Sunday, April 5, 2015

Little Cottonwood Canyon -- I fall off a cliff

With this post, I am beginning the evolution of WalkingArizona. I have been interested, for some time, in telling and recording stories. For the past few months, I have been interviewing people in my Ward of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and helping them record an oral history. Most of them have asked me if I was going to record my oral history. Then I got a suggestion with an offer from a website called to put blog post and stories on their website. So I decided to do so. Surprisingly, my readers on Genealogy's Star, were apparently interested in listening to me read my blog posts. I decided it might be a good idea to put my stories here on WalkingArizona along with my photos. So, from time to time, there will be stories, not just my stories, but stories about my ancestors also.

Here is the first story entitled, "I fall off a cliff" and the link to the recorded story on

When I was much younger, about 14 years old, I started to become very interested in rock climbing. At that time rock climbing was not the popular and even competitive sport it is today. We had only the most basic equipment and had to teach ourselves. Later, when I moved to Utah to attend the University of Utah, I became much more involved. I was the adviser for an Explorer Post in the Boy Scouts of America. We decided to become mountain climbers.

At the time of this story we were very experienced climbers. We had a lot of equipment and had spent a lot of time learning how to use ropes, pitons, carabiners and the other things that went with climbing. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that we were safe or anything like that. It was still a very risky business (like the time I got caught in the avalanche, which is another story).

We used to go climbing on the granite in Big Cottonwood Canyon just east of Salt Lake City, Utah. Right at the entrance to the Canyon there is a lot of really nice granite. In fact, it is the same granite they used to build the Salt Lake Temple. It is near the Granite Archives where they keep all of the genealogical information. The cliffs are almost perfect for rock climbing.

This day we had all gone out to practice direct aid climbing. That is where you climb as much as you can and then use pitons pounded into the rocks to go higher. It is very difficult and strenuous. It also takes a long time to go very far. The boys were climbing up a crack in a corner of about a fifty foot cliff. I got tired of watching them and decided to climb another cliff about 50 yards away. It wasn’t that steep and I was climbing without a rope or anything else except my hands and feet to keep me on the rock.

Earlier that day, I had walked under a big rock with a hole in it and one of the climbers had knocked off a rock that hit me in the head. It hurt quite a bit and I was still thinking about my hurt head.

You are never supposed to climb alone but technically, I wasn’t alone. I had all of my friends over on the other cliff. I started climbing up the rock through the trees until I was well above the tops of the tall pine trees. I could see out over the entire canyon. It was a warm day and the rock was still cool. There were beautiful cracks to hold onto and shortly I was probably 25 or 30 feet above the tops of the pine trees.

I kept moving up the cliff. I think I could see a ledge about another twenty-five or thirty feet up that I would use to move across the cliff and come down through a chimney on my left. I kept moving up the cliff, not thinking very much about the climb when I suddenly peeled off the cliff. I can remember thinking, that I did not want to hit the cliff or I might start to tumble, so just as I fell, I pushed off the cliff with my boots out into space. I was about 150 feet up on the cliff. When I pushed off the cliff, I twisted my body around so I was facing away from the cliff, falling feet first. I didn’t have much choice but I was falling directly towards a pine tree.

I aimed for some branches and twisted so that my feet were straight down. I crashed into the top of the tree and the branch slowed me down. I broke several branches and crashed down through the tree until I finally stopped. I was completely unhurt. The tree saved my life. If I had hit the rocks, I would have, at least, broken a leg or something more serious. I climbed down the tree and told my friends what had happened. Nobody was impressed.

Upon reflection on this and many other experiences in my life, I have come to the conclusion that nothing in life happens by chance. There is a plan for each of us. We can accept the plan or reject it, but if we reject it, we will not achieve our full potential. I am thankful I was saved from serious injury or death on that cliff that day. I just hope I have lived up to whatever purpose our Heavenly Father had for me in this life. 

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