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I didn’t realize quite how technical a canyon we were going into until the ranger at the back country permit desk tried to talk us out of descending Imlay Canyon. She went on to explain that the last two parties to take on this difficult challenge had to be rescued, and one of those rescues included a girl falling 190 feet. We shrugged it off as though they must have been a bunch of yahoos, but I admit I was a little scared considering I had only ever explored some of the easiest canyons in Zion so far. Ann and I are expert rock climbers; what could possibly challenge us?
The hike to Imlay was a bit more than any of us thought. The last canyon we had descended had its first rappel practically right out of the car. Who would have thought a four hour hike uphill with all of our wetsuits and canyon gear would start our day? Approaching distant canyons in a desert is no walk in the park. It requires tons of route finding and bearing a lot of heat, sweat, and sunburns to find the entrance.
As soon as we entered the canyon we were wading through long, claustrophobic, sandstone corridors filled with ice cold water completely clotted with decomposing wood and decaying animals.
There were at least 30 rappels, including the famous balanced rappel, where two people must depend on each others weight. You don’t want to get on a balanced rappel with someone you don’t love or at least trust. It was fun to be on this particular rappel with Ann. Marriage really is a balanced rappel, as we both must depend on each other in every aspect.
Some sections of the canyon were more delightful than others. The only wild life we saw were a few tad poles and frogs, but every turn offers something new.
Imlay is full of cathedral-like rooms that are filled with lighting that sets an enchanting mood. Being able to experience such an atmosphere while holding hands or rigging anchors with my wife is a wild gift.
The hardest part of of descending Imlay is figuring out how to get out of all of the pot holes. Imagine rappelling into a hole with shear walls on all sides and you are treading water. It can be really hard to get out if you don’t know what you are doing. Hikers sometimes have to be rescued or even drown from falling into pot holes. Pot holes are kind of like puzzles that require quite a bit of quick wit and technical ability to get out. Without the right tools or the know how you can quickly find yourself in a cold wet jam.
Our day finished with a long rappel into the Narrows, maybe the most famous non-technical slot canyon in the world. The Narrows is a highly recommended hike. Please put it on your list of things to do. As I hiked through the Narrows a hiker asked me why I would take such risks to see Imlay Canyon. I told her that I love seeing all of God’s Creation! Imlay is a spectacular piece of God’s artwork. It’s full of beautiful little spots that less than one percent of one percent of one percent of one percent of one percent of our population gets to see. It’s a privilege and I am so grateful to have seen such a beautiful place.