P1430486 (Large)Last weekend I got to go canyoneering with 38 other women in southern Utah. We rappelled, climbed, hiked, swam and had a fabulous potluck and fashion show. It was pretty inspiring to see so many amazing women in one place with wetsuits, climbing gear, and a thirst for fun and adventure!

Non-canyoneers might be lucky enough to encounter just one or two of these strong, fierce, loving women in an entire lifetime, as we lady canyoneers are obscure and few. To see us all together, donning ripped clothing and dirty hair, laughing and assisting each other through slot canyons, was breathtaking.

The most touching moment of the weekend happened when I realized I forgot my wetsuit for a canyon which requires hours of swimming in cold water. I had just hiked over an hour up a steep, rocky slope to enter a six hour canyon called Knotted Rope when I realized the wetsuit wasn’t in my pack. While I’m not especially afraid of cold water, I was nervous about hours in it with no escape and the possibility of hypothermia when I needed full dexterity to climb out of narrow canyon constrictions.

P1430454 (Large)“I don’t know what happened, but I must have forgotten my wetsuit this morning”, I quietly admitted.

The ladies around me immediately started rooting through their packs for spare gear to keep me warm, and within minutes I had a fleece shirt, a pair of neoprene shorts and a rain jacket. These items, combined with my neoprene socks, neoprene vest and wool hat kept me warm all day and a crisis was averted. I was even warm enough to slow down, have fun, help others, and take photos in a beautiful canyon filled with what canyoneers call “potholes”.

P1430397 (Large)A pothole is a rounded depression in the rock which usually holds water. The water can be ankle deep or deep enough to swim. That day the the potholes were very full from recent storms. All day long we slid into these potholes and climbed back out, giggling and helping each other every step of the way. We would grab the top of the pack of the lady in front of us and dangle her like a marionette as she dropped into the pool. By doing this, we avoiding dropping in over our heads into the chocolatey brown water and getting it in our mouths. Even expert canyoneers don’t relish the idea of dropping into a pothole and coming up with a mouthful of dirty canyon water.

P1430445colored (Large)The next day over a dozen of us bounced on horrible 4×4 roads to reach a canyon called Baptist Draw. We saw a half dozen wild mustangs galloping across a high desert plateau on the way to the canyon. I’ve heard many rumors about these horses roaming around the San Rafael Swell but this was my first sighting. They were wild and free, unafraid of us.

At the beginning of Baptist Draw, one of the ladies announced it was her friend’s very first canyon. We all cheered and celebrated, happy to be part of this woman’s first canyoneering experience. You never forget your first canyon! Our beginner was already a strong climber and cruised through the canyon as we assisted and gave verbal instruction and encouragement. When she came up to the big 83 foot rappel, it was an exciting moment.

P1430531 (Large)“This is it, this is the big rappel”, her experienced canyoneering friend said as they both stepped up to the steep, open drop. This rappel had been set up with two independant ropes so two people could rappel side by side. The new canyoneer got on one rope and her friend got on the other. They both rappelled down together, side by side, smiling and sharing a very special canyoneering moment.

After the big rappel, we continued up Chute canyon and enjoyed plenty of challenging upclimbs which became difficult after a few people had climbed up and left slippery mud on the walls. Our teamwork included knees to step on, ropes to climb up, and even mighty pushes on wiggling butts to ascend tight spots. We giggled as we pushed and pulled each other up these climbs.

P1430498 (Large)Canyoneering is just different with a team of all women. Love is in the air as we wiggle through slots wearing dirty wetsuits and helmets. We bring playfulness, caring, and a slower pace to the canyon as we move through the twisting slot as a group with many experience levels. We all know we’re united in this experience. We keep the mood high and the canyon fun with smiles on every face, even when we’re fighting for a foothold on a slippery, muddy upclimb over a huge rock.

P1430442 (Large)To finish this blog post, here is one of my favorite images from the weekend: my van filled to the brim with spectacular women ready for a day of canyoneering! We piled into my van, sitting on the bed, couch, and camp chairs. Together we bounced along a rough 4×4 road into Baptist Draw canyon. I am in awe of these women. I drove away from this gathering filled with love for canyons and for my network of fellow female superheroes.

Lisa Hackett

About the Author

Hi, I’m Lisa. I’m a tall, blonde superhero and I live in a van. I do it all. I rappel big waterfalls, drive from Idaho to Alaska solo, live and work in a van in the wilderness and dodge encounters with wolves and bears. Seriously. More

One Response to Canyoneering With 38 Women

  1. Amy Civiello says:

    Hi Lisa
    Great post! So enjoyed the weekend with you and all the other superheroes. Go Chicks!!!!

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About the Author

Hi, I’m Lisa. I’m a tall, blonde superhero and I live in a van and on a sailboat with my superhero husband, Brian. I do it all. I rappel big waterfalls, scuba dive with sharks, dodge encounters with bears and wolves, and work remotely as a full time computer programmer.
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About the Van

Hi, I’m Vanifest. I’m a big, 4x4, off-the-grid van complete with solar panel for power. I'm a 2000 Dodge Ram Van and Lisa has had me since 2009. Read more about me here.


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