Grand Canyoneering: Aron Ralston

In March this year, I joined a highly-experienced team of friends for some expedition canyoneering in the heart of the Grand Canyon. Our guru/trip leader, Steve Ramras, recruited the team, gathered the beta, and planned the week-long itinerary. With ideal weather and canyon conditions, we descended 150 Mile Canyon to Upset Rapid, leaving behind parachute cord at the rappel anchors to ensure our exit six days later. Then, after crossing the rushing pink Colorado on our pool-toy-sized packrafts, we ascended Matkatamiba Canyon and traversed the Esplanade to an encampment in what we would come to call “Dead Burro Wash” (the end of the video features said burro).

From this camp, we day-tripped through the water-filled limestone slot of Panameta Canyon before switching drainages and entering the exceedingly isolated head of Olo Canyon. There, on Day 5, we finally reached the point farthest from our vehicles in a branch of the Grand Canyon so inaccessible that only a handful of parties have ever visited its upper chasm. Besides being remote, Olo is also a canyon of world-class beauty, with polished white narrows, luscious grottos, waterfall chambers, and garden terraces nestled below two-thousand-foot orange cliffs. Not to mention some outright breath-taking rappels and one of the best camps anywhere (where Bucky, Brejcha, and I finally defeated the indomitable force that is Mark Burnham playing Hearts).

Down at the Colorado the next morning, we inflated our packrafts once more and delighted in four miles on the swift but smooth River, the massive silence of the gorge interrupted only by the calls of canyon wrens and our playful hoots as we paddled past travertine falls. Surmounting the mile-long narrows of 150 Mile Canyon — including several challenging climbs, bypasses, and five uphauls where we’d tied the p-cord — we overcame the dozen rappels from Day 2 and exited to salty snacks, seltzer, and beer at our trucks.

Thank you to our team for being so much fun, bearing with my slow packing routine, and getting us all through an incredible trip safely: Steve Ramras, Jenny West, Martin ‘Bucky’ Glaubitz, Mark Burnham, and Matt Brejcha — you’re all the best there ever was.  And thank you to my sponsors: Hanger Prosthetics and Orthotics for my canyoneering arm and new custom footbeds; PROBAR for their vegan Meal Bars, CORE protein Bars, and Bolt Energy Chews that kept me fueled; Kiehl’s Since 1851 for the protection of their Activated SPF50 sunscreen; and Icebreaker for the merino wool shirts (one short, one long-sleeve) whose freshness barely faded despite wearing them for a week straight.

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