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NPS Morning Report: Pandora’s Box

Discussion in 'Archives - Yahoo Canyons Group' started by Shaun, Sep 9, 2010.

  1. Shaun

    Shaun Guest

    Capitol Reef National Park (UT) Canyoneer Rescued From Pandora's Box

    On Monday, September 6th, rangers rescued a canyoneer who was unable to complete his planned route due to an inability to make it through a narrow slot in a rock formation. The man and his partner, both from Salt Lake City, had descended into Pandora's Box Canyon the previous day. Pandora's Box is considered to be one of the more difficult canyons to negotiate on the Colorado Plateau because of the extremely narrow slots throughout the canyon. After completing numerous rappels and negotiating several slots, the man, who was quite fit but weighed around 230 pounds, found that he couldn't pass through a particularly tight section. In an attempt to exit the canyon, the two men scrambled out a lateral canyon, only to find that they couldn't go any further. They decided that the more slender man would continue on and complete the canyon while the larger man stayed behind and awaited assistance. The former completed the slots, descended the 150-foot exit rappel, hiked nine miles to his bike, pedaled four miles to his car, then contacted rangers early on Monday morning. The rangers requested assistance from the Utah State Patrol, which dispatched a helicopter that landed near the stranded man. Members of the county SAR team helped him reach the ship. Neither of the canyoneers was injured. [Submitted by Scott Brown, Chief Ranger]
  2. desertres

    desertres Guest

    the tr(longgggg) was recorded at'll have to read the blog for the overnite experience, involving running out of water and desperate measures(Ive read that its better to pour urine over oneself rather than drink it)

    The following is cut out:

    "Why do I choose to relate this somewhat heavy allegory on a blog that is mired in trivial nonsense? Because last Sunday I had the ever loving crap scared out of me and I've been eating sweet strawberries ever since.

    Sunday morning, my buddy Matt and I ventured into a slot canyon near Capitol Reef National Park called Pandora's Box. A fitting name for the canyon from hell. Long story short, it was too narrow for me to fit through. We were able to escape the canyon but became stranded on a mesa surrounded by cliffs with no foreseeable way to return to civilization. At 6:30 Sunday evening, with little water and only about an hour of daylight, Matt finished the rest of the canyon solo, a very dangerous thing to do (just ask Aron Ralston*). He then hiked eight miles back to a bike we had previously stashed, then road an additional 3 miles back to our car. He called Search and Rescue and at 10:30 the next morning my dumb ass was air lifted to safety. Matt's courage and heroism can not be overstated. I keep offering to kiss him on the lips but he won't let me.

    Over the last two and half years I have taken up the sport of canyoneering. I have completed 27 different technical slot canyons throughout Utah and have done several of those 27 canyons multiple times. I have taken workshops in anchor construction, read several books on the subject and have consistently exercised what I consider to be good judgment and an abundance of caution in my various adventures. I know my strengths as a canyoneer and my weaknesses. My biggest strength and my biggest weakness is the same thing. My size. I'm a big dude. Being 6'5" and on the plus side of 250 can really come in handy when you are boosting people out of potholes and acting as a meat anchor. But it can really hold you back when you are navigating a tiny crack hundreds of feet into the earth. Being well aware of that limitation, I have been very selective of the canyons I choose to do. Pandora's Box has long been a destination that has both tempted and frightened me. It is a really tight canyon. But not the tightest. It'll be challenging, but I figured I should be able to squeeze my way down through it.

    One of the web sites I often use for descriptions, directions, maps and GPS way points provided a warning for large frame canyoneers. It said that big fellas will have to work a lot harder to get through the canyon. Instead of being able to slither through the bottom of the slot, I would have to put my feet on one side of the canyon, my butt on another and chimney up the slot and then inch my way over the narrow obstacle. I am fine with a hard working day. That's all part of the experience. So on the Friday of Labor Day weekend, my ambition got the better of me and I suggested to my buddy Matt that we hit Pandora that coming Sunday.

    We drove down to Capitol Reef (a totally underrated and neglected destination in Utah by the way), we camped near the trail head and got an early start to what was going to be the longest day of my life. We hiked up and around on top of a mesa, ascending about a thousand vertical feet. We then bush whacked over open dessert to the entrance of the Pandora Slot.

    Anywho, as we descended into the canyon, we reached a few rappels and a couple of tight stretches of slot. We were making good time and enjoying the glorious combination of claustrophobic trenches and endless vistas that only a good slot canyon provides

    About an hour into the slot, I realized that I had foolishly brought a pair of sunglasses with me. I never do this. The canyon is too dark to need them and anythingtaken into a canyon will get crushed. In a moment of misguided inspiration, I decided to unscrew a Nalgene bottle full of water and put the glasses inside of it. That way, they would be crush proof and they wouldn't rattle around. I am problem solving genius! However, I didn't screw the cap on all the way and when I put the bottle back in my pack and I lost one of the three liters of water I had taken with me as it spilled out onto the sand. All in an effort to save an eight dollar pair of gas station sunglasses that I didn't care about.


    This was bad. If we hadn't already committed to the canyon with a couple of rappels, I would have turned around right there. But we were in it, with no going back. There was no water anywhere in this canyon and once we exited, we still had eight miles to hike before we returned to civilization. I could do it on two liters, no problem. But his meant that I would have to budget my water. It's now something that I'll have to think about. And I prefer for basic survival not to be an issue when I'm just trying to have a good time.

    As we proceeded down the canyon it got tighter and tighter. We kept expecting the end to be near, only to turn a corner and be slapped in the face with yet another squeeze. There were moments where Matt would have to kneel on the ground and I would have to walk on his back to get up and over a tight obstacle. Matt would then lie on his side in the dirt and I would pull his dead weight below that same obstacle. Team work is essential for the type of problem solving that is required to safely make your way through these places.

    Upon reaching what we thought had to be the final section before the rappel out of the canyon, the walls opened up. I remember noticing two washes on either side, intersecting the slot canyon. They looked like a way to scramble up and out of the canyon, if escaped proved necessary. Looking at that dark crevice, I swore under my breath (or possibly very loudly) sucked in my belly and began yet another birthing experience. This squeeze ended with a very tight crack that opened up into what appeared to be a ten foot drop. This is an obstacle that I cannot climb up and over.

    I tried going feet first. No way. Feet first, sideways. No way. Head first (I have no idea how I was expecting to land safely that way). No friggen way. At this point we were both beat. We were sick of this canyon. It had scraped the ever loving hell out of our knees, hands and backs and we were just done. That 8 mile hike out loomed over my head and I cried mercy. I suggested we backtrack to the wash that was just behind us, hike up it to the top of the mesa and navigate our way back to the car. I had been beaten by Pandora. And I didn't care. I just wanted to get the hell out of there.

    The east wash looked pretty easy to scramble up. But the west wash was pretty hairy. East was more in the direction of our car, so we slowly scrambled up the rock slide and out of the canyon. I was very relieved to see flat ground on top of the wash. Thinking we were on the home stretch, we found a shady rock, relaxed, ate some food and looked at the map. We'd have to walk about a mile and half due south and then turn west for about another mile and connect back to our original trail. From there we would have about an hour and half of easy downhill walking on a well defined trail the get back to our car. We'll make it back before sundown and have time to grab a shower and eat a pizza. Not a bad day.

    After about a half hour break, we decide to get going. Let's find our vector and get some distance behind us. However we were presented with a serious problem. There was a ravine directly south of us obstructing our way. We walked up and down it looking for a way through or around but we couldn't see and clear solution. More unnerving was the possibility that there were five more crevasses just like it waiting behind this one. These were intersecting slot canyons that were too skinny to appear on our map. We didn't have the water or the energy to be able to risk crossing one of these ravines, only to get more stuck. We were on an island with no clear way out.

    --- In Yahoo Canyons Group, "Shaun" <trackrunner83@...> wrote:
    Capitol Reef National Park (UT) > Canyoneer Rescued From Pandora's Box
    On Monday, September 6th, rangers rescued a canyoneer who was unable to complete his planned route due to an inability to make it through a narrow slot in a rock formation.
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