I’d come with a group of 13 outdoor enthusiasts on the invite of Osprey Packs to the remote reaches of Gravel Canyon. For the trip, we would wind through a dozen miles of twisting, boulder-strewn slickrock, slots, and washes — an excellent venue to test gear and experience wilds few people ever see.
The trip started when we dropped into a side slot near the main maw of Gravel Canyon. Immediately, with my body pushed between a constriction, I realized the trip would entail a lot of thrashing, grinding against rocks, and moving through terrain not always friendly to gear.
The initial tight entrance gave way to mile after mile of technical maneuvers as we got into the meat of the descent. Stemming, climbing, crawling, rappelling, scrambling up and down, spread-leg chimney moves — all were required to traverse down and through the inner reaches of the canyon. In between the technical canyon moves we followed scant trails, stretches of gravel, washes, slickrock, and sand.
Our route, a common descent through Gravel Canyon, is rated Canyon 3B III, meaning technical climbing skills are required. Fortunately, our visit in mid-April coincided with spectacular weather and little threat of rain, which can quickly add danger to a canyon descent, where flash floods can start, well, in a flash.
On my back, I carried a 60-liter pack, the Aether 60 from Osprey, loaded with camping and canyoneering gear plus some photo equipment. Our guide also had me haul food and four liters of red wine for the group — we were balancing adventure with a bit of luxury on this trip, no doubt!