Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Conquering Fears With A New Sport

During our recent adventures with Trent and Michelle in Moab, Trent unknowingly convinced us that our longtime dream to outdoor rock climb should/could be realized. Trent is an extremely accomplished, yet humble, climber. He solo aid-climbed a 2000 ft wall in Yosemite (or did he say 3000 ft?). He spent 5 days alone on the wall - 5 DAYS! This kind of accomplishment is unbelievable. I seriously don't even know what to say about it - especially after subsequently trying to outdoor rock climb for the first time.

A few days after leaving Moab, we watched a family of 5 rappel 140 feet off Cassidy Arch (pictured below) in Capitol Reef National Park. In the picture, you can see one of them rappelling towards the bottom. After watching them, I was emphatic, "That's it, we're getting canyoneering gear, and we might as well get rock climbing gear too."

Scott spent days and days researching and ordering the gear. I was in charge of the learning materials - videos, online tutorials, and books.

I could tell Scott was excited, but it took me a while to recognize his trepidation. He's afraid of heights. Even while we were making some moves during our hikes in the slot canyons (previous post), he was constantly saying "but the consequences are so severe". Now imagine what his mind is screaming at the top of a 100-foot cliff that he has to turn his back on.

We found a canyon south of Las Vegas (Keyhole Canyon) for our first outing. Keyhole Canyon is considered a beginner's canyon. There are 4 rappels with the first being 40 feet and the last being 100 feet. It did not feel like a beginner's canyon to us.

Before tackling the big stuff, we spent a day and a half at the mouth of Keyhole Canyon testing our gear, tying knots, and practicing our climbing skills. We were glad we were totally alone, because our rock climbing skills are embarrassing. Both of us are questioning whether we will ever really be able to rock climb well. Maybe starting a new sport in your 40's is not a good idea, but better late than never...

This was our very first rappel (pictured below). The first drop is a test of commitment. Once you drop the first one, you are committing to dropping all of them. Unless you have the skills and equipment to climb out (we don't), there's only one way out of the canyon, and that's down. I went first (hence the picture from the bottom). There are a lot of instincts to fight when you’re stepping off a cliff. My first few steps were unsure and Scott immediately seized the opportunity to bail by declaring, "Maybe we aren't ready for this." You mean, YOU aren't ready for this? After each rappel we were ecstatic, and I was so proud of Scott. He was definitely conquering some fears.

Rappel #1 - overcoming fears 

Rappel #2 - so loving this!!!

Rappel #3

Rappel #4, the big daddy at 100 feet that ended in a water puddle with buzzing bees

Canyoneering and rock climbing have opened up a whole new world of outdoor exploration for us. Oh the beautiful, remote places we will go! (hopefully)

Our camping spot at the mouth of Keyhole Canyon

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Slot Canyons in Southern Utah

Utah is one of our favorite states for outdoor recreation and natural beauty. After 10 days of incredible mountain biking in Moab (which deserves all the hype it gets), we headed to the canyons of Utah in and around Capitol Reef National Park and Escalante National Monument. If you are curious, here is a link to somewhat explain the differences between a National Park and a National Monument.

Morning coffee with this view at San Rafael Swell

The geology of the area lends itself to numerous canyons where some of them are so narrow, they are called "slots". Since we were visiting in the spring, there was still water left in most of the canyons.

The water rarely sees the sun, and is usually so cold, that it hurts to walk through. We went through great pains to avoid getting in the water.

Some of the canyons required us to wade in the water. I'm not embarrassed to admit that Scott carried me on his back for many of the swims because the water was so cold. Also, there were a few instances where Scott waded, but I bridged across, using every ounce of strength, flexibility, and determination to keep from falling into the cold, murky water.

Turning around almost immediately due to extreme cold.
Next time we visit "Tunnel Slot" we will have our wetsuits and booties.

Shrinkage? Check.

Enduring the cold water for the photo op

Exhausting bridge section - I made it! 

This area is such a wonderland for the kid at heart. We were enjoying the area during spring break which meant that we saw (and heard) many kids exploring, just like we were. Occasionally, instead of cursing the fact that there were so many school-aged kids everywhere, we talked about how it was a perfect and amazing place for them.

Lower Calf Creek Falls

Moqui Marbles! These black, iron oxide balls filled with hardened sandstone absolutely fascinated me (picture below). I couldn't stop picking them up. I wanted to collect them (big no-no) and do something with them (but what!!?). The details of their existence is still unsettled.

We were lucky to arrive at the Golden Cathedral (pictured below) in Grand Escalante National Monument just as a group was rappelling through. They had started their hike from above, and the final descent was through one of the 2 holes. All three of the guys wore 7 mm wetsuits and were still shivering. Just to put this in perspective, my thickest wetsuit is 5 mm and it is THICK as far as wetsuits go (if you plan on walking in it).

One day, we got really off the beaten track by simply following a topographical map to a formation called the "Cosmic Ashtray". The picture (below) doesn't do it justice. In the middle of undulating sandstone hills, is this hidden crater containing fine, orange sand and a cinder cone. It felt so out of place, totally random, and eerie.

That is sand, not murky water

Our time in the area inspired us to buy some canyoneering and rock climbing gear so that when we return, we can explore even more. Next blog post...