to Keyhole and beyond

Continuing my little monologue about my trip to Zion we now find me, along with Paul, on my way to Keyhole Canyon, a slot canyon on the east side of Zion National Park. Since we knew the water would be both at high levels from rain the week before and really freakin’ cold, we were set up with our drysuits and lots of warm clothes underneath. Keyhole Canyon is probably the quickest and most accessible canyon in Zion, but in my opinion also one of the most beautiful. I love spending time in there and Paul and I were set to play on through and take lots of pictures. At the parking spot we met a photographer who asked if he could come along and take some pictures of us at the beginning of each section of the canyon. His name is Sandy Ritson (sandy@sandyritson.com, www.sandyritson.com) and he was driving from the east coast to the west coast and taking pictures along the way on spec for a travel magazine. I’m always happy to introduce people to canyoneering so we brought him along as we hiked up to the entrance of the first section. Here we suited up in our drysuits, but not yet our harnesses, since the first slot only has lots of scrambling over keystones and short drops. After suiting up we headed on in to the canyon, pausing briefly at the first drop into water to allow Sandy to take a few pictures. We wandered lackadaisically  through the slot, stopping to examine walls and take lots of pictures. Eventually we reached the end of this section and stopped to grab a bite and to harness up for the rappels. The technical part of the canyon starts with 3 relatively short rappels into the dark depths of the slot. Down here the walls curve over the top to block out all but a small amount of light. This of course makes it difficult to photograph, particularly since I left the tripod in the car. Judicious use of walls to lean against and high iso values for the camera did allow me to get some reasonably sharp pictures of this section however. Sandy showed up to get some snaps of us rapping in and so off we swam into the heart of the canyon. After doing the rappels there is an extended walk through the narrow and often sharply angled canyon as well as a few sections of swimming. We once again took our time absorbing the ambience of one of the more strange environments you will ever find yourself in. Eventually, unfortunately, we had to reach the end. And so we emerged into the bright fall sun of Zion at the end of the canyon. A short walk through a tunnel carved under the road and we were back at the car.

This place, along with much of Zion, really is a wonderland. The colours and shapes of the rock are astounding, and in the fall and winter you are more likely then not to have the technical canyons to yourself. If you have the skills and the time I can’t recommend a trip to Zion enough for refreshing your soul and giving you a new appreciation of just what it is that nature surrounds us with. Even if you aren’t going to do any rappeling the hikes in Zion are astounding enough in themselves.

Anyhow, here are the pictures from the canyon

Keyhole Canyon

(please click through the above link to see the full gallery on http://www.duffyknox.com)

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