“Why do they call it Fat Man’s?” you ask. This shot of Frank and Carolyn downclimbing their way through one of the many slots in Fat Man’s repertoire should clue you in. Visitors to Zion National Park ready to venture off the beaten path and explore the backcountry have world-class canyoneering options to choose from. The beauty of Fat Man’s (or the misery, depending on your fitness level)is its hidden location – four miles behind Checkerboard Mesa and the strenuous six mile hike out of the canyon.
Our group of seven backpacked with wetsuits in tow, prepared for a swim in the cold, dark, murky water that pools up in the deep slot after canyon monsoons. Slots are formed by water, after all, and while our biggest concern was beating afternoon rainstorms and the deadly flashfloods that follow, shady canyons and freezing water temps can be a deadly combination. Luckily there were no swimming pools in the canyon and the wetsuits quickly turned into our own personal dry sauna in the desert heat. Being the lean desert explorers that we are (ha!), we stripped those clinging sweat suits off before what little insulating fat we had on our bodies could be melted away.
Aside from all the fun and challenging descents, my favorite part was the exit into beautiful The Barracks. The Virgin River was flowing cool and refreshing with mint patches growing at the mouth of Fat Man’s. Aaron, our herbalist guru, harvested some of the healing herb and brewed a delicious tea for dinner.
With four rappels and dozens of downclimbs, Fat Man’s isn’t for the meek. Get yourself a Zion National Park guide or experienced friend, a guidebook and topo map before you head out.