Canyoneering Pandora's Box, Capitol Reef National Park, UT
Latest Rave by special guest star, Dan Ransom
I've been hounding Malia for the last couple of weeks, trying to persuade her to endure the heat and show me through Pandora's Box. After a couple of weeks of nearly hooking up, the timing finally worked for Sunday, and off we went. It would be a one night stand for Brandon and I, as we left from Provo late Saturday afternoon and would return Sunday.
736 ounces of Gatorade, a couple of Rockstars, and a full tank of gas... Yeah, I think we're ready for a canyon hit-and-run. Who cares if it is high summer and temperatures might hover around a hundred degrees? My brother is in town from Lake Tahoe, and we need a nice physical canyon to appease his appetite for some slotty sandstone. With just one or two distractions on the way down, we rolled into the trailhead at about 10:00 pm, threw out some gear and hit the sack. It was a very breezy 70 degrees most of the night.
I have a tendency to be easily sidetracked around sunset. Saturday night’s diversion: a dirt road off U-24 in the middle of nowhere, while driving to Capitol Reef.
Sleep easy there young fella, tomorrow’s a big day.
Giddy Up! Knock down that Rockstar and powerup… Sheeee-ite!
With a thicker skull than the average canyoneer, Brandon Ransom apparently has no need for a helmet. I’ve been told he won’t make that silly mistake again. Heading down the first rappel of a very fun entry sequence.
Some nice light and nice sculpting early on.
Like two deer in the headlights, Pandora’s lure draws Malia and Brandon deeper and deeper into the slot.
Brandon, a little farther down the entry rappels.
The wingate sandstone of Pandora's reveals a character to the canyon that is somewhat unique. Cross joints intersect in a kaleidoscope of canyons, suddenly revealing short stretches of canyon, lush with vegetation and protected by walls of varnished sandstone. After a few hundred feet, the grottos slam shut, and it you are presented with an array of cracks in the walls to try and exit. Picking the correct slot is like some type of game show, where the contestant gets to pick what's behind any of 5 different doors. But instead of doors, you get super-skinny slots, and instead of new cars, you get another chance to scrape some skin.
Once the entry rappels are finished, it's time for the business: a super skinny slot that has to be climbed up and over. The crux of the canyon is a section maybe a hundred yards long, that is maybe 6 or 7 inches wide on the bottom. Right about now I realize that lugging a 160 ounces of water and a pull cord through here isn't going to be fun, and I slowly begin the neverending cycle of downclimbing. Stem a few feet. Yank, kick and pull my pack until it slides down canyon a few feet. Wipe sweat from brow. Curse my pack. Stem a few more feet. Repeat.
Fortunately, the crux is early on in the business, and the remaining mae west situations aren't nearly as long or as strenuous. But Pandora's Box is still full of surprises, with tons of awkward downclimbs and rappels that are very enjoyable to negotiate, especially when in the company of the innovative Malia. Let's just say we saw a move that started with a near handstand, upside down with feet in the air, and ended with a reversed Fosbury Flop (y'know, like high jumpers use?) up and over and constriction and down a little chimney, ending right side up. All I could say was wow. You had to be there to truly enjoy the brilliance of it all.
Some of the first stemming sections, taking B off the deck. Some very real places in this slot that certainly held my attention, sometimes stemming 20 or 30 feet off the ground.
Malia makes the squeeze into another chamber.
Not sure who the crappy photographer is on this, can’t seem to focus properly. Oh well, you get the idea.
All smiles, all the time. Malia taking it up an over another super-slot.
I think it is safe to say Malia is way more talented of a downclimber than me. She seems to actually enjoy it…
Malia up high, Dan down low. Call me a sissy, but knee pads would of been awfully nice right about here.
B slipping into a spider filled hallway. Nothing gets you stemming quicker than suddenly realizing a dozen spiders are crawling on your arms and legs. It was too dark for good pics, unfortunately.
B chillin’ and thrillin’ in another photogenic section of canyon.
B gearing up for another spit-out into a cross joint.
Nice fluted rappel near the end of the upper technical section.
Malia making the same rappel, from a little further downcanyon.
One of the wider sections of the slot, where you can actually comfortably stand on the ground.
B negotiating another fun downclimb, this time into a pool of water.
Legs spread, knees slightly bent, arms extended above the head… Perfect form for the pack shuttle. Well done. Now where’s your helmet? This pothole can hold a lot more water than this in the spring, so be prepared.
By the end of the day, we had consumed nearly 550 ounces of liquid between the three of us. The Xterra was thirsty too. It drank 22 gallons of gasoline, and we arrived back in Utah Valley around 8:30. It's a long canyon, and the heat was rough, but I can think of worse ways to spend a day.
Malia, going high again over an optional rappel.
Another from the same section, trying to get artsy.
B on another interesting little downclimb.
The Ransom brothers, crackin’ the lid off Pandora’s Box. Malia on camera duty.
Malia raps the last drop into some sweltering heat.
Dan on the final rappel.
One more, just for good measure.