Logistics of Zion AdventuresJenn is awesome at finding logistics. She plowed through all the top sites for Zion canyoneering shuttles but nobody seemed to be offering a reasonable shuttle service for Subway. We were to the point of looking for rental cars in St George, when I came across Zion Guru on Rope Wiki. Jenn said she would call them, mostly just to placate me, but they offered a very reasonable shuttle service to Subway. We solved the problems that we could solve and the Subway trip was looking good again. It’s important to realize that, sometimes, the best solution is to pull the ripcord and abort the trip. The weather reports were touch and go. For example, the day before we arrived in Zion a group of hikers had to form a human chain to escape the Virgin River flooding in The Narrows. The backcountry ranger
Outfitting Our Zion Canyon AdventureWe entered Zion Guru not really knowing what to expect. We were told for liability reasons, we would be using store equipment. That is fair enough. Every ropes course we worked on has had the same rules. When we would run professional trips, we had to log every piece of equipment so it stayed within its operating limits. Looking around the store, there were a lot of accouterments that we didn’t even think to bring. For example, they offer a Zion Narrows gear pack rental of canyoneering shoes, neoprene socks, and a hiking stick. There were all kinds of packs to rent, rain gear, and even bio bags so you can pack out what you bring in. Becca’s husband, Nick, opted for a pair of canyoneering shoes to replace his Chacos and a sturdy pack so we wouldn’t be scraping his bulky, waterproof pack through narrow canyons.
Zion Canyoneering TourJenn, Becca, Nick and myself all listened eagerly to Jonathan’s instructions on how to put on our gear. The harness was a standard canyoneering design with a skid plate on the back to allow you to “butt scootch”. We had a helmet, of course, and an ATS belay device. (The ATS is similar to a rescue 8, with what they call “hyper horns” that allow you to lock off your device and quickly modify the friction.) Finally, we latched on our personal anchor and an extra length of rope to tie a friction knot or autoblock to back up the rappel. As soon as we reached the first rock, Jonathan started to improvise. A large family group was on rope in front of us moving very slowly. We hooked right and scrambled up a dry falls. There was just enough exposure to get your blood pumping. It was also obvious that the canyoneering shoes Nick rented had super sticky properties. Our next obstacle was an exposed traverse that we hooked into the rope for a safety. Again, Nick’s shoes and agility allowed him to glide across the rock, while the rest of us used the safety rope for some degree of comfort and aiding.
The Final Rappel of our Zion AdventureIt was Nick’s turn to set anchor. He measured out a lot of rope. Tied a beautiful BFK. Closed the system and clipped in. I always thought the term sweating bullets was just an expression, however, the nervous perspiration was beginning to accumulate at Nick’s feet. He shared a little trepidation, just so Becca would know it was ok, but all she heard was fear creeping in. Nick dropped down like a champ and soon the rope was open again. Jenn and I encouraged Becca to go next. I have a working theory on the half-life of courage that is how long it takes your bravado to be half of what you started with. For me, it’s about 15 minutes. So, if I’m going to do something scary, I better do it quick or I’m going to wimp out. In the experiential learning cycle you look to expand your comfort zone by entering the experiential zone but stay out of the panic zone. We could tell Becca was getting on the wrong side of her experiential zone because she was starting to loop. She kept saying over and over again how she just couldn’t make it. She clipped in her safety to peer over the edge and it didn’t make things any better. No matter what Jenn and I said, we couldn’t get her on rope. As a compromise, I decided to go next and show her how it’s done.
My Rapelling Adventure at ZionFor me, a 200’ rappel is much like a 50’ rappel. I have been on rope enough to trust my gear and my training. This drop was well within my comfort zone, which doesn’t make me objectively better or worse. I was just having a different experience on the rock. In many ways, I wasn’t expanding my comfort zone at all. As I double and triple checked my gear, I could feel the task loading creeping in, along with nervous excitement. The autoblock (third hand) I have been clipping in all night just didn’t look right. I tried sliding it up and down but the rope weight made the friction feel too tight. I wasn’t afraid of falling, I was afraid of binding up 5’ over the edge. Still, it was my job not to show fear. As soon as I confirmed in my head that the slip knot was indeed slipping, I went over the edge.
Finding Your ZenWith a rush of half relief, half release and half conquering hero, she let go of her “Becca Off Rope!” at the bottom. It’s moments like this that 150% alive is not only possible but expected. She made it down and she will always have that accomplishment. That day, Becca did something truly amazing, that few people ever do. Not many people would do a 200’ drop on their first day. What was truly spectacular is that she willed herself back into her functioning zone by focusing her mind. It’s one thing to get on rope when you don’t feel fear. It is even braver, to get on rope despite your fear. Shunryu Suzuki-Roishi, a spiritual master said – “When you are practicing zazen (sitting meditation), do not try to stop your thinking. Let it stop by itself. If something comes into your mind, let it come in, and let it go out. It will not stay long. When you try to stop your thinking, it means you are bothered by it. Do not be bothered by anything. It appears as if something comes from outside your mind, but actually, it is only the waves of your mind, and if you are not bothered by the waves, gradually they will become calmer and calmer.” This is exactly how Jonathan talked her off the ledge. Take one foot of rope at a time. Experience it and then let it pass. I wonder if it was this philosophy that let a boy from New Jersey sell everything he has to set up shop in Zion? Hopefully, it’s something that Becca can hold on to during the uncertainty with her company. I know it’s something that Jenn and I will need to find life outside of the cubical as adventure writers or what ever else the waves have in store for us. With any luck, we’ll continue to meet incredible people along the way, like Jonathan and Becca, to teach and inspire us.
Options for Zion Adventure ToursZion Guru isn’t about supplying elite outdoor athletes. It’s about inspiring and empowering visitors with the right gear and information so they can explore Zion. Their main services are:
- Outfitting – Zion Guru offers rental gear, advice, and shuttle services to support Narrows trips, day hikes, self guided canyoneering.
- Canyoneering Guides – Canyoneering is a combination of hiking, climbing, rappelling, and swimming. Half day, full day and even multi day guided trips are available to introduce and teach these skills and empower you to explore more of nature.
- Rock Climbing Tours – There is a power in focusing your world into the raw simplicity of rock climbing. Jonathan describes it as “a vertical path to the mind-body connection.” If you think the red walls of Zion are amazing to look at, imagine climbing them.