A DAY SLOT CANYONEERING IN UTAH
Ever since I saw a photo of a slot canyon I wanted to get in one and photograph it for myself. Due to the well known Antelope Slot Canyon in North Eastern Arizona being run by the native Indians and you have to take a guided tour that was booked up for months we went in search of one elsewhere.
An afternoon of googling and I found a target in the direction we were heading, it’s located in Escalante-Grand Staircase National Monument.
We arrived at the visitor center near the monument and met a very helpful ranger who gave us some good advice and a map to where the best slot canyons were. We set off trying to get there before mid day to see the beams of light in the canyons, this only happens for a couple of hours in the middle of the day.
This remote destination took us down a very rough 30-mile (50km) gravel road which seemed to go on forever. On the way we explored a couple of side roads and found a site where you can see Dinosaur foot prints, they took us a while to find but once we saw them they were very obvious.
After a bone rattling drive we finally made it to a car park in the middle of nowhere, map and bottle of water in tow we set off and trekked down the gorge towards the valley floor. The track wasn’t very well defined and we managed to end up within 100m of the first canyon, only problem was the 30-foot (10m) drop to the valley floor! Fail!
We followed the edge of the canyon back around and finally met back up with the track, by this time we had added another couple of miles to our trek and it was getting hot! (I checked when we got back to the car and it was 95F (35C).
Finally steeping into the shadow of our first slot canyon called Peek-a-Boo we quickly realised that this wasn’t going to be easy. There was a 12-foot vertical wall we had to scramble up before getting into the entrance of the canyon. Making it especially hard was having to carry my camera and tripod.
I scrambled up and then pulled Lauren up after, first obstacle out of the way. The next couple of accents were also very challenging, especially when I balanced my camera on a ledge above me assuming it was flat.. it wasn’t! My camera went tumbling over the edge out of sight, all we heard was what sounded like my camera lens smashing into a million pieces. It look me a minute or so to figure out how to get up to see how far it had actually fell! Finally scrambling up and seeing that it had dropped a good meter, I was expecting to pick it up in pieces.
I lifted it out of the dust and had a good look over it, luckily I had my remote trigger mounted on top of the camera body and it took most of the impact. Sadly it didn’t survive but luckily my camera and lens did!
This wasn’t the last obstacle we had though. It look a lot of team work to get up into this canyon. Lauren having to continually pass my camera up to me once I had climbed up this smooth vertical surface, once I was up I was then able to pull her up.
This slot canyon was amazing and since it was so hard to get into we had it all to ourselves! We spent a good 45 minutes exploring the canyon right to the very end, every narrow passage we encountered was followed by a “WOW”.
It was a real challenge for both of us but it was so worth it, simply spectacular!
The next canyon was a mile hike further down the main canyon, it was called Spooky Slot Canyon and it was very different to what we had just experienced at Peek-a-Boo.
This canyon quickly narrowed to a tight squeeze. Shuffling down the canyon sideways was interesting in some places, I couldn’t even turn my head it was so narrow. You wouldn’t want to be claustrophobic at all, this would freak you out!
Finishing the day with a vertical climb back out of the canyon to our car was exhausting and by the time we got back we were nearly ready to collapse. After smashing a litre of water each and having some lunch we recovered quickly and headed to our next camping spot.
Over all visiting these canyons was well worth the rough roads and challenging climbs, it was a great experience but next time we will be taking more water!
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