Rescue on the Subway at Zions – Part 2
Left Fork Slot Canyon
Left Fork Slot Canyon
The Left Fork slot section is the most exhilarating part of the hike…it’s the fun part. The beginning of the technical part of the hike began at a small waterfall flowing into a pond. By the size of the pond and the amount of water flowing into it, we knew that there was going to be a ton of water through this part of the canyon. Usually there is only a little trickle of a waterfall and a couple of overly large puddles at its base but, as you can see, there was plenty of water.
So we did what any self-respecting canyoneer would do, and we strapped on our Star Trek uniforms.
After suiting up and getting our stuff into dry bags, we loaded up and headed down the river. We soon reached the boulder-field obstacle (a place where several large boulders jam up the middle of the canyon) and our first rappel. Tye set up the rope in the bolts and then quickly made his way down going down the rope hand over fist. The boulder wasn’t that steep so I also opted to not use my device and just held onto the rope as I scrambled down. Two other groups had caught up to us by that point so we let them use our rope and continue on ahead of us. And then M & D came down and joined us.
From this point on there was very little dry ground to walk through but that didn’t matter too much because our dry suits (aka Star Trek uniforms) were awesome! They kept us completely dry and made it so the ice cold snowmelt felt like a nice cool gel that kept us from getting too hot. I absolutely HATE the cold, so these dry suits were a godsend. I can’t say enough how much I love them.
Not far past the first rappel we got to a very narrow part of the canyon and had to slide down into a pool below. Because the walls were so narrow in this part, the water was really rapid. Tye went first and I watched as the water shot him forward into the canyon wall ahead and then dropped him into the pool. I sat down in preparation to do the same. As I was trying to get situated the water really pushed against my back. It started to move me forward and I could feel my left leg dipping into a pothole, getting stuck. I wrenched my leg out just in time and threw my legs out in front of me, bracing myself as I crashed into the canyon wall before dropping into the pool.
M came right behind me and also had a hard time with the water rushing. Her foot also dipped into the pothole but she wasn’t able to get it unstuck before the water shot her forward. After a short swim, M stood up to walk to the shore. I turned around and saw that she was limping. Tye examined her leg and determined that it was broken (it’s handy to be married to a medical professional). Did I mention that it was broken? Like really, really broken.
At this point in the canyon we couldn’t go back, we’d already gone down a rappel and some treacherous waterways. And we couldn’t stay where we were, the canyon walls were too narrow for a helicopter and we were completely in the shade and would become way too cold. The only choice was to move on, and so we did…slowly.
Tye and D supported M when she had to walk. M floated on her back whenever the water was deep enough. And I scouted the terrain ahead to warn of potholes, ravines, and other surprises. One of the surprises that I discovered was a small whirlpool. After going down another waterslide into deep water I found that I was being dragged backwards. I started to panic, not knowing if I was being pulled into a keyhole or a water-filled underground cave. I was able to turn and saw a canyon wall behind me so I calmed down and let the whirlpool spin me around a couple of times. Then I was able to ramp my legs onto the back wall and shoot myself forward enough to grab onto the edge of the next wall, pulling myself out of the whirlpool. I’m not going to lie, I completely panicked and was scared to death.
Bowling Ball Corridor
The next challenge we got to was the bowling ball corridor. Here we had to rappel down a slick log, traverse across another slick log, and scamper over a large boulder. D went down first and then Tye lowered M down. M crawled along the log and up the large boulder. Meanwhile I came down the vertical log just fine, only to slip off the horizontal log and fall back into the water. It was fine, only my pride was hurt.
We eventually made it to Keyhole Falls where we made our longest rappel of the day down into the most beautiful section of the canyon known as The Subway. This time Tye went first and I followed. Then M tied herself in and Tye lowered her down before floating her down the river to where I was waiting. And then D came down. We were all a little chilly by that time. We had spent hours slowly slogging through ice water in the shade…our dry suits had done their best.