Learning to grow

Without Jon, I would not be where I am today on many levels. He turned my eyes from the salty city I love in Austria to look west, past the Mississippi River that I had not crossed before 2010, to the West, a land of red rocks and cacti, of deserts with tumbleweeds and sand dunes. A land that I said looks like Croatia, the only land I had ever seen that wasn’t mainly used for growing crops or covered in forests. (Side note: Croatia looks so much like the West that it was used for location shots in German author Karl May’s Western novels [Winnetou, etc.] when they were turned into movies.)

But I digress. I realized how much I have grown since arriving in Salt Lake City when I found myself not falling after both of my feet slipped off holds on a route at the climbing gym. There I was, dangling by my hands from strength I did not know I had. Then I put my feet back on the wall and completed the route.

That crux was in addition to a weekend of new adventures that was pretty much type three fun. Don’t know about the three types of fun? I did not either before Jon, so check out The Dirtbag Diaries’ “Fun Divided By Three.”

Here are the basics:

  • Type one sounds like fun and provides fun.
  • Type two sounds like fun but then you curse the person who got you into it (usually yourself), and then it is fun to talk about.
  • Type three doesn’t sound like fun, it sucks while it is happening, but there are great stories afterward. There is guaranteed suffering because if it sounds terrible, it probably is.

Of course, what falls into each of these categories depends on the person. So the two days of canyoneering in which I just partook were type three fun to me and type one fun to Jon.

What made canyoneering not sound like fun included lots of reasons:

  • I had never canyoneered.
  • Jon and I were not in charge of the planning because we were meeting one of his friends and his and his girlfriend’s friends, which means I had no control over the situation.
  • I do not like trying things in front of strangers.
  • I was nervous about rappelling, which I had done on only three occasions, and only one of those times involved vertical rock.

    Rappelling on day one

  • We did not know if the canyons would be wet, and if they would be, there was no way for me to get a wet suit.
  • It was bloody hot out (100 degrees plus in the Robbers Roost area).
  • There is a point of no return when canyoneering.
  • The destination was so remote there were not even pit toilets.
  • Cell phone reception was extremely limited, which meant calling someone for help would be near impossible.

And it pretty much did suck while we were canyoneering. What were described as beginner canyons were not what Jon had in mind for my first canyoneering adventure.

My look of fear and annoyance

The first canyon was worth cursing because the walls came so close together in parts it was impossible to walk. This meant we had to “stem,” something else I had not done before. To stem, you lean back on one wall and stick your feet out to the other. The pressure between your back and feet keeps you from falling. To move, slide your hands and feet in the direction you need to travel. Its like a crab walk that is elevated. Moving down was the worst because we were using sandstone walls that have been rubbed smooth by millions of years of erosion and there was limited grip.

Nile waiting to catch me on a downclimb

Day two began with a couple of rocky moments brought on by the point of no return and more stemming. After that, the canyon was easily traversed until the exit. The easiest way out was to ascend another entrance to the canyon, rather than something like day one’s hike up a rocky horse path. This meant we had to climb/mostly stem our way up 100-foot walls.

The practice uphill stem before the big push. This photo is blurry because I’m yelling at Jon to drop the camera because I would rather he have free hands to save me than a photo of my ascent.

The ascent was broken up by five chockstones and ledges of varying size, from one with just enough surface area for four feet to one that could have easily held our party of seven. The only good part of having such a large party was evident here. There were enough guys to rig ropes for me to be belayed on or hold on to and they provided plenty of shoulders, knees and hands to help me get to the top.

Jon tried providing me with reasons why canyoneering was so great during one of my moments of frustration. I do not even remember most of what he said because I shot them down instantly. But his key point of this trip being an opportunity to grow as a person was easy to remember, because everything I do with Jon is a new experience and an opportunity for growth.

I suppose the blood, sweat and tears (yes, all literally) were worthwhile. I tried something new that a good portion of the people on this planet do not even know about. I got to see some beautiful works of nature, too. And I did not have to be left behind in either canyon.

Will I try canyoneering again? Probably, because Jon has assured me there are easy canyons without stemming.

Check back tomorrow for what I did find beautiful.

This entry was posted in North America, Photos, Travel Narrative, U.S. and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Learning to grow

  1. Pingback: Photo essay: Slot canyons in Robbers Roost Country | travelin' the globe

  2. Amanda says:

    Look at you! You’re like a hardcore rock climber now. It sounds like life in Utah is treating you well, which makes me happy.

    I like slot canyons, but I’m pretty sure I’d die doing this.

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