The view from 30,000 feet above the Grand Canyon belies simplicity. By the time you’ve sipped your gin & tonic, and punched out a perfunctory work email, your sleek winged aluminum tube has left that distant earth scar behind in a hazy contrail.
But to go there and descend into this vast stone-strata-time-machine, carved for millennia, is to deeply connect to geology that is vast, complex, and confounding. The terrain is alive and every footfall a small act of faith, “Will this boulder roll and throw me, will this same hold I just barely pulled on now support my body weight, will the slick unroped edge fold me down into nothingness?”
Danny and Doom, my compatriots on this seven day pack-rafting, canyoneering, peak bagging, rock climbing journey are like idle dogs who sleep until they can run amok. As the sun sets, we arrive at the canyon rim and soon we are hustling below, nipping at one another’s heels. A brief pelting rain produces an impossibly huge, iridescent, double rainbow, from Mile 150 to Mt Sinyella. We dub it the “insanebow”, and a very auspicious omen. We scan for faint trails, from man and beast, and it’s often a jumble of boulders- around, under, over, in this place it’s always up and down. We discover the clues for the way forward as they will be, just as crucially, the keys to the way back.
“Where did we put the keys?”
What drives one to voluntarily suffer, to be #pooronpurpose and board the elective shipwreck, the place of immediate rations and endless toil? Perhaps to rehearse “end times” is to prepare for them, in that if you choose hard now, you will know its knock when it naturally arrives.
We go to the Canyon to reveal moments of transcendence, the sinuous narrows like silhouettes of hips and breast, a landscape that unravels me as I travel deeper into its intricacies, and mostly it’s to perform the requisites of life, that one breath, one sip, one bite amongst the rigors of wilderness- one step, one moment, one life, forever.
Timmy O’Neill is a professional rock climber, fun-hog and co-founder of Paradox Sports, a non-profit dedicated to providing inspiration, opportunities and adaptive equipment to the disabled community. You can follow his adventures at @timmyoneill.