Canyon Tales
Das Boot
by Dave Pitney

My friend Ram and I were descending Mystery one October day, and we come upon two ropes still set up at Mystery spring. After dropping them, we proceeded to the drop into the Virgin and find a 3–ply 18mm rope leading to the drop. So now we carry out 600 feet of wet rope and inquire at the ranger station if any one reported stuck ropes.


Later that week we get a call from L, a podiatrist, who says “Hey I heard you found my ropes, can you send one back to Vegas?”

“Certainly, but how did they get there?”

Well, L and the boys decided to do Mystery at night, rapping with hand held flash lights, held in their teeth. OK. Our kind of people. Since I was going to Vegas in a few weeks for a trade show, I said I’d leave them at the hotel desk. But one thing led to another and L and I made plans to descend the upper middle fork of the left fork of North Creek and then finish with the Subway.

•  November 1998  •

Now we are heading in, in mid–November at 6000+ feet, and L does not want to rent a wetsuit. Very bad idea. Most are convinced that he will die if he does not suit up. Eventually, he is persuaded to get a suit and all appears well.

Appears, that is.

So we meet and head up, after getting the requisite permit, and we start hiking in a foot of snow to the start of the canyon. Now I was happy to just find the start, as I had only been there once with Ram, and was not paying particular attention. So I’m suiting up, including the taco wrap, and eating all I can find, and L is waiting for me in his hiking clothes.

“Let’s get ready,” I say, and he tells me he is hot and won’t be putting on his wet suit. A little bit of arguing and I point out, “That shiny stuff in the water is ICE” and “get your suit on!”

Finally he relents (partly) and puts the top of his farmer john on and this whole trip is going downhill ... fast. So I’m tired of this and get ready to go and realize he has no neo socks on. L states that he has done many canyons before and knows what he is doing.


“Well, June and July, mostly.”

“You are in for a treat,” I say.

So in we plunge and 20 minutes later I hear, “duh, duh dddave, I’m cold.”

No shit, and this is ice swirling around you. “How cold?”

“I can’t feel my legs.”

“About what one should expect, your body is working fine, let’s go.” No, he has to put on his bottoms. So this takes 20 minutes and, despite my aerobic exercises, I go from cool to cold.

Now my panties are in a wad. L is slow and stumbling a little (we know what this means) and to keep him moving I keep slipping around corners ahead of him, just letting him catch a glance of me. Finally we come to a place with that white winter sun, and L comes up, falls face first into the stream and does not get up. I notice that he has one boot on and a sock on the other foot. I pick his head out of the water and ask him where his other boot is.

“I duh, duh, don’t know,” he says slowly.

So we still have more of this canyon segment and then 8 miles of the subway, including the hike out, and L has one boot. “Unacceptable,” I state. “If you hike with me, you hike with two boots. Go get it.”

“I don’t know where it is,” he stutters.

“So how long have you not had a boot?”

“I dunno. I can’t feel my feet.”

Neo socks rule, I guess. So I go back and poke around in the last pool and find no boot. Probably not tied on well when he changed. Damn. What am I going to do with a hypothermic and miles to go? Does death become him? Nah. Hike. And shortly we come to the final rap of the narrows and I try to puzzle out the best way with hypo L. Me first? Him first? Just toss his sorry ass into the pool? So I put him on rappel and then I go down and get ready to fireman belay him in case of mistake. But of course he has to rap down the snow covered slope in his sock. So it’s pretty obvious that this canyon is over if we can get out.

I go through his pack and make a boot out a stuff sack and my two socks and figure that if we can exit the Russell Gulch entrance then maybe this will end, mercifully. So up we go. L begins to warm and come out of his stupor. Sun is shining, snow is melting, and all is well. We get back to the car and I give L my card and he begins to weep, as the import of the day becomes clear—and the card is titled ‘Let’s Adventure.’

So how the name ‘Das Boot?’ A podiatrist losing his boot in the narrows.

Lessons are obvious.


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© 1998 Dave Pitney