It was the last day of Sol’s Zion National Park Backpacking Trip (technically just outside of official park boundaries). The only thing worse than setting up camp in a rainstorm is breaking camp in a rainstorm. Don’t get me wrong, I was grateful to have made it through the night, but waking up to heavy rain did nothing to quiet my concern about our upcoming hike out of the canyon.
We took our time eating granola and berries under the shelter of our tarp, but once we finished it was time to move. The packs were loaded and on our backs and we were on our way by 9 am as planned. I could tell that the river had come up and inch or two, and the water was more turbid (from sediment being washed down) than it had been the last few days. It reminded me of the bad joke, “You know why they call her the Virgin River? Because you never get to see her bottom,” referring to the muddy color of the river when it floods.
The 20 yards of river were no problem for us. We entered the tiny narrow canyon that led to our exit and it’s clear trickle had now become a small steady flow of iron-colored run-off from the tall cliffs above. I picked up the pace. This was no place to be if water levels came up.
Words cannot describe the sights we beheld that morning and there are no images because our cameras were wrapped in plastic and packed under protective layers of our packs. The narrow opened into a giant alcove. The first tier above ground level, which formed a dryfall last week, had matured into a full-fledged waterfall. Waterfalls cascaded over high cliff faces streaked in colors of black and deep red. The rain continued to fall. Each of us took a mental image and locked it away safe somewhere in the recesses of our mind, to reflect upon some other time when we long for the freedom and the struggle that were ours that morning.
Our ascent began with a climb out that was just over one full body length high. We made the first of five people trains, taking off our packs to hoist them to the person above, in order to avoid succumbing to the inertia of the extra weight that would pull us backward or get stuck between narrow chimney walls. The rain proved to be our best ally. The steep sand and scree slopes now provided safer foot holds that actually stuck rather than sliding out from under the foot.
Welcome to the backcountry. There is no trail. There are no ropes. There is no other way out. Mentally and physically, Sol’s Adventurous guests had to come to terms with the reality of their current situation.
Everyone had their own unique experience on the climb out that day, and I am content to leave the telling of the thrilling details to those who should rightfully tell it – my guests in the wilderness, Amie, Bobby, Fritz and Kathleen. You can read their accounts by clicking on the yellow “comments” icon below.
I’ll close by saying that I couldn’t be more proud of the group. I watched them overcome fears, push through fatigue, smile through the rain, and pull together as a team. The backcountry isn’t for everyone; but these four people became and always will be part of the backcountry after this experience. They will return to the world changed human beings. Thanks, team for trusting me with the chance to share this with you. I look forward to seeing you on another venture!
Click to view pictures of Sol’s Redrock Backpacker: Southwestern, Utah trip