Prankfest is a unique, three day canyoneering party in a very remote location with 40+ attendees. It’s organized by a couple of dear friends who are full of fun and pranks. Nice pranks. That is the only rule of Prankfest.

P1430858 (Large)The first day we did High Spur canyon. It involved a grueling 1.5 hour drive on terrible roads and one member of our party sacrificed an oil pan and needed to get towed from the middle of nowhere at $200 per hour. Ouch. Once we made some phone calls and got help for the injured vehicle, Dylan asked for my help pranking one of the vehicles at the trailhead and we installed over a dozen condoms on every phallic shaped item in the vehicle, even the beers in the cooler. I began the hike toward the canyon snickering, wiping my hands on my pants. They were covered with sticky lube from the condoms.

P1430890 (Large)High Spur was one of the most beautiful slots I had ever seen. The narrows were perfectly sculpted, wide enough to walk through easily, and very picturesque. We enjoyed a couple open spots in the canyon before heading into more deep, glowing narrow sections. After most of the narrows were behind us, there was a gorgeous break in the slot where we ended up in a large, striped cavern with light streaming in through the ceiling.

1167102_10100154005553436_1743487967_orotatedBrian and I were in the lead at that point as we pushed through some small pothole sections with waist deep, rust colored water. We exited the difficult section and celebrated the beauty of the cavern with a wild make out session. Our friends caught up to us and we were officially busted as we celebrated.

I was torn about what canyon to do the next day. Alcatraz is said to be a great canyon but it has some sections which can be very difficult to pass through. Everyone always talks about the ultra-skinny sections in this canyon, and there had been a chilling rescue there recently. A man had become severely wedged in the slot. After hours of struggling, his canyoneering team still could not free him from the constriction. He remained trapped and ended up spending a night alone, wedged in the canyon. He lived to tell the tale, thankfully.

I’m not the smallest person and have certainly gotten stuck in canyons before. My sticking point is always my rib cage, which is a very unfortunate place to become lodged because it becomes difficult to breathe as the two rock walls of the canyon compress my lungs more and more with each exhale. Every time I let out my breath, my chest shrinks just a bit and there’s the potential of slipping further into the constriction. It’s a nightmarish scenario which is best avoided.

However, my friend Adam is a little bigger than me and planned to descend Alcatraz that day. He’s a skilled climber, able to go over constricted areas rather than through them, and I decided I would do whatever Adam did. If he climbs high over a skinny spot, I climb high. If he fits through the canyon, I know I can fit. I would be proactive in avoiding the skinny sections by going up and over them, rather than trying to fit through and learning too late that I’m trapped by this cruel, unforgiving rock slot.

IMG_4314 (Large)We drove to the beginning of Alcatraz and Brian set up my bright purple rope on Vanifest for the big, overhanging, 100+ foot entry rappel into the deep, dark slot below. Vanifest was the biggest, creepiest vehicle present so it was chosen as the rappel anchor for this drop. We all moved down canyon. I made sure Adam was ahead of me so I could watch his progress through the thinner sections of the canyon.

This was going well. I was climbing up between the narrow walls of this very dark slot canyon, sometimes gazing down 30 feet into the abyss below with my back on one wall and my feet on the other. Should I slip, I will surely become lodged deep in the canyon and need either a lot of help from my friends or a visit from Search and Rescue. It was risky, but as I was doing it the moves felt completely within my abilities.

IMG_0579 (Large)I sailed through the canyon with plenty of help from Brian and a push or pull from a couple other canyon members. I would call out to Adam ahead, “Did you fit through this?” When he would say yes my heart would soar. When he would say no I would start to climb up rather than plow right into it and get stuck.

I did get stuck at one point. After an hour in very dark narrows, the canyon presented us with a dramatic pinch point and there was no easy way to climb over it. I call this the crux. I began in a pool of knee deep water and needed to climb up a skinny crack in the wall to get up and over the pinch point. Or so I thought. This pinch point was 15 feet in the air, and Brian helped me push myself up and over it. Only that didn’t work. My rib cage was wedged in it as I tried to move through. Kristin, on the other side, offered a hand, a foot, anything to get me through. I reached out to her, but grabbing her hand didn’t help me move.

All other parts of my body could wiggle, but my chest remained wedged and it was getting difficult to breathe. Getting stuck is so embarrassing and inconvenient. I’ve never found it to be scary, because there are always at least two people pushing and pulling on me when it’s happening, and I somehow find that comforting.

I was covered in sweat, trying to move up, move down, do anything to get my chest out of that pinch of rock while my legs dangled freely and uselessly. The whole ordeal only lasted a couple minutes before I discovered the only way to move my chest through the pinch was to slide diagonally downhill. Once I found the correct angle I shuffled right through the rock pinch. Next time it will be easier, but the first time through it was hard to know exactly what to do.

It was such a relief to escape the pinch and see the canyon opening up with orange light in front of me. Kristin and I sat and celebrated at the side of the canyon with some water. The adrenaline started to dissipate from my body and I moved downcanyon to a celebration party where we all changed, ate snacks and enjoyed various treats.

P1430970 (Large)Wiggling through that pinch with the help of my dear friends was an excellent climax to the weekend at Prankfest! I’m so glad I did Alcatraz, because then my friend Dean invited Brian and I on a descent of Pandora’s Box Canyon, a challenging and famous skinny slot in Capitol Reef. Every canyoneer is interested in opening Pandora’s Box, but you must be ready for it or it will inflict endless misery upon you. It is said to be the best Wingate sandstone slot on the Colorado Plateau, so I decided to give it a shot with an excellent, experienced canyon team. To quote Dean, “The activities we enjoy are the things that most people would give up everything they own to avoid.” This statement pretty much sums up a descent of Pandora’s Box Canyon, which would be a frightful and grueling experience (if not downright impossible) for the average person.

P1430978 (Large)Our descent of Pandora’s Box involved more exposed climbing than I had ever done before and at one point I found myself 40 feet off the ground, feet on one wall, back on the other, shuffling sideways with my pack dangling beneath me on a piece of webbing. I didn’t take many photos that day. The air temperature was only about 45 degrees and the canyon was cold and dark. It also had many difficult problems to solve and many extremely awkward sections. This canyon definitely had my full attention and my camera was forgotten. I was mainly just trying to stay alive. Our descent of Pandora’s Box was relatively drama free, thanks to our skilled team and our constant vigilance.

It was a 10.5 hour day out, and well worth the effort for the chance to see this amazing slot I have always heard so much about. We moved efficiently and felt proud of our time descending the canyon. Usually this trip takes canyoneers 11-12 hours, and we also spent at least 30 minutes dislodging a wiggling, 100 pound rock which threatened to come loose and kill someone on the last rappel. We enjoyed a gourmet meal at Cafe Diablo in Torrey, Utah, and felt entitled to a decadent dessert as well before we hobbled back out to our cars on very tired legs.


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

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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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