Friday, October 18, 2013

Of Fear and Fun...

Hubby and I just got back from a trip to Southern Utah.
It turned out to be much more than a was an adventure.
An adventure in learning about canyoneering, myself, fear, strength,
and overcoming obstacles...both real and mental.

We fell in love with Zion and Utah years ago and can't seem to stay away. We go as often as we can. That usually turns out to be at least once a year.  This was our second trip for 2013.  We went in March and experienced our first canyoneering adventure.  HERE's a post about that and a POST from the same trip and my "extreme knitting".  We enjoyed canyoneering and have since started buying our own equipment and planning to learn and experience it more.

This trip was planned around a three day canyoneering course.  We've been excited about the class, seeing magnificent canyons, and hoping to learn enough to eventually do this on our own.  The class started in the shop that we'd signed up with.  The instructor went over equipment and various other things.  Then, we loaded everything into the back of his SUV and headed out.  We went to an area called, "Lamb's Knoll".  It might just look like a jumble of rocks but those things were HUGE!

We put our packs on and hiked up a winding path to the rocks.

Once we got to the rocks, there was some steep and tricky hiking/climbing to get up into the area we were going to start descending from.  We didn't get any photos in that section because it required both hands and lots of work to get up there!

To my surprise, I noticed that fear had hitched a ride.  I didn't expect it...not to this level.  It was not a welcome!  To make matters worse, our guide/instructor kept saying and doing things that amplified my fear and made it hard for me to trust him or enjoy the class.  

We'd planned this for a long time, spent a lot of money on equipment and the class, traveled a long way to get there and I didn't want to disappoint my husband or myself by giving up.  So, I pushed through.  It was tough!  So much so that the surroundings that I knew were beautiful suddenly seemed dull, lifeless and even ugly.  That's proof of how uncomfortable this had become.  Nature is usually what keeps me sane and happy.  It's usually relaxing and centering.  But, during this class...especially the first was anything but that.

I truly believe in regularly pushing through my comfort zone and stretching myself.  But, this was like nothing I'd ever faced...other than giving birth to my daughter!  I knew I'd grow from it and I didn't want to give up.  So...onward and downward into the canyon!!!

Here's hubby at our very first rappel.  He went first and enjoyed every second of it.
Lucky for hubby, he was less bothered by heights than he had expected.
My trip down wasn't as good.  I didn't quite understand how I was supposed to maneuver
my feet and feel how gravity would lead me in the directions I needed to move as I descended.
I stepped wrong, took a swing, and hit the rock!  Thank goodness for good equipment that kept me
from falling, hubby who had me on belay as my second line of safety, and my helmet!

Here I am getting ready to hook up and descend the next section.  Hubby helped me a lot on this one as he talked me through each section, helping me understand how my footing should go, how I could feel the gravity pulling on the rope to know which direction to move, etc.  Whew!  Two down!

After that, we had one more rappel.  Then, we worked through a series of down climbing
situations where we learned how to use ropes to safely get down.  And, we learned ways
to use our bodies to put pressure on each of the canyon walls to maneuver across and down.

At the very end of the canyon was the skinniest slot/crack we've ever gone through!
The last section required dropping down into a hole and crawling under a rock.
Hubby was first.   It was a tight squeeze!

My turn!  We barely fit and sometimes had to hold our backpacks 
above or below us to squeeze it through slightly wider spots.

Whew!  One day down!  
An evening of relaxing, the hot tub, and a few glasses of wine were in order!

I wasn't quite as nervous the second day.  
But, I sure wasn't looking forward to another day with our instructor!

Our second day of canyoneering took place on the west side of St. George, in "Yankee Doodle Canyon".  You'd never know the canyon was there by looking out onto the landscape.  The entrance to the canyon is a crack in the earth.  It starts with a free-hanging rappel (nowhere to put our feet,
just hook in and go down).  That's me!... 

 We hiked a little bit and came across the second rappel.  It was the tallest we'd done so far
and was spectacular!  I think it was at least 80 feet!   There goes hubby...

My turn!  I was concentrating to make sure I did everything right!

There I go!  I wasn't about to give our instructor a big smile!  Ugh!  lol
It was a beautiful trip down though!

Here's a video I took when I reached the bottom.
Nature is amazing and beautiful!

The rest of the day was spent learning how to down climb and get past 
big and sometimes tall obstacles/drop offs.

It involved a lot of learning, problem solving and team work.
Hubby and I make a great team!  He's so sweet, patient, strong and brave!

Some sections were very challenging!

Luckily, there were only two spots with water that day.
We were able to skirt around one of them and only had about four steps through another.
A few days and rain storms later and word was that you had to wear a wet suit and swim!

The exit from the canyon was beautiful with lots of interesting and colorful rocks.
And, it was very challenging and steep.  I didn't get a picture of that section.
But, here's a beautiful and interesting rock wall we saw on our way out...

We finished just in time!  A storm was moving in!
See the wall of rain to the left...we started feeling drops at the end of the ascent.
Then, once we got to the road, it started raining pretty hard as we hurried to the car.

Because of the storm, we had to postpone our third day from Thursday to Monday.  We felt we had gained enough knowledge and felt comfortable enough to go out on our own over the weekend.  So, we did!  We headed back to Lamb's Knoll, the area we went on the first day. 

I was pretty nervous on the first rappel because of what had happened the first day.  I literally cried with relief when I reached the bottom!  The rest of the trip down was actually fun!  What an awesome hubby I have!  He makes me feel so safe and at ease!   The day was much more relaxed with just the two of us.  It really helped our confidence and comfort level for the final big day.

Our third and final day of class was to take place in an area called "Birch Hollow".  It was going to be a long day with a lot of hiking and really tall rappels.  The scenery was said to be spectacular and the fall colors "on fire".  Unfortunately, the rains that week made the dirt roads impassable even with a 4x4.  So, we headed back to the shop and changed plans.  We ended up heading back to Lamb's Knoll.  This time, we took a different route and we learned more skills.

Some of the rappels were more technical.

And, they were quite tall!

This one was a tight squeeze to get through the rocks to drop down...

So skinny that we removed our backpacks to get out and hung them below us as we rappelled down.
In this photo, I'm getting ready to drop my backpack off and step backwards over the edge...

We were surprised at how many more things we were able to learn that day, at the same place we'd started.  We even learned what to do if one of our ropes were to fall down into the canyon.  As we were figuring out the height of one rappel and a plan to get down, our instructor took over and tossed the rope over the edge!  That wasn't very nice!  lol  I guess we had surprised looks on our faces but didn't panic too much because we thought he had another rope with him (although, he came unprepared that day and forgot his harness and rappel device!!!).  He taught us what to do if we did lose a rope.  It all worked out fine!  We got down safely and that was the end of our three day class.

Whew!  We did it!

The hike back down to the car was getting prettier and prettier as I became less stressed each time.

 And, the Fall colors were changing quickly and becoming more intense each time we went there.


The course and canyoneering experience on this trip was not what I'd hoped or expected.  But, we learned a lot more than I'd expected and reached a comfort level to do it on our own which I wasn't sure we'd achieve on this trip.  I thought it would take much longer.  I'm still processing the experience, what we did, what we learned, what we conquered.  As crazy as it seems (even to me), I want to do this again.  I want to go to bigger and more spectacular canyons.  We feel comfortable doing these smaller ones on our own but want an expert who is experienced and knows the canyons well to go in the bigger ones.  We're just not quite sure what company we'll go with next time.  That seems to be a bit tricky.  

The one we went with in March, Zion Adventure Company, was awesome.  The business seems impressively run and it's the most popular one near Zion.  The guide tailored the day to us and made it relaxed and fun.  However, they're a bit more expensive and not flexible as far as weather goes.  The one we went with this time, Zion Mountain School, is supposedly the only one with certified guides, they're flexible with weather (which worked out well on this trip), and it's cheaper.  But, since we're not only paying for expertise and learning but also for FUN we'll probably go with the more expensive option next time.  As far as the flexibility with weather...we just may have to buy vacation insurance!    


Deborah said...

You are so multi-talented! From crochet to climbing! This looks quite the adventure!! And I'm happy if I take my daily walk!! :o)

Unknown said...

You are awesome! I would take one look at those squeeze- throughs, sit down, and have hysterics. No freaking WAY would I writhe between two big rocks! You rock, baby!!

Cindie said...

Wow - you are so brave! Glad even though it was tense to start that you learned a great deal and enjoyed some of the scenery.

Art and Sand said...

I am totally impressed.
The few days we spent in Zion were 6 weeks after back surgery for me so we were not able to do much hiking and after showing Steve your photos, I can guarantee that we will not be doing anything like your adventure.

I noticed there are no photos of you rappeling and knitting simultaneously.

judith said...

I'm so impressed, in awe really. You are so brave and adventurous. Thanks for all the pictures (even if you weren't knitting), they are always so beautiful.

Quinn said...

Good for you, facing a challenge and pushing through! And a pat on the back to your husband, as well...not everyone can teach or even help someone learn.
Can't say this particular sport would be my cup of tea, but I'm happy to drink a cup of tea whilst enjoying your photos!

evergreenknits said...

What an adventure! We've been rocking climbing for a long time and have been thinking about canyoneering, but I've never tried it myself.

You look so happy in the final photo to have made it through it all. Way to go, powering through even though you were afraid!

Sandra said...

Way to go! Facing your fears is often that hardest and scariest part. And your husband really stepped up, supporting you, while not letting you quit. What a great pair!

September Violets said...

Can you believe I felt tense just reading this account?! I would NOT be comfortable doing this sort of climbing. I used to live along an escarpment and my dad always tried to get us to come rock climbing with him ... never trusted him enough to go over the edge. I walked the long way around. I just couldn't bring myself to trust my life to a peg in the ground. I'm in awe of what you do and the fears you overcome to enjoy yourself. I even have a hard time getting into a ski lift to go up a mountain in summertime!! Well done! Wendy