Friday, August 20, 2010. I will forever remember that day. Why? Because it was the most terrifying hiking experience of my entire life. Yes, it even tops the getting stuck 75-feet in the air waiting for my dad to cut my pony tail off. Let me explain:
My family went to do a hike called “Boundary” on Kolob Mountain on Friday. We were the first of our group of hiker friends to hike this hike. So, we didn’t know exactly what was ahead of us but once the canyon fed into Kolob Creek my dad and I had done that part on another hike called “Eye of the Needle.” We got started a little late and all of us were in the canyon after the first 130ish foot rappel around 10:00, officially starting at 9:30. About eight rappels (most down waterfalls and very slippery walls) later we were out of the slot. The rappels took a little longer than expected because we could never see the bottom of the rappels so we just used our super long, two ropes tied together, 400-foot rope. Pulling this rope took FOREVER. And we did it about 6 times in the freezing cold water. My hands were turning purple and my mom couldn’t stop shivering, even in our wet suits. Anyway, we got out of the slot and began down the canyon. There must have been a VERY recent flash flood, probably less than 48 hours earlier, because there was debri everywhere. Trees, branches, bushes, shrubs, mud, mud, and more mud were all over the place. It made climbing down the canyon a little bit tricky and took us extra time. We finally got to Kolob Creek and began down THAT canyon. After about 2 hours of tripping and slipping on the unseeable rocks in the river we made it to where the “MIA” exit is. We started up. We knew it was going to be incredibly brutal and would take a good two hours. By this time it was a little before 5:00. Climbing up very steep hills with flash flood debri everywhere made it very hard to get up. We thought you could grab roots but then it ended up being completely debri and very loose. We went up a hill that was practically straight up and ended up going to nowhere. I was sitting in the dirt, holding on to a tree while my dad went to look for the trail. It was then that the thought of sleeping in the canyon first crossed my mind. My mom was right below me on a square foot of flat land and my brothers were above me on another tiny square of flatish ground. After about 40 minutes of looking for a trail that appeared to have been washed away, we prayed. The first of many, many, many prayers to be said that night. We decided to go back down the treacherous hill and see if there was another way out. We then realized we had taken the wrong way. So, as we began to go the RIGHT way we realized we may not have much daylight left, it was about 7:00. As I sat, hyperventilating, waiting for the boys to catch up from pulling a rope I knew we were going the right way. So I calmed myself down and we ventured on. Then, we found ourselves at the edge of a very steep, sandy, debri-covered almost cliff. Somehow, we were in the wrong place again. It was too dark to go turn around and find the real way. So, our only choice was for me and mom to sit and wait while the boys took turns scrambling up to attach a rope. By this time it was dark and we were relying on the light of the moon which was almost full, thank heavens. My mom only had sunglasses so she was literally blind. We climbed up wherever the rope led us because we were too afraid to let go. This led us through many bushes, resulting in severely scraped legs. Climb while holding the rope, stop for a prayer, climb, pray, climb, pray. We followed this routine for awhile until we reached flatter ground. I was so relieved!! Even if we had to spend the night in the canyon, it wouldn’t be on a cliff! If we would have had to sleep on those cliffs we would have had to tie all of us to a tree or something. We stopped to give a prayer of gratitude and then continued in what we hoped was the direction of the road. A short 15 minutes later I heard my dad and brothers say, “The road!!” I took off running and when I saw that beautiful dirt road I collapsed on my stomach and just laid there. I was SO HAPPY to see that road. After an hour-ish walk to find the car we headed back to our trailer to clean up and head home.
Later we learned that Shan had been driving around in the MIA camp looking for us after Robert had called him. Robert was at Jamaica’s house with Jeff Wilcox and him, Daniel, and Jeff were about to come looking for us. They had decided to give us 30 more minutes before calling in the authorities. We are so lucky to have such concerned friends! Thank you for all the prayers. We ended up getting back home at 1 am. 13 hours in the canyon.
Lessons learned from this experience:
- I can handle myself relatively well in extremely stressful situations.
- Heavenly Father answers our prayers and guides us.
- I love my family more than anything.
Sorry it's so long but there you go, that's what happened on August 20, 2010 for the Ettinger family.