June 9, 2017
Canyons are the trash bins of Mother Nature. It’s where all the dead trees, dead animals, loose dirt, boulders, feces, etc. end up once they are no longer needed. Lower Refrigerator has the distinction of being the canyon that is not only Mother Nature’s trash bin but Angel’s Landing hikers’ trash bin as well. I have never seen so much trash in a canyon.
We were originally scheduled to do Lower Echo but didn’t win the lottery for the permits. Plan B was Observation Point Canyon, but we needed something short and easy because this was supposed to be a rest day. We didn’t have a second vehicle to set up a shuttle so we opted to do Lower Refrigerator instead. Neither of us had done it yet and it fit the short and easy criteria so it won out.
We started at the Grotto mid-morning and made quick work of the approach hike. We waited for a brief moment when there wasn’t anybody around and dropped into the canyon below the bridge. At every step there was a discarded or dropped article of clothing, camera, sunglasses, or toilet paper. More than any other canyon, I watched my step those first few hundred feet.
The top contains two optional rappels. We down climbed the first one but decided to rappel the second one after replacing the accessory cord used in place of webbing. If I ever do this canyon again I’ll attempt to down climb it.
Apparently at the bottom of the second rappel there may be a pool. It was just sand and I carelessly rappelled down into it without realizing it was a hole that I had to climb out of. I directed Randy out of the hole and we rigged the final drop sequence. 2 rappels and 300 or so feet later we found ourselves at the bottom and done with the technical section. Very short indeed.
We agreed it was a quiet and scenic grotto considering we were surrounded by hordes of tourists hiking Angel’s Landing. One of us suggested we stay for a while so we ended up finding some comfortable slickrock and sleeping for about an hour. That little rest spot made the canyon worthwhile for me. I’d do it again if I know there will be enough time to rest at the bottom before hiking out.
The ranger at the wilderness desk encouraged us to pack out as much garbage as we could. If I had known how much there would be, I would have brought a garbage sack and one of those grabber sticks to pick up the otherwise unreachable trash in the crevasses where my hands won’t reach. This time I could only fill my pockets and there were a few pieces of garbage I refused to touch.
Among the better stuff was a brand new hat, a generic brand go-pro, and a camera flash. Everything was smashed and unusable, but fun to look at nonetheless.
A short hike through some boulders and small stream brought us back to the Angel’s Landing trail and ended the canyoneering for the day.