Canyonlands – March 26-30

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Canyonlands is a great place. We went there at the end (hopefully) of this long winter, the best part being as one runner friend said, is “so we can touch actual earth for a change”.

Elephant Butte Indeed.

We started by going up Elephant Butte. It had some tricky spots. It’s not called “adventure running” for nothing.

We then moved on to a canyon called Bighorn. The weather was in the 60’s, the sun was out, and … no mud or snow!

The slickrock country of course is amazing. Miles and miles of pure sandstone, blue skies … and dry ground.

Bighorn required us to employ an unusual anchor for a rappel. Two of us lay spread eagle on the slightly sloping slickrock, while the other two in turn rapped 100′ down to gentler ground, with nothing but body weight anchoring the rope. The first person down got hung up on an overhanging section, which dragged us two “anchors” 6″ across the rock, causing an anxious moment. Then the second to last (and lightest, since now there is only one person anchoring the system) rapped off. The very last person of course has to figure out something else entirely, which in this case was a thin downclimb finished off with a two person shoulder stand. Anyone observing this might wonder if we were trying to win the Darwin Award, but it actually works well:

The next day we were in the Needles District, and tried to find a way into Lower Salt Creek. None of the backcountry rangers knew anything about it or had heard of anyone doing it; thus the obvious allure. This day turned out to be a good example of adventure running: we failed. We bushwacked for 5 straight hours along the rim of the canyon, continually trying to find a way down into it, which turned out to be impossible without a lot more rope than we had.

 

Which was fine. The terrain was bigger and better than we were, which is how it should be. You can’t complain when nature wins. And there was no mud.

The Needles of course are a great place for running. The NPS does a great job of marking trails, which tend to have much more of a wilderness quality than what most of us are used to. And there’s plenty of places with no trails …

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More photos: http://gallery.mac.com/buzzburrell#100015

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