Going big

The laptop is back, so beware; this will not be short.

Just for today, I did some training on the Spruce Mountain road. 1.5k of climbing, in places quite steep. I still can’t get it all in one go. 38 minutes of pain. We’ve had isolated storms moving through all afternoon, and towards the top I got a bit of what may be the last snow of the year. Driving back into town, a singular dark cloud was pouring down on Little Granite Mountain.

For dinner I had a big spinach salad, and a big steak cooked over pine coals. Our little yard sale hibache does very well, as does the national forest and free fire-control downed wood. A few Newcastles (if a person exists who can drink one Newcastle on a night with a fire and the coyotes howling, it is not me) to make the world seem perfectly in order. A perfect bike sitting well used in the garage. A truck with freshly rotated tires. A ravishing spouse off making enormous amounts of money.


And now, the Easter weekend canyon epic:

Would you trust your life to this?

We did. I came to canyoneering from climbing. In climbing you’re dealing with falling bodies, and large forces. In canyons, you’re rappelling only, and ideally facing only static forces. That, coupled with a strong desire to maintain style and eschew drilled bolts, has brought forth some creative anchor building. Piles of rocks, rocks buried in the sand, knotted webbing wedged in cracks. It’s some good technical, analogue problem solving. With penalty points.

M starting the rap from the above anchor. Yes, I suck and can’t turn pictures. (But I don’t suck, I can turn pictures, and I know his password- M)

M handlining off a tree. Note the flora; Zion has a fantastic mix of desert and alpine, you get p pines, cacti, and manzanita in the same 50 feet.

M rapping. Showcased is the short, often awkward forms water cuts. The key here is to be smooth and not shock-load the anchor, which can multiply the forces applied.

M and Phillip. Some end of the season snow.

Another typical rap. Large stones wedge, from rockfall or floods, and create debris and gravel dams, which cause drops.

All of the above are in the upper section of Corral Canyon. After ~10 raps and assorted downclimbing snow sliding, the canyon opens into a wider area. We skirted the drainage until we came to this:

~700 foot shear drop. Once you drop in and pull the ropes, you’re committed. Our directions were vague, so we took a while to find the proper tree to start the sequence. In the end, common sense and experience usually prove to be a good guide. Someone had to do it first, and they typically take the line of logic. In our case, two fat trees at 170′ and 200′ led to a nice ledge with bolts, and not-so-nice ledge with bolts, and then a big ledge and a 35′ rap of a shrub into the depths of the slot shown above. Then it was only another 4-5 short raps in a quarter mile to the narrows.

No pics hiking in the dark while tired. Being a dedicated documentarian takes a will I didn’t possess that day. Apologies to the dedicated fans. Buy me some beer in May and I’ll reconsider in the future.

M and I ensconced in the handicapped bathroom, Temple of Sinawava bus stop, ~0000. I’m psyched to have my inflated dromedary as a pillow, and that Phillip shared his space blanket. It’s also nice to not be wearing a wetsuit anymore. And laying down is good after 15 hours on the move.

Phillip was pretty stoic about the bivy, but I think he had the most clothes of the group.

Baby’s first pseudobivy went well. Better than a fire on a gravel bar. Space blankets make a big difference. Testing has confirmed their merit.

Tomorrow, whatever I forgot.


3 responses to “Going big”

  1. How do you retrieve your anchors? Or do leave them and pull the doubled rope through them?

  2. The webbing and links get left behind. We left 140′ behind that day. There are ways of retrieving the anchor, but they’re complicated and not always applicable.

  3. […] second forced bivvy was two years earlier, on a technical canyon descent in Zion.  M, Phillip and I got a lateish start to a route with a […]

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