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John Govi prepares to lower into Glen Canyon

I inched down the wall slowly, hesitant to look out. Three-hundred feet straight down was the bottom of the amphitheater floor. Gazing in that direction made me queasy, so I focused on the rope and belay device in front of me. But an unsettling sight greeted me there too—a deep dark crack jammed with old ropes, sacrificed life lines that all had epic stories to tell. I didn’t want to add to that history of epics, which is why Govi was going last, to carefully arrange our gear away from the rope-eater and ensure that we had cordage enough to reach the bottom. But that meant I was going first. So here I was, trying to not look down while peering across the cliff face for a ledge to land on.
It came into view, a menagerie of webbing and chains secured to a couple bolts in the rock. I was relieved to see it, but discouraged that it was twenty feet to my right. A simple pendulum would have me at the anchor, but nothing is simple when you are 150 feet off the deck. I crept to the right, keeping my feet on the wall while using my one free hand—my left hand, the wrong one—to grab holds in the sandstone. The closer I got, the more angle I created in my rappel rope. If I lost grip now I’d be going for a swing across the cliff. I was not psyched about that possibility. I stepped carefully, and leaned, staring at the webbing as if I could coax it my direction. It was only a few feet away. I took a breath, then made a few final steps followed by a short lunge. I gripped the webbing, pulled myself to it, and put my feet on a six-inch ledge. Exhale.

Snackin and rappin

When Lisa joined me on the ledge, we agreed that the endeavor wasn’t exactly fun, but we were having a great time nonetheless. It was even better once reaching the bottom, where monuments of sandstone soared all around, fluted and varnished and looming over bright green leaves of redbud trees, miniature in their surroundings. The only way to get here was from up there, and so we came, through slots and over drops and across pools, even employing a packraft to stay dry at a particularly manky head deep mud puddle. Now that the crux was behind us, the rest was all glory, fun even, as we wound deeper into the heart of Glen Canyon.

Packraft pool crossing

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