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.

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