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1200 Feet of Rope

Posted on a forum, “Someone left a lot of rope in Mystery Canyon”.

Several people inquired, “What do you mean, a lot of rope.”

“A lot. Like some hand lines on the entry gulley.”

The post was on the Monday after an ACA Canyon Rendezvous in Zion National Park, so some were wondering if anyone from our group had left the rope behind. I was certain the answer was no, but I didn’t have anything better to do on Tuesday.

I arrived at the East Rim Trailhead and pulled out my empty backpack and a water bottle. Before I set out hiking, two park rangers arrived. I asked them if they had heard about the ropes. “What ropes?” Following my explanation and letting them know I was going to hike down the gulley and retrieve as much of the rope as I could, they asked to see my permit. They turned out to be interns. I did not need a permit to do a day hike, even if said day hike includes the entrance to a technical canyon that does require a permit. I was not there to do a technical canyon; evidenced by my complete lack of technical gear. They insisted I did. I insisted I didn’t.

To resolve the matter one of the rangers got on his radio to talk to someone at the backcountry desk, “There’s a guy here named Rich Carlson who insists he doesn’t need a permit to do Mystery Canyon.” I asked the intern to rephrase the question, but it still didn’t come out quite right. Fortunately, I knew the guy working the backcountry desk that day. He told the rangers to give me a pass on this one. “Whatever he’s doing is probably ok, but ask him to stop by to see me when he’s finished.”

The three of us hiked together to the entrance gulley. Sure enough, there was a rope tied to a tree at the top. At least 200 feet of hand line. Just before we reached the bottom end of the first rope we encountered another rope tied to another tree. Before reaching the end of that rope, another rope tied to another tree. And then another rope. And another. All 200-300 feet long. And not cheap hardware store ropes. These were all real ropes; some static some dynamic.

I was guessing at how much rope I could carry. When we descended past as much of it as I thought I could carried I said goodbye to the interns and headed back up the gulley, untying ropes from trees and coiling them as I went. By the time I reached the top, my backpack was stuffed to capacity. Another rope draped over my shoulders and one under each arm. Out of curiosity I measured them all when I got back to my shop. The total was in excess of 1200 feet. I learned later from the interns that they encountered a couple more lengths of rope farther down the canyon.

Perhaps someone felt they were doing a service to the community by donating so much rope as hand lines. But it wouldn’t have taken much research on their part to realize there was no way the rope could be left in place.

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