Friday, September 24, 2010

The Cathedral of Light

Confluence with Buckskin

Entering Wire Pass

Paria River

Buckskin Gulch. It's the grand poo bah of slot canyons. It's a temple to something ... but we couldn't decide what. We set off to do Buckskin Gulch, basically a two day hike. With three days scheduled and a permit to do it. Five of us met, from all corners of the globe to take on the elusive hike. Two years ago we met (some of us) and canceled due to the risk of exposure. We hiked the Paria River instead.

Andre de Saint-Obin (Netherlands), Walter and Hamilton Pinto from Alberta, Canada, and the Happy Hiking Guy (Chris Raye) and I met at the White House on the Paria River in Southern Utah camp this past week, to connect, reconnect and take on Buckskin again (I secretly suspect that the real reason was to cook and eat, test out new stuff, and brag tell stories about what we've done).

The following day the weather report was for 60% chance of heavy rain in the form of thunderstorms. Perfect recipe for a flash flood.

For those of you that don't know, Buckskin Gulch is a slot canyon, an extremely narrow channel formed by centuries of flash floods, sometimes so narrow that you have to stand sideways to get through. If there were a flood and you were in the canyon -- you would surely parish. In the 12 miles of this narrow slot canyon, you would be pulverized by a slurry of water rock and boulders. The route is 12.5 miles and has two escapes from the canyon, one at 6 miles and one at the far end. There might be opportunities to escape a modest flow at various points along the route, but a full on flood, doubtful.

So put a gun to my head ... with only two bullets in it. We talked about going ahead with the plan. I said no, I wouldn't go -- there was some debate. I have kids and family, friends who are counting on me. I can't possibly go there. I can not possibly go into that canyon, or any canyon around here, with that weather report. You guys go ahead, I'll run into Page and get some supplies, and be around camp. The four of them hiked a few miles into Paria River canyon, and out. It rained some, but the flood never materialized.

The next day the weather was clear and we hiked into Wire Pass to the confluence with Buckskin and hiked an hour or so down canyon. I am thinking 2.5 to 3 miles, because we were so excited. Except for one spot, it was dry throughout the length we traveled. We didn't complete our planned overnight, now complete the full length of the canyon, but now with the combined two trip we have done a large part of the route. Perhaps next year.

Wire Pass and Buckskin are amazing places. We saw log jams above in the sky 30-40 feet up. it went on forever, a cathedral of red rock and light, opening in small channels to the sky, a polished red rock surface scoured by water, profoundly visceral. A manifestation of incredible power.

1 comment:

jane said...

Truly awesome! Thanks for the pics and write up.