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Just Imlay and Heaps In a Day (Zion Canyoneering JIHAD)

Updated: Nov 28, 2023

Lower Imlay
The "Chamber" rappel in Lower Imlay

This was by far my biggest single-day adventure yet, and that's because it was a route that should have taken multiple days. Wes and I originally had a plan to complete what's called the Zion Trifecta (Heaps, Imlay, Kolob) in less than 24 hours. The Trifecta is an ultra-running/ canyoneering route that has only been completed once before. Naomi Ogden (a film student at SUU) reached out to us asking to make a canyoneering documentary to submit to the Banff Mountain Film Festival next year, so this seemed like the perfect opportunity. We'd been toying with the idea for a while but it was more of a funny thought than something ah we actually saw as a reality. So, when Naomi came into the picture I think we stopped seeing it as some kind of joke and decided to start planning it for real. We set the date for October 21st, which was late in the season, but we thought that it would be okay. Unfortunately, life happened quickly and we were nowhere near as prepared as we thought we would be by that date, so we decided to postpone. To make matters worse, about midway through October we got word that they were releasing up to 35cfs from the Kolob dam upstream, making Kolob Creek Canyon unsafe to run. Annoyed and disappointed, we decided to move forward with our plans to complete JIHAD instead. We reached out to Tom Jones, the owner of Imlay Canyon Gear and asked him to support us with our efforts for the film; he was all for it. In the weeks prior to our run of JIHAD, I met with Tom on two occasions. The first time I met with him to talk about our plans. He gave us some helpful advice and suggested a few tweaks to our plans. He also offered to sponsor us with ropes and packs since we would need two complete sets of gear to make this possible. A few weeks later I met with him once more to pick up everything, measure ropes, and stuff all of the bags. So, just like that, the games had begun.

Man sitting above one of the jumps in Heaps canyon in Zion National Park
One of the jumps in Heaps (from another trip)

Over the last few weeks I had gone over the beta dozens of times, even after having done Heaps and Imlay multiple times prior. We were very intentional about the way we packed and only brought what was absolutely necessary (or what would be stupid not to have) since we knew we'd be running the full day with the weight of our packs. We packed for emergencies and were prepared to bivy overnight if things went sour. We brought plenty of -but not too much- pothole escape gear, and we even did some experiments with replacing our normal twist lock carabiners with lighter, dual-gated, auto-locking ones made by Grivel since we knew that our fingers would lack dexterity in the early winter conditions. We carried the minimum amount of rope for each canyon, and we even preset the rap lengths with biner blocks in the rope bags for some of the first rappels. We spent weeks thinking about rappel lengths, what gear to carry, our procedures at the top of each rap, and making our itinerary for the attempt.

Flash forward to 11/10 (the day before our JIHAD attempt), my mind was racing for most of the morning. I packed our bags, bought some last minute food items, and waited for Wes and Naomi to arrive. When they got there, we loaded up and drove up to Zion. First stop was the Wilderness Desk. I had previously reserved our permits for Heaps and Imlay online, but since we needed a yellow pass to leave our car in the canyon after the shuttles stopped running, we had to go pick them up in person. Moe and Suri were the rangers at the desk that day, and when we explained to Suri what we planned to do the next day she exclaimed, "I really don't want to issue this permit!" and said to Moe, "What do you think?" to which he replied, "You know how I feel about Heaps permits in November"

This launched us into explaining every detail of our plans, contingencies, what we'd do in an emergency, what gear we had packed, what support we were receiving, etc. Suri eventually relented, although she took care to point out multiple times that we were "crazy" and that she better not get a SAR call that night to come pull us out of the canyon. We knew exactly what we were getting ourselves into, but I think it started to feel a lot more real at this moment.

Braxton and Wes in Big Drysuits
Sumo Mechanics

Permits secured, we decided to head to Zion Adventure Company to pick up some drysuits. It was November 10th, nobody that we knew of had done Heaps in over a month, and it was getting down to 20 degrees at night up by Lava Point, so we knew that we were in for some very cold water in Heaps. We even entertained the possibility that we could end up breaking through some ice, although we hoped that wouldn't be the case with the deep pothole water. People had recently run Imlay the week before and they were okay in 7mm wetsuits, so Wes and I opted to use our own wetsuits for Imlay, and rent drysuits for Heaps. Wes and I had never worn drysuits before, so it was a very silly process. We both looked like the michelin man, or like we were wearing those inflatable "fat" suits that people wear to imitate sumo wrestling. To make matters worse, since these were rentals they gave us XXL coveralls to put over the drysuits and protect them in the canyon. So here we were, about to attempt some big, insane, badass feat for a documentary film, and we looked like sumo wrestler mechanics! Oh boy.

Two guys spinning wearing heavy backpacks
2 packs, 35lb each. 70lbs to run 5.5 miles with?

Afterwards, we drove up to Lamb's Knoll, about 30 mins from Lava Point which is where we'd be starting the next day. We got all of our stuff out of my truck and started packing our bags. We'd need two fully stocked gear bags each - one for each canyon. It took us at least an hour or so to get everything prepped, and even then I had this nervous feeling that I was forgetting something. We experimented for a while with ways to attach both of our packs since we'd have to run the first 5.5 miles carrying two of them before stashing one at Potato Hollow for Imlay. We discovered that if we unbuckled the shoulder straps of the second bag we could wrap them across the backpack that we'd be wearing and buckle them on in an "X". This seemed secure enough. We goofed around in the parking lot getting dizzy and spinning around with 70lbs of gear on our backs. We couldn't help but wonder what we were getting ourselves into. Finally, everything was squared away. Bed time.

I slept terrible that night. We went to bed around 8, but I don't think I was able to fall asleep until about 10, and we had to wake up at 2AM. I was up at 1:45. I tried to go to the bathroom when I first woke up, but no dice. Guess I had to hold on to the hope that my anxiety would keep the poop in all day. I ate a PB&J that I had packed myself the night before, I wasn't hungry but I knew that I would need the calories. We drove up to Lava Point and chatted while drinking some mate. We arrived at the start around 2:40, and it was 10 degrees outside. We quickly suited up and put the massive packs on. Anxiously we waited, and decided that we'd leave a little bit early (2:55AM). I expected to have the feeling you have at the beginning of a race when the gun goes off, but there was no gun. In a sort of anticlimatic way, we just started running down the trail. Sidenote: running with one pack is bad; running with two is a joke. But hey, we did it!

2 miles in, Wes and I were overheating. Yes, overheating. In 10 degree weather. Love it. We quickly threw our packs on the ground, stripped some layers, threw them in the packs, and off we went again. My joints ached from the weight of the packs but we just kept running. I expected it to be grueling, but the West Rim Trail was kind to us, and actually kind of fun! We got down to Potato Hollow by about 4:00AM and shed one pack -and 35lbs of gear. After that, both Wes and I felt like we were flying! Carrying 35lbs uphill never felt lighter. The one thing we did notice was that while we were carrying less, we were also breathing harder and our hearts were pumping like crazy. After Potato Hollow there were two big hills left to conquer before making it to Phantom Ridge, and they were brutal. We did okay with the first hill, but by the time we made it to the top I was dry heaving and the world was spinning. I thought for sure I was going to throw up. Like a good, supportive friend, Wes started filming. The feeling passed, we kept running. Another mile or so along the rim trail passed, and out of nowhere I heard a yelp and Wes went flying. It was like when you watch swimmers dive off the blocks in the olympics, except he dove straight into the ground. He rolled and stood up before I could even get a hand out to help him, but his left hand looked pretty mangled. Ouch, that had to sting.

Wes reassured me that he was good to keep going, and we agreed that we'd stop to bandage him up when we got to the first rappel on the ridge. We kept running until we got to the turn-off, and then jogged for a bit as we moved off trail and down the hill. Moving along the ridge required some "screeing" as we navigated our way down through steep, loose rock. We got to the first rappel around 5:15AM and suited up. Wes set the first rap for us and I went down. I asked Wes if I was good to go get the next rap set up, and he said yes. So I continued down past some downclimbs and along a skinny, exposed stretch of terrain before dropping down to the tree where we'd rappel 210ft down to the floor of phantom valley. I made quick work of the rigging, but after a few minutes had passed I began to wonder where the hell Wes could be. I yelled his name repeatedly, and blew my whistle over and over, but to no avail. The dark part of my brain began to wonder if something horrible had happened to my friend. Pushing those thoughts away, I scrambled up the ridge until I finally heard Wes yelling back. Turns out he had just taken a wrong turn and gotten lost. We hurried back to the tree, rapped down, pulled the rope, drybagged the 300' rope for the canyon, and started running again. I hadn't ever done this part in the dark before, normally the sun had always risen before we arrived in the valley, but this time we got to run through the valley in the dark. It was very disorienting. However, somehow I still managed to pick the most direct line to the canyon through the valley without getting us turned around. We arrived at the head of Heaps by 6:10AM. Pretty much right on time!

Putting on drysuits took longer than expected. Getting the gaskets on just right was somewhat difficult, but mostly because we really didn't have any experience with wearing drysuits. After fiddling around with them for a while, we once again became sumo mechanics. Jokes aside, those things were seriously cumbersome. We started Heaps around 6:30, and the sun still hadn't come out yet. The moment my hands got wet, I knew we were gonna be in for a very cold day. Even with the dry suits and thick neoprene socks and gloves, the water was frigid. We made it around the first bend rather quickly, and the water level actually seemed pretty high. We were hopeful that that would be the case for the whole day, since doing Heaps with bigger pothole escapes would take a lot longer. Wes rigged the first rap and went down, I came after. We kept moving. Shortly afterwards, we came to our first pothole. Uh oh. The water level was low, and the lip was atleast 4ft above the water. Wes went for it and managed some awkward stemming moves to get up and out. I passed him his pack. It was at this point that we knew we were gonna be in for a very long day. One more rappel, check. We swam through a wide corridor before arriving at a massive pothole just before a bend in the canyon. Looking down into this thing, I recall that the last time I had done Heaps I stemmed over it, but that was when falling meant dropping a few feet into a pool of water. This pothole was now atleast 15feet deep with about a foot of water at the bottom. A fall while stemming would mean big penalty points. I climbed high above the pothole, leveraging my weight between my wrists and heels, and awkwardly stemmed my way over the pothole. This would've been a breeze in normal conditions, but it was dark, I could barely feel my hands, and the empty pothole was looming beneath me. Oh yeah, and sumo wrestler mechanics just aren't fit for stemming. I made it. Wes looked at me with a little fear in his eyes, and passed me his pack. I did my best to spot him as he came across, but I believe the support I offered was more moral than physical. Finally, we both made it across.

Man in drysuit with heavy backpack stemming over pothole in slot canyon
Braxton stemming over the pothole, 20ft above the deck
Woman walking through corridor in Heaps Canyon in Zion National Park
The hallway section from a different trip through Heaps

At this point, the canyon opened up for a while and we jogged through the straight, hallway-like corridor for about 10 minutes. Running with the suits felt silly, and my feet felt like they weighed 20lbs. We made it to another technical section of the canyon, and did a few awkward downclimbs and some stemming across logs to get to the other side. When we got there, there was an absolutely massive pothole waiting for us. We couldn't see any hook holes, and the pothole was too wide for a pack toss. Potshots were out because there wasn't any sand nearby for us to use unless we climbed back up the canyon. We kept this in mind as a backup plan. Wes hopped in and attempted to get out of the pothole 3 or 4 times while I sat up on the lip. No dice. We decided that the only -quick- solution, although risky, was for both of us to get in the pothole. We were confident that we could get out with a partner assist. So, I jumped in, and swam over to the other side. I tried beached-whaling my way out of the hole, but the lip was too high and steep to get my body over. Next, I pushed my pack down underneath me and stood on it in the water. This was a tricky balancing act, but it gave me just enough leverage to get my body out of the water and up onto the lip. I channeled my inner slab-climber for a few moments and managed to gain some purchase on the sheer, smooth wall. I couldn't make the next move without slipping, so I had Wes swim hard into the wall while pushing the pack that I was standing on. With a bit of a boost from Wes, I had just enough momentum to get up and over the lip. Both Wes and I breathed a sigh of relief when we realized I had made it. That was a tricky one. We both rappelled off a bolted anchor down from the lip of the pothole and into the next section. We climbed down through a narrow corridor and elevatored down a few would-be rappels. Elevatoring is a technique that involves wedging your body tightly between two walls and adjusting where you put pressure to allow yourself to do a slow, controlled slide down to the ground. Finally, the canyon seemed to be opening up ahead. We made one last jump into a big pothole and climbed out, and then there it was, the crossroads.

Woman walking through water with a backpack in Heaps canyon in Zion National Park
A section just after the crossroads from another trip

We made a quick snack break, sent a message out to our friends who were waiting for us on the inreach, and then ran to the narrow mouth of the rest of Heaps. At this point I was feeling pretty nervous about the conditions. I'd never done Heaps when the potholes were this low before, or when I was this exhausted. We looked at the time and it was about 8AM. Not quite as fast as we had hoped, but not bad either. The next string of potholes was straight ahead and we continued onward. The next 30 minutes or so consisted of mindless running, jumping, climbing, swimming, running, jumping, climbing, swimming. I felt like I was in a state of flow for the whole thing. No thoughts, no worries, just movement. We got to a few big log jams that were rigged for awkward rappels, but opted to jump instead. Since the water levels were low, we were jumping between 15-30 feet into water that was often only about 6 feet deep. To stop ourselves from hitting the ground too hard, we would throw our packs into the deepest looking part of the pothole, and then if it looked deep enough we would jump down onto them in a pike position, allowing our bags, surface tension, and our big inflated drysuits to keep us afloat. With the right tactics, I managed to keep my head above the water for almost the whole time, even on a jump that was nearing 30feet! Run, jump, climb, swim. Run, jump, climb, swim. Before we knew it, I saw a familiar orange glow around the corner. We were at the rappel just before the iron room!

The iron room is a section of Heaps nearing the end where there is orange ooze dripping out of the wall on all sides caused by the iron mineral seeping out of the rock. It is absolutely gorgeous, and the early morning light made it glow. Too bad we weren't there to bask in the scenery and take pictures. We continued past the iron room to the green room. Upon entering this section, there was a big pothole to get out of. Another beached-whale partner assist got us out. There was a rap here, but I thought we could jump. As I was inspecting the drop and the pothole beneath, I saw a big ledge that looked pretty gnarly, and was about to suggest that we rappel, but then I slipped. Time slowed down as I felt my body hurdling towards the ledge below me, I was certain that I was going to hit it and bounce off into the pothole. Instead, I channelled my inner spider-man and threw my pack between my legs as I kicked off of the wall at the last moment before my feet hit the air. Smack! I landed directly in the middle of the pothole, narrowly avoiding hitting the ledge to the right. As Wes peered over and asked if I was okay, I told him yes, but not to do what I did. He tried to get into a position where he could land in the pothole easily, but as he did so he slipped too. Luckily, he was already in a pretty good spot and came falling down into the pothole next to me. This was certainly a mishap that could have had big consequences for our day, but luckily we both came out unscathed.

A few more bends, one or two pothole escapes, and boom! There it was. In Heaps there is one section where the canyon appears to take a sharp left, but if you follow it, it just dead ends. If you aren't looking for it, you may not realize that the canyon continues on the other side of a big log jam that you have to climb over! For whatever reason, this is the landmark that my brain had chosen as the final obstacle before getting to "the final" section of Heaps. In reality, there was still quite a bit left to go, but this gave us the boost we needed to keep moving! I stemmed my way out of one pothole, beach-whaled my way out of another. Some of the moves we pulled off to get out of the potholes in Heaps were

Man in blue drysuit escaping a pothole in Heaps canyon in Zion National Park
Escaping a pothole in the final section

surprising to me. I wonder if we would have done those same things under less urgency or if we would have resorted to more pack tosses and other techniques. I think for an average group, that certainly would have been the case, but Wes and I were highly motivated to get out of there as quickly as possible. The canyon widened one last time which meant we were only two bends away from the final rappel sequence. We flew through this part, doing two more raps, a few downclimbs, and at least one more pothole escape. Lady mountain came into view ahead and we knew that we had made it! We had no idea what time it was at this point but it felt like we had moved fast.

The sequence is complicated, and many groups bottleneck or run into issues at this point of the canyon. Doing rebelays while staring at a 500' drop below you isn't for the faint of heart, especially when you've been exherting so much effort for hours prior. Wes rigged the 60' rappel and went down to the tree, and as soon as he got to the edge we heard a roar of cheering from the canyon below. Our families were there, and they had spotted us! Before this point I had been feeling pretty exhausted, but I felt their energy and enthusiasm well up inside of me, and it drove me to push forward. Last time Wes and I had done Heaps, we stuck a rope on the 60 foot rap in a smaller groove. This time I was very careful to avoid that exact same scenario, and the pull went smoothly. We tried to transition quickly to the next rap but with limited space and lots of rope to manage, we lost a little bit of time getting the next rap set up. We also managed to accidentally drop a smooth operator straight off the cliff that we had packed with some amsteel to use in case we stuck a rope. Whoops, hopefully we wouldn't end up needing that. I rapped down to the bird perch, and

Looking down at a crowd from the Bird Perch on the final rappel sequence of Heaps Canyon in Zion National Park
The view from the bird perch before the 280' rappel

immediately got to work on the next rap. Wes cleaned up, rapped down to me, and we pulled the second rope together. Wes went down, I managed rope, I went down. As I went over the edge I could hear my nephew, Korver, "Woah! It looks like he's flying! Can I do that? I wanna do that!" The final Heaps rappel is a dramatic 280ft free-hang. Since there's usually an audience below, it feels like you're a superhero everytime. This time, our parents and friends were all down there cheering us on. I felt so much gratitude for them and that we had made it! It had been a long day already. When we got to the bottom, we got lots of hugs and asked them for the time, it was 10:50AM. Heaps took us 7h 55m from start to finish. Could we have done it faster? Probably. In better conditions? Hell yeah. We'll find out next year ;)

While in the canyon, it was easy to entertain the idea of finishing Heaps and deciding to be done. I don't think anyone would have judged us, they all thought we were insane anyways for trying to do both. But getting to Emerald Pools and seeing my family and friends there supporting us filled me with energy. Wes and I stripped off our drysuits, changed into running clothes, took a few pictures, ate some snacks, etc. We took a lot longer here than we probably should have, but I wouldn't have had it any other way. Finally, it was time to say goodbye to familial comfort, and hello to the big ass hill standing between us and Imlay.

Two Canyoneers wearing running vests, helmets, and carrying trekking poles at Upper Emerald Pools in Zion
Wes and I just before running down the trail
Canyoneer posing with his parents at Upper Emerald Pools in Zion National Park
My mom and dad were there at the bottom to cheer us on!

We said goodbye to everyone and started running. It was a little bit disorienting to go from heavy gear and clumsy drysuits to a running vest and shorts, but we acclimated rather quickly. Or atleast I thought so, before I almost fell down the rocky hill while trying to dodge hundreds of tourists. I collected myself quickly and kept running. We ran along the Kayenta trail back to the grotto, and then continued upwards towards Walter's wiggles, and eventually up to Scout's Lookout. For the next while it was easy to focus on nothing but movement, and dodging around the hikers was actually kind of fun. I said "excuse us", or "on your left!" atleast 200 times over the next 30 minutes, and finally the crowds started to thin out once we were at scout's lookout.

Hiker wearing helmet at Cabin Spring in Zion
Wes at Cabin Spring (the top of the hill)
Canyoneer sitting on a rock eating a clif bar wearing a helmet in Zion National Park
Taking a snack break just below Cabin Spring

Over the next couple of hours, Wes and I would alternate between jogging, and power hiking. We stayed below a 15 minute pace for the whole thing, even with 4500ft of elevation gain to be covered. I took the lead for most of the hills up to Cabin Spring, but once we were at the top my body began to feel like it was falling apart. Wes moved ahead, and I did my best to keep up as my legs seized up. It felt like walking on stilts, I could barely bend my knees. Eventually, the last hill appeared ahead and we navigated the last few switchbacks down to Potato Hollow. Wes sprinted ahead and grabbed our bags while I attempted to coerce my legs into functioning again. We still had to make it all the way through Full Imlay!

We grabbed our packs that we had stashed and made our way to the drop-in. Wes and I both plopped down and took a much needed break. We ate as much as we could, and drank tons of water. Suiting up took a while but before we knew it we were ready to go. It felt like it took every ounce of my energy just to stand up. I think I could have just laid there in my dry wetsuit and slept through the night, cold and all. Wes and I made our way down the first two raps. When I stepped off rappel at the bottom of the canyon, I felt something solid instead of water and heard a loud crunch. Everything had a thin layer of ice on top, and the walls were covered in icicles. Even in 10mm of neoprene, the water felt frigid. We blazed through this section of the canyon, moving as quickly as our frozen, exhausted bodies would allow us. We navigated a few short rappels, some downclimbs, and then came up to the big drop. We rappelled about 100 feet down steep slab to a ledge, moving carefully not to knock down any of the loose rocks that were literally everywhere. After that, it was another 165ft down to the bottom. Luckily, this all went off without a hitch. Wes and I stuffed both of our ropes into bags and kept moving.

Man rappelling next to waterfall in Zion National Park
The 165ft rappel in Full Imlay (from another trip)

The next section of canyon was a welcome reprieve. After scrambling down a ridge and one more short rappel, Wes continued forward while I paused to stuff the rope. I followed soon after. The canyon floor was covered in golden leaves, and further down they all turned to a bright pink. I don't know how long I ran for, but it felt amazing. All I could do was notice all of the colors and the pretty scenery around me. For a little while, my worries dissipated, and I was able to ignore the screaming ache of all my muscles and joints for the first time in a few hours. I caught up to Wes, went down the rappel, and he stuffed the rope while I continued to set up the next one. We continued leapfrogging like this for a while, until eventually we made it to the crossroads. Wes and I both agreed that this was the most efficiently we had ever moved through a canyon. Canyoneering is a sport that typically does not emphasize or require speed, but navigating obstacles quickly, analyzing and responding to challenges, and free movement between the canyon walls gave me a sense of freedom that is hard to describe.

I was hesitant about moving forward past the crossroads. I knew that we were committing to whatever conditions Lower Imlay was in, and I knew that there would be some tricky potholes which we would need to escape. The sun was setting, it was 5:45PM, and it was only going to get colder. I brought up my concerns to Wes since this was our last chance to bail, and after discussing it, we both opted to continue, despite all odds.

We continued past the crossroads and into the lower section of Imlay. Somehow, it felt like I was tapping into energy that shouldn't have existed. I was absolutely exhausted, pushed near my breaking point, but it just came pouring out of me, as determined to get through the next obstacle as I was. The raps blended together, we turned on our headlamps as all the light faded, and we rappelled, ran, swam, and climbed through corridor after corridor. We reached the chamber rappel, and continued onward. Soon, we would encounter the first string of potholes.

We approached each pothole with a high degree of caution, knowing that any small mistake which got us both trapped in one would prove fatal with the frigid air and water temps. There was no room for error here. Wes was only wearing 7mm of neoprene, and he had worn massive holes through his neoprene gloves in the first sections of Imlay. As the light faded, we started to see our breath as we exhaled. Wes began to lose dexterity, and then started to shiver. We needed to hurry. We continued leapfrogging through rappels, and I did the escapes for each pothole. I managed most of them with easy-moderate hooking moves, or by monoing with one finger in the holes or a hand over the lip. I have no idea what kept me going. I felt like passing out, but I felt more determined than ever before. Sometimes, I would be halfway out of a pothole, but then my leg would seize with cramps and I would yelp before either mustering the strength to pull myself over the lip or go crashing back down into the pothole. Most of the potholes were navigable for Wes and I with only a little bit of difficulty. I'd climb out, then I'd lower a foot for him to hook the shoulder straps of our bags onto. I'd pull them out, then I'd lower my foot again for him and pull him up. Nearing the end of the canyon, we could hear the roar of water rushing in the narrows. Salvation. Except not really, because we still weren't out of Imlay. Little did we know, the two biggest potholes of the day were still ahead of us. "So close, yet so far"

At the first of the last two potholes, I gawked for a moment at the 4-5 foot wall above the water. It was make it or break it time. Wes waited up above while I got into the pothole. Brrrr, it was the coldest one yet. When I got to the lip, I tried to pull my hook off of my harness but it was stuck on something. I floundered around in the freezing water while trying to yank it off of whatever it was caught on. I'm happy to report that I got it after much cussing. This was the hardest pothole yet, probably because I was exhausted, but I managed to hook up and out. On the other side, my worst nightmare came true and I saw that the next pothole was EVEN BIGGER. I remember telling myself, "that better be the last !#@$ing one". I pulled Wes up and then rapped into the final pothole. To my dismay, all of the hooking holes that were within reach were blown out. I tried 4 or 5 times and my hook blew free each time. Finally, in a final act of desperation, I swam back a few yards, and then charged at it, swimming as fast as my body would allow. I threw my body up, out of the water, and slammed my hook down into a hole near the top of the wall. BOOM, it stuck. It took a lot of effort to get my foot into the etrier and pull my body up and out of the water, but I did it. Soon, Wes and I were sitting on top of the pothole panting. We weren't at the end yet, but this was the point where we knew we could make it. Nothing could stop us now!

4 more rappels and the canyon came to an end. Wes and I both let out a whoop when we got to the last rappel into the narrows. A strange sense of peace came over me as we quietly rappelled into the narrows and cleaned up. Normally crowded, this place was a ghost town, and we didn't see another soul for the entire hike out. Luckily, we had trekking poles, because navigating the narrows in the dark was very difficult. Energy depleted, we had a few snacks and then trudged our way out. We knew it was getting late and we were sure that our families were worried. Time to get back. After what felt like years, we passed mystery falls, and a few moments later two flashlights appeared on the river bank. Cheers!

After a happy reunion with our loved ones, we jogged the remaining distance to the parking lot where Naomi was waiting for us. What a day! Wes and I both collapsed in the parking lot before taking any of our gear off. We had made it, and our bodies were done.

2 men laying in the parking lot, tired after completing JIHAD in Zion National Park
Us laying in the parking lot after collapsing at the end

A week later, Wes and I had another interview with Naomi. She asked us afterwards to write down some thoughts. I wrote, "Growth can only happen outside of your comfort zone" and Wes put, "You grow in proportion to the weight you take on voluntarily." I found it rather fitting that we were both on the same page. I have so much respect and admiration for Wes, and I'm beyond grateful that he was willing to embark on this crazy journey with me. I couldn't have done it without his positive outlook, strength, and determination to keep me going. We both pushed our limits to the max. I think we'd both agree that it was the hardest thing that we'd ever done. I'm also grateful to all of the amazing people that supported us. Naomi for filming and cheering us on, Tanner for being the best friend that either of us could've asked for, to our amazing families for being there and loving us like crazy even when they thought we were nuts, and to Tom Jones for sponsoring us and providing us with the ropes and bags to make this possible. As for the Trifecta next year, Wes and I have one thing to say, "Bring it on!".


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