Excerpt of Between a Rock and a Hard Place by Aron Ralston
(Page 7 of 15)
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We walk thirty feet and come to another drop-off. The walls are much closer
now, only two to three feet apart. Megan throws her backpack over the drop
before shimmying down between the walls, while Kristi takes a few pictures. I
watch Megan descend and help her by pointing out the best handholds and
footholds. When Megan is at the bottom of the drop, she discovers that her pack
is soaking wet. It turns out her hydration-system hose lost its nozzle when she
tossed the pack over the ledge, and was leaking water into the sand. She quickly
finds the blue plastic nozzle and stops the water's hemorrhage, saving her from
having to return to the trailhead. While it's not a big deal that her pack is
wet, she has lost precious water. I descend last, my pack on my back and my
delicate cameras causing me to get stuck briefly between the walls at several constrictions. Squirming
my way over small chockstones, I stem my body across the gap between the walls
to follow the plunging canyon floor. There is a log wedged in the slot at one
point, and I use it like a ladder on a smooth section of the skinny-people-only
While the day up above the rim rock is getting warmer, the air down in the
canyon becomes cooler as we enter a four-hundred-yard-long section of the canyon
where the walls are over two hundred feet high but only fifteen feet apart.
Sunlight never reaches the bottom of this slot. We pick up some raven's
feathers, stick them in our hats, and pause for photographs.
A half mile later, several side canyons drop into the Main Fork where we are
walking, as the walls open up to reveal the sky and a more distant perspective
of the cliffs downcanyon. In the sun once again, we stop to share two of my
melting chocolate bars. Kristi offers some to Megan, who declines, and Kristi
says, "I really can't eat all this chocolate by myself...Never mind, yes I
can," and we laugh together.
We come to an uncertain consensus that this last significant tributary off to
the left of the Main Fork is the West Fork, which means it's the turnoff for
Kristi and Megan to finish their circuit back to the main dirt road about four
miles away. We get hung up on saying our goodbyes when Kristi suggests,
"Come on, Aron, hike out with us -- we'll go get your truck, hang out, and
have a beer."
I'm dedicated to finishing my planned tour, so I counter, "How about
this? -- you guys have your harnesses, I have a rope -- you should come with me
down through the lower slot and do the Big Drop rappel. We can hike out...see
the Great Gallery...I'll give you a lift back to your truck."
"How far is it?" asks Megan.
"Another eight miles or so, I think."
"What? You won't get out before dark! Come on, come with us."
"I really have my heart set on doing the rappel and seeing the
petroglyphs. But I'll come around to the Granary Spring Trailhead to meet you
when I'm done."
This they agree to. We sit and look at the maps one more time, confirming our
location on the Blue John map from the canyoneering guidebook we'd each used to
find this remote slot. In my newest copy of Michael Kelsey's Canyon Hiking
Guide to the Colorado Plateau, there are over a hundred canyons described,
each with its own hand-sketched map. Drawn by Kelsey from his personal
experience in each canyon, the technical maps and route descriptions are works
of art. With cross sections of tricky slots, identifications of hard-to-find
petroglyphs and artifact sites, and details of required rappelling equipment,
anchor points, and deep-water holes, the book offers enough information for you
to sleuth your way through a decision or figure out where you are, but not a
single item extra. After we put away the maps, we stand up, and Kristi says,
"That picture in the book makes those paintings look like ghosts; they're
kind of spooky. What kind of energy do you think you'll find at the
From Between A Rock and a Hard Place by Aron
Ralston, pages 1-30. Copyright © 2004 by Aron Ralston. All rights
reserved, no part of this excerpt maybe reproduced without specific permission
from the publisher.