Monday, July 13, 2009

Stop Three, Flagstaff Part Two, Canyoneering

Tuesday, June 30th

Throwing my climbing bag on purpose into a water filled, who-knows-how-deep sinkhole is a move that doesn't come naturally. I block off my rappel, take off my backpack, hesitate, then toss it into the water, praying it doesn't sink straight to the bottom. After watching it bob around for a few seconds, I take myself off the rappel and, with a quick jump, bracing mid-flight against the coming cold, follow my bag into the deep. Or maybe it's shallow, but for the sake of this story I'll assume its icy depths extend untold fathoms below.

Ryan, Marcus, Martin, and myself—the four canyoneers—are in Brady Canyon, which itself will lead into the north fork of the Oak Creek Canyon from which we hope to emerge from sometime tomorrow. We came at Ryan's suggestion, who had read an online account of this particular canyoneering trip from a few months ago and thought it sounded like fun.

It is fun, except that I have belatedly remembered one aspect of my physical personality. I don't like to get wet. I don't mind being wet, but I don't like the process of becoming wet. When I fairly serious cyclist in Japan, getting wet was a slow process that happened up to 23 times in one month, and yet I never got used to it. Once thoroughly soaked, I was okay—even happy—but that whole process was just miserable for me. Canyoneering involves lots of getting wet, but fortunately the process is over quite quickly.

The canyoneering is not the perfectly polished three foot wide slot canyons of Utah, but rather narrow gorges with towering walls on either side. We all estimate the size of the walls differently; Ryan thinks they are about 1,000 feet high, while Martin insists they are 80 meters.

After about seven or eight rappels, we emerge into the north fork of Oak Creek Canyon, stop for some refreshments, and then soon after find a nice camping spot for the evening. A campfire lights the walls behind and above us, and an evening long session of bouldering begins. Ryan, Marcus, and Margin almost succeed in linking the whole traverse of the wall—no two goes are rarely alike, as small flakes constantly pull out, erasing some holds while uncovering others.

The second day begins slowly, but soon everyone finds their pace and we are finished in about three hours. The walls we pass beg to be climbed, but by a more resolute climber than myself. The walk in is long, the sandstone obviously crumbly in spots and never obviously solid, at least to a neophyte backcountry sandstone climber like me.

Canyoneering proved to be a cool break from climbing, and opened up a new avenue for adventure.

No comments:

Post a Comment