Tuesday, October 8, 2019

24 Hours of Moab Adventure - Part 1 "Fishing Ken's Lake"

Every now and then an idea comes to life that you still look back on and wonder "How the Hell did this happen to come about."  Our 24 Hours of Moab was just such a case. 

We were all stuffed in a car on our way to do the Black Hole on July 24th (Check out the "Bailing on a Canyon" post).  We were talking about our upcoming plans to head to do Pleiades Slot Canyon in Moab the first part of August. It was brought up that if we were going to do Pleiades in the morning, why can't we do a canyon the evening before, then I would drive to Moab the afternoon prior and after the canyon I could spend the night to do Pleiades the next morning instead of driving up that morning. Well, if I was going to drive up the evening before, why not drive up early afternoon and Jeff and I could get some fishing in prior to the canyon. Thus, 24 Hours of Moab was born.  

We completed 3 adventure activities in Moab Utah in a 24 hour period and still got a full night sleep.  Our Bass Fishing (for me) trip was great. Jeff was on his fly pole so his targets were trout.  That's the great thing about fishing Ken's Lake outside of Moab, it has something for different kinds of fisherman(persons). I managed to still catch a Rainbow Trout, a Blue Gill and some Large Mouth Bass. Jeff caught a couple of Blue Gill and lots of Rainbow Trout.  We had a great afternoon, only a few hours of fishing, but well worth the add on to our adventure trip.  I would definitely (and already have) be back to fish Ken's Lake again.  

Stay tuned for parts 2 & 3 of our Adventure in Moab Utah. (Spoiler - part 3 is Pleiades Canyon).

How to Fix The Worst Webbing Anchor In A Slot Canyon - Part 2

Once we have worked on understanding our rub points on the webbing and knowing where we need to be more cautious, we can look at the ways to mitigate that rub for the last man down. In Part 1 we created a courtesy anchor rigging to overcome the edge transition and rubbing for others in the group, now we set up a little bit of redundancy in the webbing in order to give the last man down a marginal bit of safety should he/she rub the webbing across the rock any and potentially start to shred it up.

Canyoneering can be damaging on the ropes and anchors, but they don't have to be fatal or even semi close to fatal when the anchors are rigged properly, or even modified such as this to create a safer canyoneering environment for everyone, not just in your group, but in the groups that may follow behind you.  

In coming months we will be highlighting a few more anchor setups and how those can be fixed and resolved to create a wholly redundant safe system.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

How to Fix The Worst Webbing Anchor In A Slot Canyon - Part 1

I've been Canyoneering for nearly two decades, and over the past couple years it seems that anchor rigging has been changing in the canyons. I contribute this to several factors to include new younger blood entering the canyoneering realm and that newer younger blood not being properly trained on how anchors should be set up.  
If you haven't checked out our Live Stream we did on Anchor Dynamics, now would be a good time to go back and review this video: Anchor Dynamics Live Stream
I have seen the single strand webbing hanging over and edge anchor popping up more and more in the past couple of years. This anchor has it's place to be used, but the nuances and dangers of the anchor must be understood and the understanding that the anchor is neither redundant or backed up.  If the single strand of webbing breaks, it breaks and the person hanging on the end of the webbing / On Rappel is going to fall. This occurred several years ago and one of the more public incidences in Constrychnine canyon. A group of about 30 were rappelling on the same anchor and the same piece of webbing 2/3 of the way through the canyon when about #16 got on rappel and hung over the edge and the webbing snapped dropping the rappeller about 60 ft. to the canyon floor. This could have been prevented with simple measures being taken and some forethought in the anchor and group management.
This video is Part 1 Check out the next post for Part 2

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Making Responsible Choices in the Outdoors

We get outdoors and we recreate, but sometimes it is only at the whim of Mother Nature. When she chooses to throw you a curve ball, well, you better be ready to duck, and DUCK we did!

If you spend any amount of time studying outdoor activities you understand that rain can hamper most of them. Canyoneering is no different and often times even deadly if you don't pay attention and are ready to jump out of the way. Flash flooding can be a serious threat in a slot canyon and with the Monsoon season that the area is known for you have to play your cards just right. You can choose canyons that have less Flash Flood potential than others or canyons that are shorter and easier to get in and out of before the afternoon monsoon storms kick up.  We did neither of that in our decision to choose the Black Hole.

Pioneer Day in Utah falls on July 24th. It is a state holiday commemorating the day that the Mormon pioneers entered the Salt Lake valley in 1847 after their long trek from the east. Many people died during the trek and it was a huge undertaking. While this date is not the date that Utah obtained Statehood, nor is it the date that Utah was first inhabited, it has become a state holiday commemorating this occasion and it is a paid holiday for everyone to take work off. Yup, a paid holiday- sucka's.

With most of us having flexible work schedules already, Tammy had the holiday off and the Black Hole had been calling us all season and we had yet to find the right moment to get into it.  We thought this was going to be it. We were wrong.  After Jeff, Tammy and Lisa drove from Moab and picked me up in Blanding we headed out to the trail head where we met Matt who had left Richfield early in the morning. He had by far the longer drive of this one and so we scheduled a 9 am meet time to accommodate. After sorting our gear and packing what we needed and dropping car shuttles the hike was on. We began with the obligatory photo in front of the warning sign.  We then hiked into the canyon and found what was one of the most devastating sights we have encountered in a canyon in a long time - Water. Not just any water waiting for us to jump in, but flowing water from rain storms.  A harsh blow to what was anticipated to be a fun hike.

Yes, while we were prepared with Wet suits and dry bags, there is no way we can hike through this canyon safely and efficiently with flowing water in there. The chocolate brown soupy water would have made each step treacherous and questionable. I have been in this canyon on two other occasions in similar conditions. First time we hiked it for an hour before turning around due to unsafe conditions and every step being a gamble. Second occasion was on Search and Rescue after being called in to rescue a group who entered it under these conditions and found it overwhelming. They ledged up and was spent almost 24 hrs on the call. I hiked several of their party out from the mid point and it was rough and miserable going.   We made the call to bail on this canyon this day. 

Canyons will always be there to do another time, the only way that we will be able to go back and do them again is we are safe and sound to do so. We tucked out tails between our legs and took off back up the trail to head to another canyon and scrape together what we could for the day.

Always be safe out there and watch your back and your partners back. You have more responsibility to come out alive than just for your self.

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Life Doesn't Always Play Out the Way We Expect

What I mean by the title is that the expectations one has of a canyon day, may not turn out to be the reality of what was / is going to happen.

I've tackled Adobe Swale on a couple of other occasions and been with groups much less competent than this group was on this particular April 2019 day.  I've been wanting to get my current group of Canyoneering partners into this canyon for a long time. We have a good solid team and we all work well together.  This was our annual weekend where we camp in the North Wash for several days and Dan and his family from Denver come out to join us. We should have had a premonition early on when Dan started his trip and had problems with his truck pulling his camp trailer and then shows up with one daughter only instead of the whole family. This was starting to turn out to be a terrible week already.  Jeff and Tammy and I had done Constrychnine canyon the day before this one and we were able to stay dry and warm enough despite the wind and cold front that was present.

Jeff, Tammy, Dan, Lizzy and I embarked on Adobe Swale this day with positive enthusiasm for a day I have been waiting for for a long time - Adobe Swale with my friends.  Due to the lack of getting wet the day prior and unbeknownst to any of us, Jeff opted out of bringing any neoprene. Tammy and Lizzy changed into wetsuits before leaving the car (Smartest ones there).  I wore a 1.5 mm bottom and a 2mm top. Dan brought a wetsuit and decided that he'd wait to put it on til after swimming through two of the potholes we encountered.

Right off Jeff and I began to get cold after we were dunked in the first two holes. We became even more cold standing around waiting for Dan to finally put his suit on. Tammy and Lizzy were looking for sun just to stay comfortable.  The wind was howling and this brought the air temps down and even though the sun was out and no clouds in the sky, the cold front wasn't letting the heat penetrate. The wind brought our core temps down as we muddled through the stress of trying to stay focused and get through the technical rigging and rappelling.

We hit the crux potholes in the canyon and ended up spending over an hour there while Dan and Tammy worked through the triple pothole problems and cleared the path for us to come down. I asked for the rope length to be set up so Jeff and I could rappel off the end and not get stuck in the water. I was told this was done - it wasn't. This day just turned into one big Charlie Foxtrot after another and it continued to compound the fact that Jeff and I were starting to feel the effects of the onset of Hypothermia. Yeah, it wasn't looking good, but we weren't about to give up and let the cold take us out.  We trudged on and through it all we made it out that day. We fought the cold and we fought the negativity and we fought the urge to push the S.O.S. button on our SPOT locator beacon and to get rescued out of there. Truth be told too, we got ourselves out of there faster than Search and Rescue could have even mobilized and made an attempt to get to us.

Take aways from this you ask? Always be prepared. But most importantly I feel.... Training. Without the proper training and knowledge and experience to be in the canyon in the first place, we probably would have just thrown our hands in the air and given up not being able to think and function clearly. Having the proper Canyoneering training and experience we were able to talk each other through the issues and the pain and cold and make appropriate decisions to get us and our team out. Next would be the team. If I'd been in there with a group of newbies who didn't have the experience and training either it could have gone a lot worse. A lot of directions that could have gone. They may have freaked out and given up. We had a good solid team that was able to stick with us and help us function and work through the hypothermia and cold pains that we all began feeling.

Before you go out on your next Canyoneering adventure, watch this. Understand that often times things can go wrong and it's not because of anything you did. Mother Nature can be a relentless Bitch sometimes and you and you alone are the only one that can fight her on your own terms.  I hope that this video helps prevent any injuries or rescues for someone else out there.

Friday, June 28, 2019

Beating the Heat, and the Freakin Biting Gnats!!!

As much as I love being in the Slot Canyons, there comes a point in ones Canyoneering life that the total nature of the desert becomes a bit too much. On this such a day, we had spent the day prior in Capital Reef National Park running some short slot canyons. The canyons were great, the hikes in were a bit more obnoxious and by the end of the day Jeff and I were hammered. Jeff more so and we decided to take a rest day on day 2 instead of hiking. Well, I love the canyons and I love Fishing just as much so we decided that day 2's canyon will be Glen Canyon, Lake Powell to be precise. Keeping some fishing poles in the car for just such an occasion we packed up camp in Capital Reef and loaded up the Hoe (Tahoe) and heading to Bullfrog Marina. Making a stop in Hanksville to top off tanks, drinking water, Fishing Licenses, Red Bulls, and Bait, we hit the lake in style.


The wind was pretty rough and we decided to run down to Stanton Creek / Red Canyon area where we had stopped and fished at before and where I've done some decent shore fishing at a couple years ago. We parked on the North Side of the cove and quickly discovered that the wind was hitting us directly in the face and it wasn't playing nice - Well, Ok, it was somewhat nice, but still brutal enough that we had a hard time casting the anchovies into the wind. We were targeting Stripers as we just wanted to make it as easy on us as we could.  Stripers are not a very hard fish to catch (and neither are Catfish). So we loaded up the hooks with Anchovie and lobbed them out just enough for the wind to throw it back in our faces.  It took a little bit to get it dialed in and we ended up putting 1/2 oz. weights on the lines just to get it to land in the water. One fantastic thing about the lake though, is No BUGS!!!  Ok, I did find a spider on my leg at one point, but no biting gnats out there. I've never seen an issue with annoying bugs at all out there. I figure the fish keep the larvae in check and the insects don't get to hatch in that water. Plus the wind on this day would have made the gnats non commital anyway.  It was fantastic.

Once Jeff figured out the right weight to get the bait out into the lake and the right spot to cast to, he started catching some fish. Catfish at first as is expected when bait fishing on the bottom, then a Striper.

We continued to battle the wind here for a couple hrs trying to get it dialed in. I didn't catch anything here. The wind continued to get me hung up in rocks and every time I'd set a hook, they get hung up and break off at either the hook or the weight. We probably lost about 10-15 hooks at this location (Warning anyone going swimming there in the future).   We packed it up and headed to the Marina where we could face the opposite direction, hoped to have a little reprieve from the wind and where I know there is more gravel than rocks at this location.  Problem was.... We had to start all over chumming the water for the Striper to get active. We only had a little less than 1/2 a bag of anchovies left after all our prior issues and they were getting warm and soft.  They didn't want to stay on the hooks now.  Jeff figured out the right spots to hook the anchovies on at to catch some bone and hold better. I lost a few in the process, but hey, chum!

After about an hour of sitting in this spot Jeff pulled in another Catfish:

The wind, well yeah, it wasn't any better here. Somehow it had figured out how to blow in the opposite direction here as it was in our previous location just so that it could blow back in our face again. However, without the rocks and such to get caught on we were feeling a bit more confident and it worked in my favor. After Jeff's catfish, I pulled in 2 Stripers and a Small Mouth that surprised the heck out of me. Jeff asked me earlier if a Small Mouth would eat an Anchovie, I told him no, but I guess if they are hungry, or annoyed enough they will.  The hook was almost bigger than the mouth on this guy.

All total for the Day:
Jeff: 3 Catfish                    1  Striper
Jared: 2 Striper                    1 Small Mouth

We beat the Gnats and our soreness and had a fun day out in a different type of canyon. Some would say that we gave up the canyons and opted for the easy way out, Some would say we just took a different approach to enjoying the canyons in another way.

Living in the South East desert of Utah affords us the opportunity to enjoy nature in so many different ways. From Hiking Slot Canyons, to Fishing Lake Powell or ATV riding through Elk Ridge and High Altitude mountains, there is lots to see and do and enjoy in this area. We aren't done with Slot canyons for the year, but man, the Gnats are out in force now and the lake is calling for now.  We might be on the water a bit more over the next couple months now.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

The Totem Block Anchor Really Is The Smartest Way to Rig a Canyoneering Anchor

Often times teaching how to rig anchors becomes a bit confusing. There are many different ways that anchors can be rigged and even after taking classes and being taught how you should rig an anchor and what the safest method for rigging a canyoneerng anchor is, you forget, go back to your old habits and move on. Well, this is what I did for a while as well.  When I was first starting out canyoneering, the Totem didn't exist. When it came about I was set in my ways and had a hard time understanding why I should change what I was currently rigging.  Well, I finally sat down (really just stood there, but you get the point) and decided to practice using the Totem until it was ingrained in my head. It really does make the anchor rigging of a contingency anchor that much easier and safer.

Why use a contingency anchor you ask? Why not just drop double strand all the time and keep the rigging simple?  Well, one word - SAFETY!  By pre-rigging your rappel for safety in mind, you set yourself up for a winning combination if you ever find you or your group in a bind.

What can go wrong on a rappel and why would I need a contingency anchor?
Contingency means just that. It's a setup in preparation of something possibly going bad. Will it go bad? It may not. But wouldn't it be better for you to be ready to fix it if it does?  Have I had to use the contingeny anchor in an emergency situation?  Yes I have!!  Do I have to do it often? No I don't. In the years that I have been Canyoneering and guiding I have only had to deploy (lower) someone on a contingency anchor less than a handful of times, but I was sure glad that I had rigged for it instead of having to scramble to figure something out.

Ok, sorry for the long tangent, back to the question, what can go wrong?
Rappel length can be too short - if you can't see the bottom you may not know if the rope reaches all the way. What's that? You say just deploy all the rope in the bag and then re-adjust once someone is down. Can be done - if the canyon is dry. It does take some extra time. If the canyon is wet and you are rappelling into a pool of water or the canyon is flowing, you don't want a mess of rope in the pool below you as you are trying to swim and disconnect from the rappel and getting your feet tangled in a spaghetti mess of rope.
Items get stuck on the Rappel Device - This is one of the most common. Hair, T-shirts, Pack straps get sucked into the rappel device if the rappeller is not paying attention and can jam them up. Also if an Auto block type device is being used as a back up for a first man down, it could get jammed up if things don't go well and then they either have to self rescue or the contingency anchor gets deployed to lower them down.
Knot in the rope - Either a knot ends up in the rope, or it is intentionally put there to either tie out a bad section or tie two ropes together. A contingency can be used as a safety margin to lower someone when a knot appears, but can be pre-planned if a knot is placed in the rope and a lower can be used in order to help someone avoid having to pass a knot.

These are three of the most common reasons you may encounter in order to need a Contingency anchor. It's not a harm to put one in and not need it, but can be detrimental to not put one in and then need it.

This video is something I created for students who get home and forget how to tie the simple Totem Block Contingency anchor for Canyoneering and rappelling in general. What other uses can you think of for needing a contingency anchor?  What are some situations you have found yourself in where you wish you had had one, or glad you did have one?  Let me know.

If you are interested in picking up a Totem Click the link here to be directed to our store: