Ladies, I’m wondering how many times our men don’t tell us about warnings like this when they venture off together, “Todie Canyon is a difficult access. It is only recommended for experienced hikers.” I think after our experience on Saturday I would rather not know! To my husband’s credit, he did not see the warning until after our failed attempt to exit the canyon. Most likely he wouldn’t have told me anyway–not to deceive, but because he considers us highly experienced hikers. I say, “thanks for the credit McCracken, but consider me a novice next time!”
Todie Canyon was not part of our original backpacking adventure. We camped at its mouth the first night in Grand Gulch. The original plan consisted of us continuing down the Gulch, but we were soooo cold that night that we thought it best to exit the next day instead. Logical thinking, right?
At first we talked about exiting the way we came (up Kane Gulch), which would’ve been a fairly easy albeit lengthy eight mile day hike. That’s when we got the bright idea to exit out Todie. It should have cut off 3-4 miles of canyon hiking and we would see some different ruins on our way out. Oh yeah, both maps we had also showed a clear hiking trail in/out! *darn bright ideas*
The first hour out was really great. We saw some excellent ruins and we were making good time. About a mile in, however, the canyon began to narrow and we were forced to scramble the HUGE snow/ice covered boulders w/ our 40 lbs packs in tow. Sometimes we had to go up and around, which wasn’t any better because the side trails were covered in ice, snow, and mud making some of our descents a bit treacherous. I should add that this canyon is completely spectacular. We were too pre-occupied with the task at hand to take pictures, but it was truly gorgeous.
This continued for, oh, four hours or so. It was absolutely miserable. I kept falling in the snow on my bum. We ran out of water and had to stop and filter. I asked three or four times if we could just turn around. I almost ditched my pack twice. Adam was persistent, however, that we could get out and it shouldn’t be much farther. I couldn’t blame him because I didn’t really want to traverse back the way we came either. We could both taste the suh-weet root beer and orange cream waiting in the back of our truck for us! We kept thinking the mesa top was just around the corner. My hubby kept me going for which I was grateful.
FINALLY, we got to a point where we thought we could exit. Adam went ahead to check it out, and what he found completely disappointed us both. There was a 20′ dry fall that we could not climb up. We were trapped!!! I started to cry. Adam started shouting obscenities (okay that part is not true, but I’ve always wanted to say that). We were both exhausted and only had a few hours of daylight left.
We checked our maps and decided there had to be another way out. We remembered seeing a group of cairns covered in snow a ways back so we retraced our steps and sure enough it was the mark of the route out. ENTER PROBLEM–the steep steep steep exit was covered in snow and ice and we didn’t have crampons with us–duh, we came to southern Utah to escape the snow, not climb in it!
I sooo did not want to climb that hill, but I “knew” if I could make it to the top the exit was just around the corner. So I let Adam convince me and we started the climb. It was actually much easier than traversing house-sized boulders. We dug our boots in and used our hiking poles. I was so proud of myself. As we neared the top we knew we were home free–yeah, right! Is this ever the case with our dear sweet canyoneering husbands?
There was a large slab of rock at the top of the hill that we thought would wrap around, but when we reached it there was a 60′ ice falls drop off. Nope, the trail, and only way out, was to climb/walk up the rock. The problem–it was slanted at a 45 degree angle and was covered in a thin layer of ice with another layer of snow on top of that.
Under dry conditions it would’ve been a bit scary, but we could’ve done it. The snow and ice, however, made it a little too scary for both of us. We tried convincing and encouraging each other to attempt it, but the risk wasn’t worth it. The suckiest part of the whole thing is that we had to hike back to the mouth of the canyon and camp another night in the cold.
The hike back to camp was a lot faster since we could retrace our steps, and because we were highly motivated to make camp before dark. Adam was extremely frustrated with the situation and I was extremely cold. It’s a good thing we like each other so much. Kisses, hugs, and tears kept us going. And we actually had about an hour of daylight once we reached camp.
Lessons learned: read the whole map, listen to your gut, and go the way you know.
One more thing, my husband is AMAZING. I told him the night before this experience that the thing I love most about him is his loyalty to others. He is fiercely loyal and would do anything for anyone. But after this harrowing experience, I had to retract my statement.
The thing I currently love most about Adam is the amount of respect he shows me. When we were standing on that ledge debating whether to attempt it or not, he listened to me and respected my decision to turn around–even though he hated the idea of turning back. If I had been too scared under safer conditions he still would’ve respected my decision to turn around. He loved me through my fatigue and he guided me through the difficult parts. He would never say I was too slow or too weak or too much of a weenie butt (even if he thinks all of these things regularly :) I love you Adi.