Exploring One of Nature’s Wonders: The Slot Canyon

    A section of Buckskin Gulch, the longest slot canyon in the world

    Slot canyons are exquisitely beautiful nooks in the earth carved ages ago by the rush of water through sandstone. They are slim and often unexplored, which makes slot canyons an interesting deviation for many avid climbers. These canyons can be found across the continental United States, but are perhaps most concentrated in Utah. In fact, more slot canyons are located in the beehive state than anywhere else in the world.

    The cramped quarters of a slot canyon can be challenging for even the most experienced climber, and provokes a sense of cave delving as well. For those who aren’t traversing vertically, hiking is also possible, although one should get used to a fair amount of backtracking.

    The depths of the canyon can often be wet, so bring something to help keep you dry. Be wary of any rain as flash floods occur often in slot canyons. As with anywhere else, consult the weather before gearing up.

    The Narrows in Zion National Park

    Some areas of the canyon will narrow enough so that chimneying upwards is possible. Climbers used to a singular rock face may find the addition of a second to be helpful, although slot canyons are prone to contain dangers not found elsewhere. Potholes at the bottom of the canyon can contain small but deep pools and present a threat to explorers. Various nooks and crannies can also lead hikers to be disoriented, especially “pinching” of the canyon walls, when the sides of the canyon close and block off routes.

    Perhaps the most feared are “bells.” Imagine treading water with the only exit a small opening above your head. The walls are wide, slippery and difficult to climb. Did we mention the water can rise the longer you stay?

    Thankfully, most of these obstacles are well documented and can be found with a bit of research. Canyoneering USA is a good place to start. For all the dangers, slot canyons can be serenely beautiful and a gratifying experience for hikers and climbers.

    Featured Image from Ryan Grimm on the flickr Creative Commons, Second Image from Zion National Park on the flickr Creative Commons, Final Image from Dylan Duvergé (spacecadet) on the flickr Creative Commons

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