Arches National Park, Utah – Hiking with involuntarily bath

Devil’s Garden is the only longer marked hike in the park. Walking the main trail until the end with all dead ends to the individual arches, and taking the primitive path from there back you want to consider four to five hours for the 12 km including one or two rests and enough time to take photos. The main trail is moderate, but the primitive trail is a difficult and strenuous hike where you only slowly make headway. There are some climbs, and there is exposure to height.

A well maintained trail leads to the famous Landscape Arch. This fragile structure with 93 m span lost a big slab in 1991 and is since then even daintier. The next one, Wall Arch, doesn’t even exist any more. It broke down in 2008. From Double-O-Arch the primitive loop starts.

Nature compensates for any exhaustion, but, unfortunately, nature is unpredictable as well. Between two steep walls a pond formed. There shall be always some water, but now the pond is deep. Too deep. At least up to shoulder height, maybe more. The right vertical wall is no option. Remains the left one. There are maybe two steps to make on the steep slick stone until reaching a small sloping landing; but after that I have no idea how to continue. Sometimes sandstone is non-skid and easy to climb, but sometimes it’s very slippery. After only few fruitless trials Joerg decides to take off his shoes, socks and pants straight away and walks through the water. (There are no pictures, I’m sorry.) Of course the pond is too deep to walk through, but fortunately he finds support at the quickly sloping shore. The surface is covered with a layer of ice. Joerg forces through the frozen water like an icebreaker and reaches accident-free the other shore. Since I am still convinced to climb the wall Joerg kindly comes back to take the left backpack. I have a lot of confidence in the grip of my hiking shoe’s soles. I had. I try three times to find support at the slippery wall; every time I helplessly slip down on my stomach. The rescue promising sloping landing seems to be unattainable although only two steps away. There might be a solution, but I can’t see it. Maybe it would be possible to surmount the spot with some more experience in free climbing, but mine is restricted to a minimum, tends so to speak towards zero. What to do? I won’t succeed in clinging on the stone with my fingertips. Would it be better barefooted? Or with a little more speed? Unfortunately I have one attempt only. If the landing doesn’t offer the hoped support I will land with all my clothes in the icy sludge. To walk several kilometres through a wintry Utah with wet clothes wasn’t high up on my list of priorities. From the other side the spot seems to be manageable, but this doesn’t help now. With a deep sigh I take off shoes and trousers and tramp through the pond in my thong. Fortunately it is pretty lonesome here; no other hikers, no watchers. (Again: There are no photos!) The advantage is that the pain in the thigh-deep ice-water doesn’t start immediately but just after walking a couple of metres. That encourages going on instead of returning. Eventually I’m in the dry with legs red as a lobster, trying to remove the sand and to dress again. I am happy to read a sign that the path leaves the wash. The rest of the trail is strenuous at the most, but no more technically challenging.

That was a good hike; I can recommend it to anybody. Maybe the other way round? Or in swimming trunks?

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