Canyoneering w/ Orin Hatch


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Trad climber
moab UT
Topic Author's Original Post - May 23, 2018 - 11:59am PT
Nameless Canyon lays in a forgotten corner of the San Rafael Swell. Its in that vast track of wilderness that Orin Hatch and John Curtis want to sell out from under me. Don't bother looking for it on a map because you won't find it. It doesn't have a name and is indicated only by a concentration of topo lines squiggling together and ganging up on the blank spaces near by. I'm not telling how to get there because if you are not willing to go look for it on your own you probably don't belong there. And, to be honest, I don't want you there. Go find your own gang of squiggly lines to explore.

My day in Nameless Canyon begins at dawn. Armed with 130 feet of rope, some slings, a knife, 1 1/2 quarts of water and a bag of jerky I leave my camp for the five mile hike to its head. Long shadows spring from the skeletal frames of dyeing junipers, caressing the sand and shattered rock I pick my way through. The slickrock domes glow pink against the skyline. A light breeze tussles my hair and a burro brays crazily on my left. Annoyed but unafraid. I veer right. An unseen snake gives me a warning rattle and I amble back left. This would be a bad place to provoke the snake. The burro trots off, grudgingly.

The sun is higher as I negotiate the petrified dunes. They are steeper than they looked at a distance but not unmanageable. Sweat stings my eyes and dampens my shirt.

An old, tattered, sun-bleached sling clings to a juniper above a forty-foot dry fall. I cut it loose and stuff it in my pack, replacing it with one of my own. I'm not the first here, nor did I expect to be. My sole expectation is to be the only one here. At least today.

The canyon narrows. I am about an hour below the second rappel. I can still walk rather than climb, but sideways, shuffling. With my back pressed against one wall there is perhaps two-inches of clearance between my chest the other. I hold the rope in my leading arm, the pack in the trailing. The walls rise vertically, a hundred-feet, two-hundred, sheltering me from the now oppressive sun.

The canyon widens, allowing me to walk normally. The grade steepens. It twists left and leads to a muddy pool, about a hundred-feet long. I take a few tentative steps and am in water up to my waist The water is cold. It probably held a thin sheet of ice earlier today. Another two steps and I am swimming. A kind of frantic one-arm dogpaddle. The other trying to hold the pack above the water. The rope over my shoulder doesn't help.

The canyon continues beyond the pool but has narrowed to the point that I won't fit. Reversing the rappels is not an option. There have been no side canyons offering the chance to escape. This is not some safe, sanitized E-ticket ride at Disneyland. Those with enough days under the sun, enough miles on their boots understand that, embrace it.

I begin to ascend the crack. Wet clothes, wet shoes, wet rope, pack dripping. Forty-feet, fifty, at sixty-feet I can finally fit my body back into the crack. I'm bleeding now. Both knees, both arms. My thick pants are shredded by the cheese-grader-like rock. I continue, feet against one wall, back to the other, far, far above the canyon floor. far below the rim.

Eventually I work my way back down but too soon. I am stuck, chest and pelvis. For five minutes I struggle thinking 'this will be a horrible way to die'. It is a long time to entertain thoughts like that. Finally I free myself. The rest of the day is uneventful. But not. It would be the most unforgivable of sins to refer to that blaring, silent symphony of rock and sun and sky and sand as uneventful.

As I write this I am sitting at my camp. The sun is sinking into those same petrified dunes my day began on. A juniper fire wards off the coming chill. I am still bleeding from several places. The only part of me that doesn't ache is my hair. The burro is back, still braying and eyeing me with thinly veiled hostility. I haven't seen or heard another human in four days. I couldn't be happier. I think of what this place will be like with good roads, with ATVs crawling over the surrounding dunes and the inevitable drill rigs squeezing out the few drops of oil beneath my feet in order to feed their insatiable appetites and vomit on the ragged jeans I discarded near the fire.

Earlier in this essay I said, "I don't want you here. Go find your own gang of squiggly lines to explore." I would like to revise that. You see, there is another gang of squiggly lines just over that ridge to the north. In a week or two, or maybe three, I will be healed enough to go investigate them. I would now like to extend an invitation to Senator Hatch and Congressman Curtis to join me. To get a first hand look at what they seem so eager to sell so cheaply. I can guarantee them an interesting day. I cannot, however, guarantee how it will end.

Thank you
Steve Seats
Brian in SLC

Social climber
Salt Lake City, UT
May 23, 2018 - 12:52pm PT
Here's a hikin' buddy for ya...

Dec 6, 2017 Press Release
Washington, D.C. – Rep. Chris Stewart (R-Utah) introduced legislation to create Utah’s sixth National Park, Escalante Canyons Park and Preserve, H.R. 4558.

“With their deep narrow canyons, high plateaus, sheer cliffs, incredible vistas, and vibrant colors, the Escalante Canyons are a crown jewel in the state,” Rep. Stewart said. “Escalante Canyons National Park is a win-win for those wanting conservation and access. It’s a win-win for those who want to share the beauty of this state but also to preserve the local culture that is so important to our communities. Additionally, this bill gives locals a stronger voice in how their backyard is managed.”

There is a reason I live in Utah. I love it here! I love to ski. I love to hike and rock climb. I love these lands. I want to preserve them, and I believe Utahans are better suited to manage our lands than bureaucrats back in Washington.”

Boulder climber
Salt Lake, UT
May 23, 2018 - 02:29pm PT
Ah...HR4558 does a lot more than that, most of it not good.


Just livin' the dream on the California coast
May 23, 2018 - 02:37pm PT
Made me relive a sphincter moment I had in a slot canyon in Zion.
Thanks for that.

Trad climber
May 23, 2018 - 03:23pm PT
I like squiggly lines :-). Might have to send Paul Ryan, he seems to understand adventure a little more. Sad how damn out of touch some of these elected officials are, at least when it comes to what local conditions are, why folks live there, and what they do. They drained an old childhood fishing hole to support the fracking. Glad I don't live there I would be really pissed, I guess I'm still pissed.

Damn getting stuck like that there is an eye opener. Like your posts!


Toker Villain

Big Wall climber
Toquerville, Utah
May 23, 2018 - 06:00pm PT
Sheeeeeet , don't make any more national parks. People will love them to death.

right here, right now
May 23, 2018 - 09:13pm PT
Every now and then, we all need a little wiggle room.

Trad climber
under the sea
May 23, 2018 - 10:06pm PT
great writing thanks for the share

Trad climber
Nothing creative to say
May 24, 2018 - 07:22am PT

Social climber
Wolf City, Wyoming
May 24, 2018 - 08:04am PT
I try to live life between the squiggly lines!

Trad climber
moab UT
Topic Author's Reply - May 24, 2018 - 07:37pm PT
Toker is right about National Parks, they are sacrifice areas. I just want those places to be left alone. Something like Forest Service wilderness areas where you can run free without being scrutinized by rangers or suffocated by tourons. Basically I want it all to myself and those of similar ilk. Selfish for sure I know.

Social climber
Choss Creek, ID
May 24, 2018 - 07:44pm PT
I have to agree. I have somehow ended up supporting Bear's Ears National Monument, while knowing the best future for my enjoyment of that area is BLM & Forest Service Wilderness.
Nick Danger

Ice climber
Arvada, CO
May 25, 2018 - 06:26am PT
Nicely done, Roadie, both the adventure and the write-up. I have spent an inordinate amount of time in The Swell and have had similar adventures as you describe here. It is sacred ground, but has already been discovered and over-run by ATVs. Still, I love that place and return as often as I can.

Be safe out there, lads and lasses, but by all means go out there!
Larry Nelson

Social climber
May 25, 2018 - 07:53am PT
I remember Escalante before it was a paved road...
I remember it as better than now...sigh...progress
Brian in SLC

Social climber
Salt Lake City, UT
May 29, 2018 - 09:47pm PT
Anyone else catch the Access Fund folks with Rep John Curtis in Joe's Valley?

He's gettin' ready!

Trad climber
Fresno/Clovis, ca
May 29, 2018 - 10:11pm PT
Smooth as silk. That story was just the perfect size for a nightcap. Thanks man.

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