Canyoneering 101

The past 4 days have been nothing short of incredible. A group of 6 of us left town (Denver, CO) on Friday, April 3rd 2015 for an epic adventure that won’t soon be forgotten. We packed up the car, loaded up on beef jerky and Gatorade, and set out for one of the most scenic places on Earth- Zion Nation Park located in the far south-west corner of Utah, USA.

Our mission was simple: Disconnect from the subtle slavery of time. Unplug from everything. Have fun. Be safe. Laugh.

The name of our game is called Canyoneering, which the dictionary defines as, “The sport of exploring a canyon by engaging in such activities as rappelling, rafting, and waterfall jumping.” I find this definition to be complete rubbish. A more realistic definition would be something along the lines of: Can-yon-eer-ing – “The sport of wriggling your body like an inch worm through deep, dark, crevices in the earth- which often requires swimming in nasty bug water, rappelling down sheer canyon walls, and bushwhacking or scrambling your way through the underbrush for countless miles.” For some odd reason I find it to be the most exhilarating thing imaginable.

Day 1: Saturday, April 4th 2015 –

I woke up cold and shivering. Apparently, my 15 degree sleeping bag and 3 layers of cloths didn’t quite cut it. Buried deep inside my shell of a cocoon, I cater-pillared over to my toiletry bag to put in my contacts (my eyesight thoroughly sucks) much to my surprise the contact solution had completely frozen over inside the case, encapsulating my contacts in a frozen sphere. How cool I thought.

IMG_4951After thawing out my contacts, we decided to break camp and head out for our first canyon called Quandary. It’s located at San Rafael Swell (just a few hours North-East of Zion). The start of the canyon was marked by an old Ford riddled with bullet holes. Well that’s welcoming, I remembered thinking.

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After a relatively short hike in, we came to our first obstacle- a short 12 foot rappel followed by another 12 footer. These were great to practice on because I was a little rusty on my rappelling skills- it had been nearly a full year since my last canyoneering adventure. Several hours and a few easy rappels later, we came to our first real challenge: A bug infested “pothole” filled with mucky water. We set up a zip-line which worked well enough to shuttle us and our gear across the puddle without getting wet. All was fine and dandy.

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We kept trekking along for several more hours; by now the temperature had become considerably cooler and the big yellow ball in the sky had begun to sink lower and lower on the horizon.

The end of the canyon had been “just around the next bend” for the past two hours- or at least that’s what I had been telling my friend Maureen. It was getting very dark now and she had long stopped asking for my reassuring lies. I myself was beginning to wonder when in the heck we would be through it. We switched on our headlamps and continued to press on.

Finally. The canyon began to widen out into a large dried up river bed. We followed the riverbed for another several hours before coming to our exit point- an enormous rock wall that towered above us. The rock wall seemed as if it had it’s hands folded across it’s chest and a smirk on it’s face as it bellowed, “Ha! You THOUGHT you were finished didn’t you?” <insert evil laugh>

I heard an audible gasp escape from somewhere behind me, I think it came from Maureen. A gulp of air went down my throat, just like in the cartoons. “Are you $5#& kidding me?” was the phrase that came to mind. Of course I didn’t say anything or voice my complaints. No, that would have made me look weak in the eyes of the rest of the group. There would be none of that I had already predetermined.

After a “quick” five minute pep-talk with myself, I scampered up the rock face as best I could. About halfway up I foolishly looked over to my right side- a pretty gnarly drop-off onto some unfriendly rocks is what awaited me. Luckily Pete, Kelly, and Blake had already made it up and were already rigging together a hand line to throw to me just in case. Another pep talk and I worked my way up the rest of the wall.

Forrest went next, he made it look like it was nothing. Of course he is part mountain goat. Maureen was the last one up (pictured below). Her seemingly grip-less tennis shoes were not helping the situation, and the pitch darkn definitely “upped the ante” for her ascent. After about an hour, all six of us had summited the rock wall and continued on with the last 2-3 mile hike back to the truck. Day 1 was in the books.

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Days 2 – 4: Coming Soon!

 

   

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