Saturday, April 8, 2017

West Canyon 2017 - Cheetah Canyon

I started the day by punching another hole in my belt.  If you include last year's trip, I've punched three holes in my belt while in West.  Apparently it is a great place to lose weight and get fit.

We were craving all kinds of strange foods as we neared the end of the week.  Talk of fried foods and pizza dominated the conversations.  We ran out of Nutella!  How?  We discovered that we were out of coffee.  Oh.  My.  God.

All of us were tired.  This was going to be our eighth canyon in eight days.  My wetsuit was riddled with holes, so each pothole had become a character building experience.  We all knew that Cheetah was going to be wet and cold.  We hoped the weather would be warm.  It wasn't.  Steph and Sam G tapped out.  Nobody blamed them.

I wanted to get Cheetah done in a serious way.  I'd skipped it during our 2016 trip due to a sore leg, and missing out on that day had bothered me ever since.  You only get so many chances to do a very remote canyon like this, so cold and fatigue be dammed, it was time to get it done.



There is a large keeper pothole under the water here.  
It made me wonder how many keepers we swam over during the trip.

Once we were safely out of the canyon, I realized that we were suddenly and profoundly done.
Done with danger.  Done with the cold.  Done planning.  Done fretting.
Just done.

We had descended as many canyons as we possibly could have.
Eight total canyons, six of which were unknown to us.

We had made it all seem too easy.  We had an impossible amount of fun in the process.
We were more than the sum of our parts.

Together we did something deeply fulfilling.
Our adventure was so far-fetched, so laugh-out-loud good, so impossibly complex,
that it seems like it couldn't have happened.

I was overcome by raw emotion.  It wasn't joy or sadness or relief.
It was an overwhelming wave of gratitude for every member of our group.

I still feel that way today.

Friday, April 7, 2017

West Canyon 2017 - Porcupine Canyon

On April 7, 2017, we explored Porcupine Canyon.  We were a little nervous because the last section was impossible to scout from the rim, and based on the satellite imagery it looked serious.  I wondered if this canyon would stop us, if it would force us to retreat.

As it turned out, Porcupine was serious.  Imagine doing the most interesting two hours of Imlay without the bolts- it was sort of like that.  It was never scary, never physically hard, but it was tricky. If we didn't know one of the required tricks or have one of the required tools, then we would have been screwed!

Porcupine turned out to be another top-shelf outstanding canyon.  Not quite as good as Lion or Bobcat, but certainly in the conversation.  We are talking 9.9 vs 9.8 vs 9.7.  When thinking about the canyons on the other side of the lake, we all chuckled.  Few of them are half as good as Porcupine.


The water anchor placement at the first big drop was not good.
We got it done, but it the risk was high.  
If you find this pothole full, there's no shame in skipping this drop and walking around.

Looking down at the first drop from the rim.  Sam Lee on rappel.

Soon we got to THE BUSINESS.

Me, Steph and Tom.  Freezing our butts off, safely back in West.

The fellas at the top of the final drop were taking their sweet time.  We were standing at the bottom suffering from the cold, literally running in circles to stay warm.  We were all a bit tired and grumpy after doing our seventh canyon of the trip.  We wished that they would hurry.

Sam Lee rapped down then handed me his pack as he tippy-toed around the water at the bottom.  It weight a TON.  I know Sam is a beast, but seriously, his pack was about 50lbs, at least 20lbs heavier than any other pack.  It's time for Sam to share some gear, I thought.

Everyone else rapped from the water anchor.  We went to pull the Fiddlestick so we could pull the anchor down, then Tom said, "WAIT! Where the hell is my pack??"  We all looked around.  There were seven packs and eight people.  Tom had used his pack as a ropebag a couple of drops back, deploying a 220 foot rope to speed everyone down.  It had been over an hour since he had seen it.

Tom, who is as cool as a cucumber normally, said a few colorful words, then said, "Who was the last person to see it??"  We all looked blankly at each other.  Tom asked for a pair of ascenders.  I handed him mine.  We all looked somberly up at the 60 foot drop, where the water anchor was sitting and likely leaking (they slowly leak, that is normal).  Everyone understood the seriousness of the situation.

Just as Tom took a commuting stride toward the drop, Sam Lee said, "Oh, Tom, I have something in my pack!", then removed Tom's backpack and rope that was hiding within.

West Canyon ROARED with laughter!

You couldn't ask for a better friend.  25 years.  Man, it has gone by fast.

A stroll past Bobcat.  We did that only three days ago??  It seemed like years in the past.