June 25, 2019
Everyone I have met while doing advanced canyons has some special ability/super power that they bring to the canyons. There are many canyoneers who are amazing down climbers. Some are really knowledgeable with rope work, navigation, photography, some are really fit. Some are big and can capture and lift people, some are small and are the first people out of potholes and the last people on rappel. My greatest power is that I worry.
My first time leading Zero Gravity - my first canyon by the way, I remember realizing that there is a keeper pothole we would have to pass and being absolutely terrified the days prior to the trip - even though I had already been in the canyon before. My first time going through a skinny slot was East Leprechaun. I remember pouring over beta and pictures the weeks before our trip to make sure we were completely prepared.
I have nightmares the night before and after every single trip - no matter if it's an exploration where I have no beta or if it's a canyon I've soloed. I still have nightmares where I slip while stemming, bounce a couple of times on my way down, and then wonder how I got to the bottom of a canyon and why I am in so much pain. Of course when I am descending the canyons I feel perfectly fine, even at the crux.
When I prepare for trips I spend an enormous amount of time looking at possible approaches, landmarks to watch for, longest rappels, possible escapes, etc. And of course when I go to the canyon I never even pull out the notes I took because I have everything memorized. I often get people asking me if I have descended the canyon before just because I seem to know the route so well.
I worry that someone in my group will get injured. Will I be able to keep a level head? Will we be able to get them out safely or get SAR here in time? I keep up to date on my Wilderness First Aid certification and have been lucky enough to never need to use it, but will that be enough? Should I get my Wilderness First Responder? Wilderness EMT?
What if we encounter a pothole so massive we cannot easily escape it? What if we encounter a drop and there is absolutely no way to rig a rappel? What if we come to a slot so skinny we can't fit through but it's impossible to get up above it?
These questions have led me down the path to planning more, being more prepared, safer, more efficient, and hopefully being a valuable asset to my group.
So what's the point of this article? I suppose it would be a challenge to become super good at something so you can become an asset to your team. And then invite me on one of your trips, of course :D