Straight from work I drove down to Zion. It took 5 hours due to horrible rain storms that brought interstate traffic to a complete stop twice. Cars would pull over because it was raining so hard. I finally pulled into the Ponderosa at 9:30pm. The pot luck was winding down and I quickly started looking for familiar faces and handing out hugs and handshakes. There were a few faces missing- Charley and Keith were overdue from Englestead. I toted all of my stuff to the 3rd story of the recreation barn and took an empty staff bunk. After moving everything in, Tom followed me down to the Visitor’s Center to drop my car. I then made Tom drive around looking for Zach’s truck (at the time I thought Zach was with them). When we didn’t see it we drove back up to the resort, thinking they must have gotten out ok.
Back at the Ponderosa I helped Rich clean up and found out Zach left the day before and the overdue Englestead party consisted of Charley, Keith, Chuy, and Ruben, and no one had heard from them. I had a really bad feeling and felt helpless not doing anything active to find out if they were ok. I knew they would go up Orderville instead of down and wanted to go look for them, but my car was at the visitor’s center. Lame excuse. I couldn’t sleep and stayed up and put grommets in my pack. At about 1am I got in bed and set the alarm for 5am.
The next morning I was eager to see if the group had made it back. As I made my way to check their cabin, I ran into Rich. They had made it back and weren’t ready to share stories. I headed out with Tom and Bruce to do Englestead and wondered what stories I would hear later.
The canyon was beautiful, beginning with a 300 foot rappel. There was a ton of water in the canyon creating a few unusual swims. There was a lot of debris and knowing it flashed the day before made me question all of the anchors. When we hit Orderville it was about 3pm and I thought it was way too late to start down Orderville to the Narrows, and the water level was really high. We opted to hike up Orderville with other groups we ran into and mooch a ride back with them. Well the only real obstacle in our way was climbing up the waterfall/chock stone section. Our group was a conglomerate of 4 groups now making for about 15 people all freezing cold. Bruce, Tom, and I were the only ones wearing wetsuits. It was kind of a cluster, but we got everyone up. There were too many people shouting too many directions, and it was a bit frustrating. It took some people some extra help jugging the rope, but that’s what mechanical advantage is all about, right? Because I was the “human anchor” everyone used to climb up on, I was sitting in the water for a good hour hooked to a rope. It was cold, but I was grateful I was in a wetsuit. Once everyone was up, we packed up the rope and started hiking upstream. I didn’t keep my clothes in a dry bag, and hiking in 5ml neoprene sucked. I would overheat, but didn’t have anything to change into. The hike up seemed like it lasted FOREVER. I wasn’t cold as long as I was moving. I hiked ahead of Bruce and Tom and rode with people from a different group, leaving a jeep for the last group out to drive back.
I pulled into the Ponderosa at about 9:30pm, stole a brownie from the kitchen, paid a staff member to take me to pick up my car from the visitor’s center, and spent the rest of the night hanging out with friends and listening to the flash flood stories from the day before. I hope to add footage taken from some of their trips. The seriousness of their situation makes my stomach crawl. I’m so relieved everyone is ok. I can’t think of a more solid group to have to deal with the situation than who was there and I’m just glad I wasn’t with them. We all huddled into Rich’s cabin and the conversation kept going back to Friday’s events. Rich finally kicked us out and the discussion migrated to Chuy and Ruben’s cabin. The weekend's events have definitely been on my mind. And it felt good to get back to SLC, clean all my gear, wash my clothes and fall asleep knowing all of my friends are safe.