Spence Andersen

When the challenge is accepted to do something that defies all logic, there is more than ego that is at stake. What would you do if the opportunity presents itself?

For those who have attempted to get backcountry passes for Pine Creek Canyon in Zion National Park, and have failed, I have the perfect solution. In fact, I can pretty much guarantee that you will have absolutely no competition for the coveted golden ticket to canyoneer one of the most popular canyons in Zion.

The solution is to go right after New Year’s Day.

Recently, a group of friends and I did just that. We arrived in the park as the sun was starting to come up and we made our way to the Visitor’s Center where the backcountry desk is located. When we got to the backcountry desk, it obviously was closed because who in their right mind is going to go canyoneering in a water slot canyon when it is 6, freezing cold, degrees outside.

I’m pretty sure the park ranger thought our brains had frozen when we told her what we were planning on doing, but nonetheless she consented as we gave her our word that we were not demented, and that we were, indeed, of sound mind.

We made our way to the drop-in point of Pine Creek Canyon and began to gear up. Due to my previous multiple dives in the Puget Sound in Washington State, I came prepared with my dry suit as well as my wool pants, socks and sweater. I also made sure that I had my neoprene socks, gloves and dive hood. To top it all off, I wore a mechanic’s coveralls because the last thing that I need is a tear in my dry suit. I got plenty of laughs, and jabs from the rest of the guys, and who can blame them. I looked ridiculous! But, as proven later on in the trip, I was warm and dry!

We dropped into the canyon on the other side of the bridge just past the tunnel and started into the water channel. We should have turned back when, not more than two minutes in, one of my buddies broke through the ice and jammed his shin against the jagged edge of the frozen creek. But as frozen idiots do, we pushed on.

As we yanked anchors and chains out of the frozen, snow covered wall, and rappelled in on the first rappel, we were committed for what turned out to be one of the best canyoneering trips that I had been on in a long while.

I must say, however, that as beautiful as that canyon is during the summer time, it is spectacular during the winter.

Frozen waterfalls in The Cathedral provide some of the most picturesque images that lie indelible in my mind. On with the hike!

Probably one of the most insane parts of the trip was when we were swimming through a deep pond and had to push two and a half inch thick sheets of ice out of the way so we could make it to the other side. I remember thinking, “Am I really doing this?” In all my years living in Alaska, never once did I purposely climb into a body of water covered with ice, and now here I am.

On another rappel into the water where you had to do a floating “off-rope,” the dry suit came in handy. While everyone at this point was starting to get cold, I was still feeling like a champ. Who’s laughing now? I was warm, dry and floating quite a bit out of the water.

After many rappels, swims and down-climbs, eventually we came to the last rappel down the face of a waterfall, and finally into the sun.

The hike out proved to be the hardest overall. Not because the terrain was extremely difficult, though it was pretty full of boulders and deadfall trees. Not that the length was overbearing, even though it wasn’t exactly short either. It wasn’t even because the hike from the river bottom to the road was too steep that made the hike out a little difficult. However, it was a pretty hefty elevation gain.

It was because of all of my wonderful gear that kept me so warm and dry, particularly the coveralls that were soaking wet. All that gear became a bit on the heavy side.

I guess everyone else got the last laugh.{img src=”http://beacon.deseretconnect.com/beacon.gif?cid=248332&pid=97” alt=”” /}

Dr. Spencer Andersen is an outdoor enthusiast as well as a chiropractic physician, at Family Health and Rehab, who specializes in Upper Cervical chiropractic as well as auto accident injuries. Email: andersen.spence@gmail.com, www.nowhiplash.com