Bob Kamps & the Lost Canyons of Zion -- Part I


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The salty ocean blue and deep
Topic Author's Original Post - Apr 30, 2008 - 11:31pm PT
As often happens when momentary dementia overpowers one, I will open a storage drawer and think, “Time to clean it out, sort it out, organize it or trash it all.”

It’s a frenzied sort of mania that occasionally hits one in the spring, or after a life-changing trip to Hawaii, and can leave its victims physically unavailable and mentally homeless for weeks on end. Fortunately, momentary dementia hits me only about once a decade, so I don't feel the need for medication. Not yet, anyway.

Because of the decade thing, all my storage drawers are little treasure troves of happy surprises, filled with memorabilia of magical adventures with all sorts of people, in a multitude of strange and beautiful places…memories of which no longer reside in my neocortex. They’ve gone deeper, into musty catacombs of the past that rarely give up their secrets without a full-blown cognitive showdown. An arm-wrestle with the temporal lobe. A “whap up side a the head”, so to speak.

I was in the throes of momentary dementia this past weekend, and attacked just such a rusty memory mausoleum with the passion of Joan of Arc on a mission. It shall be emptied by day’s end, or I shall die trying—this I swear was my solemn oath.

Sadly for solemn oaths, that finicky creature Fate decided to make sport of me: I came upon a CD labeled Zion 2004 within 18 seconds of opening the drawer.

Dang it. What the heck was this?

So many trips, so little space on the hard drive of recollection. I dropped it in the HP and was greeted with this photo:


Wonderful Bob Kamps.

This was the last time many of us had seen Bob—our final canyoneering trip with him.

Hmmm…where was this anyway? Ooooooh yes…Birch Hollow. Better known as Bitch Hellhole, pardon my French. In Zion.

Craig, the long, lanky and virtually indefatigable Mar’s Rover of our canyoneering troupe, had brought his point-n-kill along and captured the entire crew in various stages of descent and dissolution. He’d then made a CD to remind each of us of the fun, the camaraderie, the beauty, and the bloody grizzly finale that nearly killed all…but wait, I’m getting ahead of myself.

Craig had given me this CD, and I’d put it in the drawer, planning to look at it as soon as I “had the time”. It’s a bona fide fact that when living in LA, you never have the time. You either make the time, or you move on to other endeavors and seldom pass this way again.

Well, last month was the 3-year anniversary of Bob’s great voyage beyond, and thanks to momentary dementia, I finally made the time to look at the photos of our ’04 trip.

Perhaps the time delay was a good thing. It certainly Amtrakked me back to when he was here with us, to the aching muscles, blistered feet, and incomprehensible euphoria of the morning after surviving Bitch Hellhole.

And to recalling what a treasure Bob himself was. His sense of humor gentle and persistent as a spring breeze, his simple pleasure in the journey of life eclipsed only by his obvious love of the outdoors. You put him and Jim “MadFrog” Wilson together on a trip and the concoction created a laugh-fest of epic proportions; what a gift to have been part of that adventure!

So what follows is the anniversary TR of a canyoneering trip gone horribly wrong, but enjoyed nonetheless because of the company we kept, complete with Craig’s fine photos and my recalcitrant memory’s mosaic of how the Cap’n’s log might’ve read, had there been a Cap’n’s log, which of course there wasn't.


As previously stated, it was in the year of our lord 2004. After the late snowmelt, but prior to the stifling heat of summer spreading her hot breath across ruddy sandstone cliffs, in a land far, far away…

A group of hearty adventurers, who normally thought of themselves as rock climbers, decided to become rock descenders. As in Canyoneers. (Rather like Buccaneers, only without the eye-patches, scabbards and rotten teeth.) And canyoneering Zion was their aim.

Landlocked ships of the desert, those mighty sandstone formations were, and beneath them lay the fabled treasure of slot canyons, mysterious mazes through the earth that lead to who knows where or what. And these soldiers of fortune were bound and determined to find out.

Make no mistake, they were a clever bunch, with an amassed IQ of well over 80…or perhaps that was 8000…it’s difficult to recall exact numbers these days. They had centuries of combined outdoor experience, and the survival instincts of 100,000+ years of post-ape ancestry…or 6000 years of post-Adam and Eve apple-munching, whichever school works for you.

Like I was saying, they were a smart bunch of cutthroats. And they traveled under the aegis of this white-haired King of the Crags, Robert Kamps. Also known in pirate circles the world over as Cap’n Bob the Claw, he is seen here doing his best impersonation of a drunken sailor with his flagon of rum:

Part of the rag-tag crew: (left to right) Walk-the-plank Melinda, Cat-o’nine-tails Mike, (ignore the lasses with their backs to us), Ahoy-matey Graham, and Pirate-booty Greg, with the van being piloted by Bob’s lusty if currently MIA wench, Buxom Bonnie.

This Noble Quest, ‘tis sad to relate, was likely doomed from the beginning, because even with all that evolutionary brainpower, they were about to attempt something really and truly absurd.

There was a 9 out of 10 chance that 3 out of the 9 would never make it back alive. A 4 out of 5 chance that 7.5 of the 9 would return with massive abrasions, contusions, bruises, scratches, ruptured disks and dislocated shoulders. There was also a 50/50 chance that helicopter rescue would have to be called in, if 1 of the 3 that wasn’t supposed to survive was actually only crippled for life.

And all of this mayhem could have been avoided had the trip navigator (who’s name shall forever remain a well-guarded secret), pictured here doing the “Peg-leg Brenda butt-wedgie”…

…had this wench understood that when the guidebook writer had written “possible slight bushwhacking,” pertaining to the exit trail, he had actually meant, “Guaranteed MASSIVE bushwhacking, before clawing your way up an 85-degree precarious, sandy slope, followed by Borneo-style jungle-crawling—on hands and knees and possibly stomachs—through horrendously dense acres of flesh-ripping willow saplings (where you won’t even be able to raise your arm to use the machete, even if you had one) and which even the tiny mice avoid at all costs. All of this, and with backpacks on, too.”

But this nameless navigator didn’t know the guidebook writer was prone to gross understatement and even grand-mal forgetfulness, and thus was oblivious to the life-threatening escapade she had drawn her crusty friends into. Alas, I digress…more of the courageous group:

(left to right) Scurvy-dog Greg, Barnacle-breath Brenda, Parrothead L, and Cross-bones Graham, sans debilitating wounds and missing appendages before the trip.

More Old Salts: (center left and right) Squid-guts Mike and the infamous pirate photographer Bilgewater “KP” Powell, getting ready to flip a quarter to see if Squid-guts would carry KP down the approach.

KP let it be known that he desired to conserve his strength for shooting photos, and possibly performing life-saving paramedic pirate procedures on the 3 of us who would be maimed or possibly killed.

As an experienced pirate paramedic, he anticipated doing triage on the 7.5 who would have contusions and abrasions and dislocated shoulders or missing appendages, including and most likely himself.

Unfortunately, Mike could only find a gold doubloon in his pocket.

With identical markings on both sides, there was no way of knowing who won and who lost the toss (an old pirate trick to be sure), so KP was forced to carry himself, and his 93 pound backpack, by himself.

We were a hard-hearted bunch of salty dogs, were we not?

And alas, First Mate MadFrog, perhaps the most intrepid and fearless swashbuckler of the whole motley crew.

A bosom buddy of Cap’n Bob the Claw, and with whom he had faced many a run-out and death-route, the number beyond count. A man who had put up more R and X and Jolly-Roger-rated climbs on the desert isle of Joshua Tree than just about any buccaneer in history. A man known for his daring-do, his ability to laugh in the face of certain death. A man whose nickname, MadFrog, portends an insane climbing predisposition and a strange fetish for small amphibians.

We see MadFrog pictured here proclaiming, “No way in hell am I climbing down this bloody thing mates, even if it is only 7 feet high. Are ye daft? It’s icky, can’t ye see that? There’s crud on it. And slime. I’ll get me hands dirty…and I just had a manicure, too. I may even soil this crisp white t-shirt. I care not if all the lasses did it with their friggin' eyes closed! No way in hell, I tell ye, ye squids!”

Aaaaahhhh, the voice of uncompromising Courage! I get goosebumps over my entire body every time I remember his boldness.

Finally, because he was so humble that he took these photos of everyone else and failed to include even one of himself, here’s a photo of Rum-breath Craig.

Actually, this is Craig’s son Ten-sheets-to-the-wind Graham, but they look almost identical.

Just visualize a buccaneer who’s a wee bit older (23+ years maybe), a wee bit taller (5 or 6 inches possibly), a wee bit lighter (‘bout 3 or 4 stone) and lanky, with a bit of a receding hairline that’s graying nicely at the temples, and half the head-covering. Add in a few more laugh-lines and there you have it: a mirror-image of Rum-breath Craig.

Please note that the Mirror-image of Rum-breath is guarding our Cap’n Claw as Bob communes with nature, in the ancient ritual of sacred snake squeezing, bladder-cleansing and acid-balancing of the Earth. Notice how vibrant and beautiful are those lush green grasses surrounding Bob and Rum-breath. This is because literally every male who passes this way engages in the same ancient ritual and the grasses grow thick and strong with the ph balance restored to the Earth.

The lusty wenches of this rough bunch hid themselves behind rocks to perform their ancient rituals to the Earth, as allowing men to witness these rituals would cause instant death by hurled dagger of those very same men. Their sacred rituals had nothing to do with snakes and produced this:

Now where was I? Oh aye…the swarthy cast of characters.

Well, that be all the crew of this ill-fated journey into the guts of the Earth. They were experienced in the ways of climbin’ the rock and pirating, and loyal to the bone to Cap’n Bob the Claw, but experience and loyalty ‘tweren’t no match for the natural stupidity of mapmakers who forget to mark where thar be dragons, nor guidebook authors who fail to mention deadly obstacles one must overcome at the end of the long day when the light be failing and so be yer strength.

Aye laddies, ‘twere enough to bring a tear to yer eye, the way it played out.

And I be thinkin' the legendary Jimmy-the-eel-eater Buffett wrote a ballad 'bout it mayhaps, and I'll be findin' that fer ye too...

But like climbers are want to say, I’ve hit the wall. In Pirate, ‘twould be something like runnin’ a ground on a reef with no bloody idea how ta get off.

Me brain is weary of rememberin’ and me fingers…the few I's got left after that fateful ordeal…well, they be weary too. And should ye not ‘ave noticed, I be sinkin’ into the old Pirate speak—it always happens this way when I hits the wall—and soon enough I’ll not even be understandin’ me own self.

So ‘tis off to the tavern for me, me Buckos, to splice the mainbrace wid a bit a grog and a meat pie. I be finishing the rest of this sorry tale soon, not to worry.

Till then, fair winds an' bonnie bedmates ta ya all…

Buccaneer L

Shiver me timbers! Did someone say there be sharks in these here waters?
Toker Villain

Big Wall climber
Toquerville, Utah
Apr 30, 2008 - 11:42pm PT
Its shanks not sharks.

(And imagine if thats just the approach to the climb. Hint; check out the walls of Kolob Creek...)

Social climber
May 1, 2008 - 12:03am PT

Come on matey, ye be such a tease...
Give us more!!!

The Eye of the Snail
May 1, 2008 - 12:09am PT

Avast there...

Trad climber
The state of confusion
May 1, 2008 - 08:18am PT
I see a shadow in that picture, L. . .

Big Wall climber
A Token of My Extreme
May 1, 2008 - 08:51am PT
Holy Cow L!

I think it's clear you remember more of your adventures than I do!

Super cool writing lass. Well done. I was cracking up.
The "pirate" speak actually helps.

Now ye've put a whiff o' the maelstrom in th' olfactory fer us all. It stirs the blood an' fires th' mind fer the comin' storm...Arrrr

Marry me. Ahhh, yer probably taken. I know I am!
But if I was a real pirate.....
Doug Robinson

Trad climber
Santa Cruz
May 1, 2008 - 10:49am PT
More Lass, and quick be ya.

Aye, another round!

the waters of anticipation be risin...

Las Vegas
May 1, 2008 - 01:02pm PT
Great TR L Thank you,Zion is an amazing place

The salty ocean blue and deep
Topic Author's Reply - May 1, 2008 - 01:04pm PT
Aye Laddies,

I'm happy you enjoyed Part I!

'Twas a bit a-feared that you'd not be able ta handle the blood and gore and photos of mutilation that'll be comin' soon, but you all seem ta be a hearty I'll get ta Part II as soon as I get away from this bloody office. :-)

Many thanks to you Survival for the kind thoughts--pity ye be married, and not a pirate...there'd be some tall tales to tell after sailin' The Needles together, let me tell ya!:-) Hardy-har-har!

Big Wall climber
El Cap
May 1, 2008 - 01:09pm PT

Very nice!

"And alas, First Mate MadFrog, perhaps the most intrepid and fearless swashbuckler of the whole motley crew."

Alas: An exclamation expressive of sorrow, pity, or apprehension of evil

I say you keelhaul 'em... or did you mean "at last", haa haa.

The salty ocean blue and deep
Topic Author's Reply - May 1, 2008 - 01:22pm PT
If you know MadFrog, Ammon, you know I meant apprehension of evil! har-har-har!

beneath the valley of ultravegans
May 1, 2008 - 04:47pm PT
Man, Kamps really really loved those cut-off jeans didn't he!

Trad climber
Anchorage, AK
May 1, 2008 - 05:09pm PT
By far one of the better reads on the taco, entertaining and great pics.

Sometimes I think it's best to stash pics from trips and dig up the treasure chest of memories at a later time.

The salty ocean blue and deep
Topic Author's Reply - May 1, 2008 - 05:27pm PT
Thanks Paul--that's exactly what happened, and since I hadn't seen them before, those pix brought the whole thing back like it was yesterday. My back started hurting, my feet blistered all by themselves...

Marty--I'd climbed with Bob and canyoneered with Bob. I've seen him with long-underwear on under those cut-offs, and wetsuits on over those cut-offs...never seen him wear anything else. Like Samson's hair, I think he derived his superhuman climbing ability from them. ;-)
Mighty Hiker

Social climber
Vancouver, B.C.
May 1, 2008 - 05:30pm PT
Thank you! I hadn't known there was such a thing as a freshwater pirate - I thought it was a salt water only thing.

And now we have a picture of L, sans catwoman costume. :-)
John Moosie

May 1, 2008 - 06:19pm PT
HaHaHaHa...This was a fun read. Thanks L

Big smile :-)

I love these kinds of adventures.

Trad climber
May 1, 2008 - 07:37pm PT
Thank you, you made me very nostalgic for Zion.

Social climber
Davis, CA
May 1, 2008 - 07:53pm PT
nice report with some fun photos!

Big Wall climber
A Token of My Extreme
May 2, 2008 - 12:47am PT

I noted that yer cap'n's log said part one...

We be lookin' forward to part two, aye!
With a few more photos of you huntin' sharks..

The salty ocean blue and deep
Topic Author's Reply - May 2, 2008 - 01:17am PT
Ah Shark-bait Survival,

Me thinks 'tis not just Buccaneer L that likes the Pirate talk, now is it me fine feathered Needle-climber!

I was just perusing the photos for Part II of Bob's they be some grizzly visuals, that's fer sure. But the story's got ta be finished...I reckon I'll need ta grog meself up for it, cause it was wicked, thar at the end.

So ye make yerself a bit more patient...the tale will be told soon enough. An now I'm off ta the land a nod.

Sleep well, laddie!

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