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What's in Pandora's Box? For One Visitor at Capitol Reef National Park, the Answer was: "Trouble."


This "canyoneering" photo from another location illustrates some of the challenges that can be involved in the activity. Photo by mtnexplorer via Creative Commons and flickr.

An old myth took a different twist at Capitol Reef National Park recently when a canyoneer confirmed that getting into Pandora's Box can have unintended consequences, and it proved to be a lot easier to get into a tight spot that back out of it.

On Sunday, September 5, two men from Salt Lake City set out on a canyoneering trip to Capitol Reef National Park in Utah. Canyoneering is an activity that usually combines several outdoor skills, including hiking and technical climbing, in canyon terrain. The pair's destination was a canyon dubbed Pandora's Box, which a park spokesman says "is considered to be one of the more difficult canyons to negotiate on the Colorado Plateau because of the extremely narrow slots throughout the canyon."

The trip got off to a promising start, but after completing numerous rappels and negotiating several slots, the pair ran into a major snag. According to the park's report, one of the adventurers was quite fit, but weighed around 230 pounds. That's not an especially unusual size for an adult, and plenty of athletes are both fit and larger.

When you're engaged in an activity such as caving or canyoneering, however, there are times when size really does matter, and the man found that he simply couldn't fit through a particularly tight section in the narrow passage.

The pair made an attempt to exit the canyon by scrambling out a lateral canyon, only to find that they couldn’t go any further. Rather than attempt something rash, they decided that the more slender of the two would continue on and complete the canyon while the larger man stayed behind and awaited assistance.

The first man completed the slots, and his trip to get help was a pretty impressive solo feat. He descended the 150-foot exit rappel, hiked nine miles to his bike, pedaled four miles to his car, and then contacted rangers early on Monday morning. The rangers requested assistance from the Utah State Patrol, which dispatched a helicopter that landed near the stranded man. Members of the county Search and Rescue team helped him reach the ship.

The situation had a successful ending: neither of the canyoneers was injured.

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