In November 2016 I went to Arches a fourth time! This was an extra special trip because I got to introduce Becca to Arches and this park was playing host to my first technical canyon. Yikes.
Once again it was another day trip. Peter, Becca, and I left early in the morning and met up with our buddies Craig and Shaunna at the visitors center. Then it was off to the trailhead straight away!
Not only was this my first experience doing technical canyon, it was also my first experience unloading a car full of gear in front of lots of other people. Am I the only one that gets a rush of pride when packing away harnesses, helmets, belay devices, gloves, and rope while other park-goers watch? It makes me feel way cooler than I am.
So off we went up this seemingly innocuous side canyon nearby the trailhead. It was a true scrambled and my heart was pumping in no time. The climb to the first rappel of U-Turn Canyon was truly the hardest thing I did all day. I’m never “out of shape,” but I am always a slow hiker. That’s just who I am and I’ve come to accept it. It made for a rough start as I lagged behind the rest of the group, though it didn’t really matter.
Writing this now, months later, I don’t remember how many rappels we did. Maybe 4? Every rappel seems to run together in my head, even just a few hours after finishing. But it was good and fun each one was easier than the last, which meant by the time we got to the actual last rappel, I was ready for by far the biggest rappel we did all day. (That’s something I’ve noticed each time I’ve been rappelling: My confidence always builds and as the time goes on I get more excited and relaxed about each rappel.)
The final rappel for U-Turn is somewhere around 100 feet. It’s high, though I’ve done longer since and I’m sure I’ll do longer in the future. In November, it was the longest I’d done up to that point. But once you have your confidence boosted by a bunch of shorter rappels, it’s easy peasy. It also helped that I was with Peter and Becca, two of my closest friends, and Shaunna and Craig, two people with a lot of combined canyoneering experience. It’s always a little nerve-racking doing something new, but it helps immensely to be doing it with people you trust.
Let’s pause for a second to talk about butt shots, okay? I’ve always been a fan of butt shots, especially in nature. I think it’s because I love looking wistful. Rappelling butt shots are even better. If you want a totally kosher reason to take pictures of people’s butts (with their consent!), then rappelling is for you. (I suppose rock climbing would give you a similar effect, though I tend to think rappelling shots turn out better.) Below you’ll see a photo of my dear Peter coming down the last rappel at U-Turn. Do I always try to rappel before him for this reason? Maybe. Maybe not.
The walk back to the trailhead and our cars was a cinch, and once again we got to look extra cool as our trail met up with the regular hiking trails to the parking lot. We took a quick lunch and the rest of the day was spent showing Becca Devil’s Garden, the most magnificent area of Arches (at least to me). And of course I had to take my signature photo just above Landscape Arch.