Friday, December 2, 2011

Canyoneering: West Fork Blue John Canyon

                          Steve Millard rappelling from Blue John into Horseshoe

Lower Blue John Canyon is where Aron Ralston cut off his own arm in 2003, an act that saved his life and eventually led to his portrayal by actor James Franco in the Danny Boyle movie, 127 Hours.  I haven't yet brought myself to watch the film because I've heard that the climactic scene is...well...what you'd expect it to be, with realistic sound, but I will eventually when I can get up the nerve. 

Me, Larry Scritchfield, Larry's wife Jane Addis, Jim Akers, Steve Millard, and Don Reyes, all good friends, met in Utah this fall (September 2011) for our twice-annual canyoneering trip and did Lower Blue John on our first day.  This isn't a trip report, of which there are many, but instead a chance to post a few photos of the canyon, which is gorgeous and not too difficult (unless your arm gets stuck) -- a very fun day trip.  Blue John eventually empties into a pretty side canyon of Horseshoe Canyon, itself an outlying section of Canyonlands National Park, famous for a rich pictograph panel. 

From a photography standpoint, canyoneering is challenging.  It's often wet and muddy, always sandy, usually strenuous, and frequently punishing on humans and equipment, including cameras.  It's also dark down in those narrow slots, but you don't really want to carry cameras that can make good images at high ISOs because they are expensive, and likely to get trashed.  On-camera flash is too harsh, but off camera lighting is too time consuming.  In the last several trips, our group has destroyed two point-and-shoots, and I've damaged a decent lens (repairable).  I bought a Nikon P7000 and it works OK, but not as well as I'd like in the dark.  I carry an old D200 in dry canyons, but it often ends up in the pack for protection from the brutality.  I'd love to find a good solution that doesn't cost a fortune, but there probably isn't one (the new mirrorless cameras??).  Without being  paid to shoot a canyon trip, it just seems too risky to drag a high end DSLR along.  I'd like to take better photos on these trips, but mostly I want to participate in them.  Those two goals don't always coincide.   

Jim Akers pondering the downclimb into the head of the 1st technical section.

Steve Millard, Lower Blue John.

Larry Scritchfield, eying a log that apparently was also in 127 Hours.

Larry, working his way down.

The Great Gallery pictograph panel in Horseshoe Canyon

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