OUT OF REACH
In disbelief i stare at the 20m drop-off, with dangling carabiners waiting for the rope that i do not carry. Moqui steps it was supposed to be, permitting a hazardous but feasible reconnect with the canyon floor below and the safety (water, food, warmth) of my camp just 300m meters away ― but now out of reach.
It is 2 hours 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, one of the most convoluted terrain on the Colorado Plateau (and that is saying something). I have been hiking the better part of a day to get where i am, the last few hours negotiating treacherous sandstone slopes linking bald domes to plunging cliffs.
My options: deploy the survival blanket and spend a sleepless night on bare rock with little clothing and water. Or risk retracing my steps in the dark with a good headlamp but a quickly draining GPS battery.
I decide the latter.
It is a tense, physically exhausting return hike. It is past 1:00AM when i stumble into camp. 40m above-head the carabiners dangle still.