We’d been in the gym the entire winter, training six days a week for a busy 2016 canyon schedule. I’d lost 18lbs, and Steph had recovered from a dislocated wrist injury. We were antsy, like harnessed sled dogs at the beginning of the Iditarod, eager to see if months of conditioning was going to pay off.
I had never done a canyon weighing under 170lbs. On this day I weighed 155lbs. It was the lightest I’d been in sixteen years. Perhaps more useful than the weight loss was my volume loss – nine liters shed since my previous canyon.
We park at the trailhead then hike directly into the drainage (some folks take a sneak route, which we’ll do next time). The top part of the slot is nice, worth doing once, but uses precious time and energy that proves valuable later.
We pass a fresh rockfall in the canyon. One fallen slab is stuck between the wall and a spire of stone, some 60 feet above the floor forming an impossible tabletop arch. How new it this? Is it unstable? I lean on a 1,000 lb blade of stone standing in the wash and it easily tips over. …Yes, rather unstable. We climb gingerly over the rockfall.
Soon we hit the crossjoints which are the signature feature of Hard Day. The air is cool and we pray for dry passage. Left. Right. Left. Right. The movement is engaging and my downclimbing requires less effort while wearing my new smaller fat suit. Down, down, down. Far above on the north facing slopes are little patches of snow. It is still winter.
Steph often leads through skinny canyons and she is flying down this one. The Gods have seemingly sculpted this one just for her. Fluid and graceful, she moves ahead with confidence. She arrives at the first crossjoint silo and downclimbs the offwidth slot on the entry side without hesitation. I am startled by how quickly she does this. I downclimb it with the grace of an ogre being shoved from a high dive, thankful for the aggressive spot below.
We arrive at the second crossjoint silo, which is nearly identical to the first. We repeat the procedure. I note how difficult these moves would be when slicked with mud. Multiple times the effort. The third crossjoint silo is the most serious. The upcanyon slot tapers then spits you out as it turns overhung, some 15 feet above the floor of the silo. Difficult to downclimb alone, but fun and rewarding to conquer with a partner.
The canyon narrows then goes black. A gorgeous red and orange cavern presents itself. Challenging photographs are taken. We rap from a tangle of prayer flags. We pass Good Day Jim. Maybe not in that order.
We arrive at a narrow section and Steph curses. Her goal of staying on the ground for the entire canyon is thwarted. She is forced to stem up and over one pinch and misses one linear inch or floor travel. Dang!
We enjoy a nice break at the bottom of the canyon then wander along the edge of Lake Powell on our way back to the truck. We have difficulty finding the weakness in the very top layer and waste 90 minutes wandering. The sun sets. Butterflies in the stomach. Minutes before dark we find the weakness and hustle back to the truck. Precious recovery time wasted and needless calories burned. We will be very sore tomorrow.
Overall, a fantastic canyon. Steph’s new favorite. We can't wait to return to Ticaboo.
Looking into the first crossjoint silo.
Above the first crossjoint silo. Steph's head is about 20 feet from the floor, the camera about 30 feet from the floor.