Canyon Tales
Fixed Ropes
in the Black Hole

by Dave Black

• January 2007 •

I inferred from a discussion with Ram that the fixed ropes in the Black Hole had become a topic of discussion around camp fires in North Wash. Since I’m involved, I think it’s time to set the record straight and open the discussion up to anyone else who might have a comment.

First let me catch you up. The fixed ropes have been removed from the Black Hole section of White Canyon. Ram and I removed them during Freezefest. Also, FYI, the Black Hole has returned to its 2B II rating. No R or X—just 2B II.

So, here’s the story on the fixed ropes:

I’ve lived in SE Utah for 7 years and I have 26 descents of the canyon. That makes me an expert on the Hole. Local SAR resents me because they have been forced to resort to my services several times and that just aggravates them like a festering scab. On the other side of the fence is the BLM, another source of aggravation for everybody in this corner of Utah. Mix in SUWA and the other environmentalist groups, and you’ve got a comical but volatile mix resembling the Keystone Cops and F–Troop. Somewhere in the middle of all this is me ... trying to keep peace between the warring factions. And trying to keep access to the Black Hole for us all instead of having it closed to the public, dynamited, or burned out.

So when the BLM or the local sheriff asks me to do something which makes it easier for them to avoid taking action that would incite the anger of all the other players, I’m usually willing to do it.

In this case, because of the rescue incident this summer and the dangerous fire situation that followed, the local sheriff’s department was again looking at its options:

1. close the canyon,

2. bolt fixed anchors and lines in the canyon so parties could retreat rather than be trapped between logjams, fires, etc.

3. burn or dynamite the logjams

The S.O. was very rightfully more concerned with the safety of their law enforcement and SAR personnel than with any inconvenience to tourists.

Kelly Bradford is the Sheriff’s officer who runs the county SAR. I was nearly to Salt Lake when Kelly called me and told me that they were planning to go in and permanently fix the canyon with bolts. He asked me if I had a different solution, and I told him that some temporary lines could be fixed without bolts and removed at a later date when the hazards were less severe. He asked me if I would be willing to do that. I asked when. He said as soon as possible. I told him I would do it if he would keep it all just between the two of us. I turned my vehicle around, drove down to the Hole, and did the deed. It was my third trip through the canyon in as many days, and I was tired and just wanted to get the situation solved.

So there it is. The full story. No more fireside gossip or speculation. It defused a situation, kept access open, and prevented the bolting of the Hole. Some of you fireside philosophers may have a grander and more dramatic take on the story. For you and anyone else who might have a bone to pick with me about how I handled this, I would very much like to hear what you have to say.

Dave Black

Logjams in the Black Hole:
  Logjams in the Black Hole • Ram
  Fixed Ropes in the Black Hole • Dave Black

 tales  ‹›  new 

© 2007 Dave Black