Utah – Day 2 – The Subway

On Day 2 we rose early since we were going to attempt The Subway. This required us to drive through the park then leave one car at the exit point and continue on to the start with the other car. The Subway is a hike combined with a technical canyon. It is described as hardcode by some not because of its technically difficult but because it is grueling. The Subway canyon itself is about a mile long but the entire route is 9 miles. There is a point of no return too unless you’re a good climber. Basically once past that point you can’t go back and have to go on.

The route starts with a relatively leisurely walk through trees and on soil but soon you come on bare rock. I think its sand stone and its quite grippy, especially if you wear canyoneering shoes which have stick soles. However some of the slopes are quite steep and you have to weave to get down them safely. You actually end up going up and down a couple of times on this section. It ends with a 300 foot down climb and scramble in to the canyon approach.

Once you’re in the canyon approach you can only go on. Proceeding is a combination of walking, a little boldering, abseiling, swimming and wading. At one point I had to abseil in to deepish water where I took my backpack off (which floated thanks to the air in the dry bag inside) and then swim pushing it in front through several pot holes. At one point I just fitted through which is why I took the pack off. This is not underground otherwise I would not be doing it.

In the subway

Finally you reach the subway proper. I suggest you look at the full sized photos on my gallery as the colours are amazing and it seems the gallery software dulls them when producing preview images. There are great photos on this guide to The Subway. The Subway was beautiful. It is called The Subway because of the shape of the walls and because fractures in the rock floor form parallel lines that appear like train tracks.

Eventually you emerge from The Subway and follow the river for several miles through the rest of the canyon. This requires some more boldering, walking the river bed and walking trails beside the river. It is extremely tiring. Also I should have cut my toe nails before the hike because all the banging they got caused blisters to develop under each nail.

Everyone was running out of water and Sarah was also worried about light too since we’d been covering less than a mile an hour. The others went a head and Zoë, who had slipped and hurt herself a bit, stayed with me and helped get me to the out climb. Slowly and steadily was the order of the day. Finally we got to the out climb. Where I discovered my water bladder had some water in that had been eluding me when I used the pipe and drank that, and Zoë cooked up a boil in the bag meal for us both. She was a complete star.

Once somewhat re-hydrated and refueled we started the climb. It is 500 feet weaving straight up the side of the canyon. Its a scramble route and really hard work. We found out that the others had completely run out of water and in the heat were dehydrated and starting to see things. Since we were in better shape, much to my surprise, we got up the cliff side in far quicker time. I would set myself intermediate targets. For example get to 25% up before the first rest, then 50%, and so on. Some kind people also on the way up gave me a little water half way up that kept me going. Everyone looks after each other out here. It is technically a desert.

Finally we reached the top. The walk to the car seemed easy in comparison to what had come before. Sarah appeared with a bottle of drink on the route which was a blessing. The second car had been retrieved by the time I had arrived at the parking lot and six very tired people headed back to Springdale, the hot tub, and food.

I am really impressed with myself. This is something I just could not have done even last year. My fitness levels have come on so much in the last three years. It was surprisingly good fun too.

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