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Maple Canyon Rappelling
Have you every gone rappelling before? If you haven’t I wholeheartedly recommend it. The first rappelling experience I had was at Maple Canyon.
I went there on a Scout campout. The person who was teaching us how to rappel was my neighbor Jason Wendel. He has been rock climbing and rappelling for most of his life, so he is a pretty competent rock climber and good rappeller.
Maple Canyon is rated one of the topmost climbing canyons in the world. One of these reasons is Maple Canyon is all conglomerate rock. Millions of cobblestones are stuck in amazing formations.
There are hundreds of anchors that have been shot into the rock by a compressed air or gas gun or cemented into the conglomerate rock. An anchor is usually a half inch thick metal ring. When it is cemented into the rock only half of the ring is showing. If it is in the wall it is usually a full ring. Maple Canyon is a great place to rappel because the conglomerate rock juts out in enough places for you to get good secure hand and footholds.
I can’t forget to mention the awesome scenery though. Almost every square inch of the canyon that is dirt has either a maple seedling or tree on it. I saw the canyon when it was in fall colors. It was a beautiful sight to behold. The red was everywhere and it was a not a dull color, it was a vibrant living red.
For my first rappel, I climbed a trail that led up the conglomerate rock. At the top of the trail, I climbed straight up for maybe ten feet to the top of the knob that was going to be my first 100 ft. rappel.
The experience of leaning backward and walking off the little knob at something like a 75 to 80 degree angle was a very big adrenaline rush for a beginner like me. About halfway down, I started to get the hang of it and started to take little jumps. When you jump you let your weight pull the rope through your ATC or figure eight rappelling device.
This allows you to go outward and fall, depending on how hard you jump 5 to 50 ft, the fifty feet being if you had a completely vertical rock face or drop that you were rappelling down. By the time I reached the bottom of the 100 ft. rappel I was feeling pretty good about myself.
After I unhooked myself at the bottom I then called up to my leader Jason Wendel the words “Off rope!” in a loud voice, so that he would know that he could hook up the next boy to rappel down the rock face. When you are rappelling there are two sets of words that you have to say before you can officially start rappelling. They are: “On belay, Belay on, Rappelling, and Rappel on. These words are all safety precautions that ensure that both the person rappelling and the person belaying are ready.
The next rappel that I did was about 120 feet down. Getting to the spot where the anchor was a bit trickier this time. I had to climb up a semi-trail in the rock to where I then had to edge my way across a semi slanted rock face until I got to the other side. Then I walked down a couple of feet to the cave that we were rappelling out of. First there was about a 6 ½ foot drop to where you walked about 15 feet to where the initial rappelling was to be done. The rock then went into an overhang. Since this was my first overhang, I painfully jarred my knees against the rock because I didn’t jump to get over the overhang. After that there was a second overhang that I experienced with no pain at all. Then I did the best part of the rappel, which was the 25 foot drop to the ground. The experience of floating in midair was the best part of the whole rappel.
The last rappel was a rappel that not very many people did. This particular spot where we rappelled off of into pine trees was called Lion’s Head. It was a monstrous 285 foot rappel. Most people would pass this off like it was nothing. Well, suffice it to say that 285 feet is very intimidating. The cars on the ground below looked like they were about two feet long.
Climbing up to get to Lion’s Head was kind of confusing. There was no specific trail that led up to it. So we had to kind of guess where to go because our leader Jason Wendel was behind us climbing up with all the gear. After we had climbed up a small gulley of large loose rock we emerged at the top to find that we couldn’t tell which knob was Lion’s Head. So we basically just started walking in a southwesterly direction until we finally recognized Lion’s Head. We then had to climb up and edge our way across this 20 foot rift in the rock that dropped all the way to the ground. After that was over all we had to do was climb up another 30 feet to the top of the knob.
When we got there the anchor that we were going to be rappelling off of had been shot five times by a rifle slug about halfway up the steel post. This had made two large holes in the top of the anchor. Also the anchor was slightly bent.
Doesn’t this sound really fun? Well it actually is fun rappelling after you master your fear. This is exactly what we had to do because the drop off the top of that little knob was very intimidating. The two half inch 300 foot ropes were very hard to pull through the figure eight at first, because my 115 lbs. were not enough to make the rope slide through the figure eight without strenuous help. So the first 20 feet were hard because of that little problem.
The first half of the rappel comprised of 3 large ledges that ranged in 10 to about 15 or 16 feet wide. After those it was just a vertical stretch of conglomerate rock. That was when the fun really began. I started to jump about 20 feet down the face. All the fear that everyone in the group and I felt was only for a moment, because once we started to go down our fears slowly slipped away like quicksilver. One of the leaders in my group just before he rappelled down actually clung onto the steel pole that was our anchor and said jokingly “I don’t want to let go”.
I recommend going rappelling at Maple Canyon as soon as you can, with the right equipment and safety gear. You can also go camping if you have a mind to.