Canyon Tales
Mind Bender Fork
by Steve Allen

Over a two–week period we managed to descend a half–dozen slot canyons. All required rope work and teamwork. Some required swimming across potholes in below–freezing weather. One canyon in particular stands out in memory. We named it the Mind Bender Fork of the North Fork of Robbers Roost Canyon. The upper part of the canyon went smoothly; Ginger and I swapped leads as we worked downcanyon. Claustrophobic narrows were interspersed with vertical challenges: the occasional rappel, a thirty–foot–tall bombay chimney (the farther down we climbed the wider the chimney got), and a sheer wall with few holds.

By the time we reached the crux section of the canyon, we had been enveloped by a blizzard; the snow that whipped through the canyon stung our eyes and froze our hands. The crux was truly a mind bender; the narrow slot gave way to an abrupt drop over the 155–foot–high mouth of a huge cave. We spent an hour rigging our ropes. With no secure anchor points, we ended up burying a sling under a pile of rocks at the bottom of a large pothole and attaching a rope to it.

I went first, carefully sliding out of the slot and into a vertical void, the floor of the canyon invisible in the swirl of snow. Would the rope be long enough? The question was answered when I was halfway down: the rope was long enough but my trajectory would have taken me through the limbs of an oak tree and into a large pool. Not good! With some gentle swinging I managed to hit a dry landing zone. Ginger took her time lowering packs over the fifteen–story drop. From below I saw that the brunt of the storm had descended on her. The rock was now plastered with rime ice and, perilously perched on the edge of the abyss, every move on her part had to be carefully executed. A mistake could have meant the ultimate splat. At long last I saw Ginger’s legs emerge from the slot; she slowly spun down the rop, afraid a sudden jerk would dislodge it from its precarious anchor. There were no further impediments below.

The Mind Bender Fork was a done deal.

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© 1995 University of Utah Press,
reprinted with permission of Steve Allen, originally published:
Canyoneering 2: Technical Loop Hikes in Southern Utah, by Steve Allen.
Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 1995.