Fat Man's Misery June 2017

June 8, 2017

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This is the first time I have ever dropped into the wrong drainage.

I intended for us to do the east fork since neither of us had done it. It wasn’t until we were at the first rappel that I said to Randy, "This looks exactly like the first rappel of the west fork."

I create my own GPX routes and tend to get carried away with the details I add. I marked the west fork drainage point so I would know NOT to turn down there. I remember going down the drainage thinking that it didn’t look like it connected properly to the other fork but just kept going. Didn’t matter, though. There are some really cool places in the west fork that I was sad to miss so I’m glad I got to experience them again.

Morning at the highway

We started around 8:00 and quickly worked our way up the saddle and around to the back side of Checkerboard Mesa.

A few short breaks for water and we found ourselves bypassing the many potholes that make up the top layer of the canyon. Randy thinks that it would be fun to come done here one day and "practice" pothole escapes by going from the bottom up. I nodded in agreement and we continue onward. Perhaps someday we can spend a few days back behind Checkerboard, hit both forks, and maybe spend an afternoon playing in the potholes to cool off, practice escaping, and scaring the thousands of tadpoles whose homes we are invading.

We arrive at the first rappel, I realize my mistake, and we decide to keep going instead of backtracking to the other fork. We are doing Heaps in two days and this is our fitness canyon and we don't want it to be too hard.

Fat Man’s Misery West has 4 arches (natural bridges, actually). These two are found near the beginning before the confluence with East.

Randy got a big smile when he came upon this first arch
This arch is easily missed – you can bypass the downclimb to get to it and never realize it is there.

We reach the confluence after an hour or so. It’s pretty obvious where it is because the canyon really opens up for a bit before slotting up again. We hand-lined the drop down and continued onward.

After the confluence with East, the slot only gets better and better

Eventually we reach my favorite part of the canyon and one of the best parts of any canyon I have ever experienced. The canyon is a flowing stream now and we reach a very dark, serene chamber. The final two arches are located within this little area and requires a short swim in warm water to continue.

I had to do a lot of tweaking on the images below to get them to be anything but black. This little section, combined with everything before it and the Parunuweap narrows after, make this canyon worth every step of the impending exit. Absolutely spectacular.

Randy under 3rd arch
Final arch – we swapped places for this picture

After this dark chamber we encounter Warm Spring – a little waterfall coming out of the rock that drastically warms up the water in the canyon. Then comes a series of water slides. The canyon finally ends in a grotto where it drains into Parunuweap, the East Fork of the Virgin River.

End of Fat Man's
Confluence Fat Man’s Misery and Parunuweap

We are now done with the technical section and it’s about lunchtime so we gear down and take a break to enjoy this hidden treasure so few people will ever see. It is such a peaceful place.

We have a quarter of a mile or so of river walking before we reach our exit point. This section is exactly like the famous Zion Narrows except for two key differences:

  1. It is completely void of other people.
  2. The bottom of the river is either sand or bedrock, so it’s much easier to walk without stumbling.
At the exit there is this memorial plaque

A very long and difficult hike back to the car takes up the rest of the day and all our energy reserves. On the way back, though, we were privileged to be near some of the more amazing animals I have seen in the park.

Half tadpoles, half frogs
Many fully grown frogs were hanging out on the canyon walls near potholes
There are three desert bighorn sheep in this picture
This big guy was hanging out on a rock right in the middle of the trail. He stuck around for a while and allowed us to walk around him and take pictures from many angles. With his tail he was over a foot long.

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