Sometime around the middle of last week, the San Rafael Swell called my name again. I headed out with my friends Courtney and Steve to run Eardley Canyon, which is very near to Zero Gravity (see previous post). It was one of those days where I think that life can’t really get much better and I am really able to realize what a great life I lead and how happy I am living and working in Moab.
The approach took us the better part of three hours. We hiked about an hour up a large canyon wash, which been bone dry a week ago when we were searching for petroglyphs before Zero Gravity. This week, however, it was essentially a river, as it had large amounts of water flowing down and we leapt over rocks and slippery mud, paying close attention to each and every step we took. We then began our ascent along the rim of Eardley. This is a somewhat punishing approach due to how much elevation you gain, and we timed it so that we began the uphill battle at about noon. All the aches and pains that my body was going through, however, were paid off in the incredibly rewarding views of Eardley, the rest of the Swell and as far off in the distance as the La Sal Mountains, which loom over the Moab Valley.
By the time we sat down for lunch, the three of us were convinced that we had never sweated so much in our lives and were thankful for some food. There was some concern about mounting cloud cover, and as the canyon was already nearly a river, we didn’t want to get caught in a flash flood. Steve hiked up a ways more to be able to see and scout out the clouds a little bit better, while Courtney and I cowered in what little shade was available and told jokes. Eventually, we decided the weather was not a big concern, and the reward was much greater than the risk. We dropped in through a super steep gully and were instantly rewarded by shade and the cooling effect of the water running through the canyon.
Eardley was a radically different canyon from Zero Gravity, which was really interesting because they are so near each other. Whereas ZG was incredibly narrow and allowed for lots of stemming, Eardley was quite wide and most of our trek through was similar to our hike up the wash, with Steve leaping gracefully from rock to rock and Courtney and I slipping, sliding and falling in the mud. With so much water in the canyon, we ended up doing a lot of swimming through the potholes, which was really fun.
There were supposed to be 5 rappels in the canyon, but we ended up only doing 4. They were all in the last 500 or so meters of the canyon. The first rappel was described in the canyon info Steve had brought as being the most candy-ass rappel, whatever that means. We laughed about it almost the whole time, and when we arrived at that rappel, it proved to be a one-hundred percent accurate description. Instead of going through the trouble of setting up the rappel, we just used a hand-line and did some sketchy down-climbing. The rock face led straight down into what I will refer to as the Mank Tank, a large pothole, full of water and debris that had collected as a result of the flash (think sticks, dirt, more sticks and potentially some dead animals, although we didn’t see any). It was so deep I couldn’t touch the bottom, but that was pretty typical for most of the potholes we went through. I think I’m still picking small pieces of juniper branches out of my hair (kidding).
The next four rappels were mildly terrifying, as we were basically rappelling through waterfalls, which made the normally grippy sandstone incredibly slippery and hard to brace yourself. We were all soaked from all the swimming, and by this time, the sun had faded from the canyon, meaning that Steve and I were both shivering uncontrollably. The last rappel was a fifty footer, into a huge pothole, and I slipped going down, cutting my knuckles a bit with the rope. We had to cut the rope after that one, because we couldn’t get it out of the bolts due to the angle of where we were at the bottom and where the bolts were located.
We exited the canyon and came out into the wash at about 8:30 pm. The sun was still up, and it felt great to strip off wet cotton clothes and put on a long-sleeve quick dry layer. Unfortunately, our hike back down the wash led us toward the east, because the sunset over the Swell was absolutely incredible whenever we looked back. We barely made it back to the truck before the sun went down and ended our epic adventure with a few celebratory PBRs. Unfortunately, we had ended our day too late to make it back to Ray’s in Green River or Milt’s in Moab for some greasy chow and more malted beverages.