of a line. These four men located the Cosmic Navel on their third try.
On the sand floor both the pinnacle and dune have a strong presence. The dune changes shape, height, and position with every strong wind event.
The smooth floor of the North Fork of Harris Wash is covered in stone ripples and swirls.
Locating the weathering pit is a navigational challenge. From the parking area off Old Sheffield Road, walk southeast and climb Point 5,974’ (or circumvent it on the east). Gain the saddle between Point 6,015’ and Point 5,887’. Cross the Northeast Fork of Red Breaks and the North Fork of Harris Wash. The pit is near the crest of Point 5,847’ on the southeast side.
Travel basics

Travel: Old Sheffield Road is off Highway 12 between Escalante and Boulder, Utah. At mile marker 70 (where a cattle guard crosses the highway), turn south on a dirt road and zero-out your trip meter. At 5.8 miles in Big Spencer Flat, the main road goes right/south. Take the left fork trending east. The road narrows to a two-track and bogs down in deep sand near the parking area on a flat pad of grey stone at 6.9 miles. It is a good road when dry other than the sand hazard which you can avoid by parking earlier if you are in a two-wheel-drive with good clearance. Check general conditions by calling the Escalante Interagency Visitor Center: 435-826-5499.
Distance and Elevation Gain: 6.5 miles; 1,750 feet of climbing
Time: 4½ to 6 hours.
Difficulty: Off-trail, no cairns, navigation challenging. Bring a 60 foot rope to descend the steep friction pitch into the pit.
Map: Red Breaks, Utah; 7.5 USGS Quad
Reference: Netoff, Dennis I., and Marjorie A. Chan. “Aeolian activity at a giant sandstone weathering pit in arid south-central Utah.” Earth Surface Processes and Landforms 34 (2009): 99-109.

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