Canyonlands: Tales from Narrow Places

One handed in Sunburst Canyon

Posted in Northern Arizona & the Mogollon Rim by canyoneering on May 28, 2010

Sunburst Canyon, 3BIII
4.6 miles
Coconino National Forest, tributary of Secret Canyon


We were expecting an exciting and strenuous day as we dropped down the rim through the dense forest and into   Sunburst Canyon. What I was not expecting was the added challenge of being forced to complete almost all the rappels, (about ten in all) abundant down climbs and the long thrash through the thick on the exit hike using only my left hand. I am naturally right handed.

I was on a short rappel with an awkward start early in the canyon when I swung hard right and crushed my right, rappelling hand against the rock wall. It was instant pain; sharp, raw and excruciating. Without letting go of the rope with my damaged rappel hand I safely made my way down to the bottom, but I knew I was in trouble. I took a breath and soaked my hand in the icy cold pool at the bottom of the rappel for some relief. After sitting for a few minutes it became very clear my right hand was going to be completely out of commission for the rest of the day.

Despite the overwhelming pain it did not feel broken, just a really bad sprain. David and I talked for a minute and I decided I would be able to manage the ten or so upcoming rappels with my left hand. In the end using my left hand wasn’t too awkward, although I wouldn’t want to do a 300- foot rappel with the opposite hand, but now I know if I was forced to do it I would be able to.

The most unfortunate part of my hand injury was that I really didn’t appreciate the beauty of the canyon, which Sunburst had a lot of, with trickling flow down sandstone drops into clear pools surrounded by a magnificent forest.

When the technical descent ended the one handed adventure continued as we slogged for several hours through super dense bush back to the rim above. In canyoneering I can say with experience two hands is definitely better than one.



3 Responses

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  1. Stephen Schwartz said, on May 28, 2010 at 12:09 pm

    LAURA: I trust your hand is better?

  2. canyoneering said, on May 28, 2010 at 4:58 pm

    Yes, my hand is still a little black and blue but much better. Thanks for asking!

  3. […] One handed in Sunburst Canyon […]

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