SPRING 15        

NO WAY!  Nooooo... My heart sinks as i stare in disbelief at carabiners dangling over a 20m drop-off, awaiting the rope i do not carry. They were supposed to be ‘moqui steps’ on this cliffside, permitting reconnect with the canyon floor below and the safety (water, food, warmth) of my backpack ― barely 300m meters away, yet now completely out of reach.

The situation is worrisome: it is 2hrs past sunset and getting dark by the minute. I am perched on the upper levels of a 3-dimensional sandstone labyrinth
the intricate canyon network of Navajo Mountain, surely one of the most convoluted terrain on the Colorado Plateau. I have been hiking the better part of a day to get where i am, the last few hours negotiating treacherous sandstone slopes that link bald domes to plunging cliffs.

None of my options are appealing: deploy the emergency survival blanket and spend an uncomfortable, likely sleepless night, on bare rock with little clothing and water. Or risk retracing my steps in the dark, under partial moonlight and a strong headlamp, but a quickly draining GPS battery.

I decide the latter. It will be an emotionally tense, physically exhausting, brisk hike. It is past one in the morning when i finally stumble into camp. 50m above head, the carabiners dangle still.

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