Salutations! It’s Ashley, currently lounging in bed feeling hungover from a week of non-stop adventure here in Moab, Utah. Figured I’d fill ya in on how we’ve been spending our last week having a home base.
Something I’ve always wanted to do in Utah is to Canyoneer. Not just go with a guide, but actually learn the techniques, skills, and problem-solving it takes to safely maneuver through a tiny slot canyon. If you’re not sure exactly what Canyoneering is, it’s defined as: “the sport of exploring a canyon by engaging in such activities as rappelling, rafting, and waterfall jumping.” Also made famous by the movie “127 Hours”. Over the past few weeks, I have taught myself the basics(+) of the sport. Basically, you drop into a canyon via down-climbing or rappelling, and you keep going until you’re on the other side of the canyon. Some canyons are easy and don’t require much stemming between slots, while some are only manageable if you are less than a certain size. Utah is loaded with explorable technical canyons that draw a lot of knowledge from other activities like rock climbing, route finding, and rope management, it’s not something you want to jump into without experience, a guide, or beta- so please for the love of life, don’t take any of this post as advice or a how-to!
After a few weeks of practice, and I felt comfortable setting up rappels, I recruited Sean and our friend Chelsey to go run an easy canyon with me after work called, Entrajo. Because they are both insane, they agreed and we met at the canyon around 6PM and began our adventure. The hike up was beautiful, we basically walked above the route we would be coming back through, which was nice because we could see how easy and manageable it was. Once we were at the beginning, we started making our way towards the first rappel. I thought the rappel was a 2-stager, meaning there is a ledge that you have to walk across before continuing the rappel, but it was actually a 3-stager and we were almost about to pull the rope- so that was a lesson learned! Always make sure the rappel is finished before pulling your rope- LOL. Once all 3 of us made it down the first rappel it started getting dark, and by the time we made our way to the final rappel, 83 feet down a dry waterfall, it was pitch black. Thank the universe I remembered to pack the headlamps! Once at the bottom, we were back to where we started and headed back to the van, on the hike back we made plans to do another canyon in the morning.
Feeling confident after a successful mission, we made plans to meet at 8AM the next morning to do a popular canyon right in town called Medieval Chamber. It consists of 2 rappels, the first is a 2-stage 100′ rappel that drops into the Chamber with a very small section of a wide slot. When you pass through the chamber, you exit on top of the final rappel, Morning Glory Arch. A beautiful rappel down 115′ between the arch and canyon wall, free hanging between it was a dream come true for us! After hiking Grandstaff so many times and seeing others rappeling down it, and finally experiencing it for myself, I won’t ever forget it! I think the hike through Grandstaff was the longest part of the experience! But, for a short trip, it packed a memorable punch.
The next day, we decided to take it easy. Except me, I don’t like taking it easy. So I bought a beginner slackline kit, hit up my friend Debb, and met her at the park for a little lesson. I spent nearly 5 hours practicing, standing, falling, taking steps, falling, trying, failing, falling, trying, doing it, not doing it, wondering how I’m going to do it… and it was just enough frustration to get me addicted to learning and getting better. I baked in the sun, was very hungry, and getting tired, but I kept at it until I could walk past the center. Not consistently, but it’s a practice and that’s progression as far as I’m concerned. What I really am getting myself ready for is *attempting* to walk a highline here in town.. So stoked on this new low key hobby we can easily set up any where! We thought it wouldn’t take up much room in the van, turns out it does haha! So we kinda gotta figure out storage in the next two days.
When I woke up the next morning, I immediately started looking for the day’s activity and quickly decided on Cable Arch. I posted on facebook asking if anyone wanted to join us, and luckily 2 of our friends, Drew + Tommy took us up on the adventure. Drew was the only one of us who had been before so he led us up the hike and to the arch. Then he nonchalantly told us we had to free climb up the side in order to reach the top. To his credit, it wasn’t as bad as it looked, but I was still so nervous standing at the bottom getting ready to climb up, free of any life saving device. My hands are sweating just thinking about it lol. Once we got to the top, Drew set up our rope and we all proceeded to make our way down. There’s just something about being suspended in the center of a very old + massive arch in the middle of the desert that makes my soul feel unequivocally alive + free. I was bummed I forgot my gloves, otherwise I would have rappeled a few more times- lesson learned! Drew set up a saddlebag with the rope so we could take turns swinging and I reaaallly enjoyed that. Sean and I laughed, because we never would have figured out how to get up there if it wasn’t for Drew coming with and showing the way- thanks bud! We hung out for a little while before heading back to the van and calling it a night.
One of our big bucketlist items for Moab has been hiking to the top of Pariott Mesa in Castle Valley. It’s a strenuous adventure hike straight up the mesa, that uses a series of cable hand rails, fixed ropes, and free climbing to get to the top at a staggering 6,115′. We started the hike around 5:30PM with 6 old + new friends and I’m not going to lie, the first stretch is straight up the saddleback, completely exposed, and it kicked my ass! By the time we got to the top, I was winded, sweating, and regretting signing myself up for it! I knew it would be worth it though, and that the sun would set eventually, so I pushed myself to keep going. I had a mini party inside when the trail darted behind the mesa and meant that we would be in complete shade for the duration of the hike. At one point, we lost the trail and had to traverse across a very slippery talus that didn’t leave much for error if you lost your footing. From there, we kept continuing to climb up to the base of the tower and eventually a large gully that presented our obstacles before we made it to the top. We all put our climbing harnesses on, got our personal anchors ready, and began the traverse across the hand cable line, an easy traverse, made exciting by the steep drop off below you. On the other side of the cable, was a fixed rope through a chimney that you can free climb up. One of the guys in the group free climbed up, the rest of us shared an ascender (thanks, Nel!) so if we fell while climbing, it would save us from certain death. It took us a little longer than usual to all make it up, but once we did, we started booking it for the next obstacle, another chimney with a fixed rope. This chimney had big jugs, and was very easy to free climb. I’m the only dork that used the ascender, but i think I get a pass, considering I broke my knee free climbing so the risk is a bit real for me ;). Finally, we reached the last stretch before the top, a few big boulders to climb and then we were there- just in time for sunset! We couldn’t have asked for a more beautiful evening show. The rocks were glowing, the sky looked picturesque, and we were all so happy to have finally made it to the top after such a grueling climb. Once it got dark, we located our group and started making our descent, which was much easier considering we could just rappel down all the fixed ropes. I was worried the dark would add an extra scary element to the climb down, but it actually made it much easier because I couldn’t see straight down. Fun fact about me: I hate heights if I’m not anchored into something! by the time we made it back to our van, it was well after 10PM and we were absolutely pooped but mega stoked that we checked this huge item off our bucket list!
As for today, I am exhausted, full, happy, content, and stoked on our life. After 5 days of non-stop action, it’s nice to just hang out and relax with no plans or place to be. Moab is like no other place I have ever been, the activities are endless, I don’t even think there’s enough time in life to see and experience it all, so maybe that’s why I drag us all around. We only have 3 days left in the house, we are so ready to start writing this next chapter of life! Who know’s where the wind will blow us, but what I do know is, where ever we end up next, adventure will be there waiting for us to find it.