Gearing up by starlight for an early morning start: Eye of the Needle.

Another Thursday, another weekly pilgrimage to Southern Utah. Looked to be a good weekend, with plans to hook up with the Ram Clan for a couple classics, and maybe drop in on Tom’s Bakefest. Lucky me, Ram and Aaron were in the middle of an epic-sized week with a fork of Oak, a Full Imlay, and Full Right Fork the three days before. Should be significantly whooped so I can run with them. Unlucky for me, temperatures were hitting 105 in St. George, so the possibilities for canyons were slimming down rapidly.

I arrived at camp around sunset, greeted by the pleasant news that Mapleton’s finest group of young men would be treating us to dutch oven dinner. While pounding generous helpings of orange chicken, potatoes, pudding, and cake, it was decided South Fork of Oak would be tomorrow’s haven from the heat.

Tom handlines the first little obstacle in South Fork Oak.

Our goal for the day was simple: spend as much time out of the sun and in the cold water as possible. Early in, late out, and lazy strolling along the way. Who says the Ram plan ain’t any good? After a long but manageable bushwack, an escape from a pack of chattering young women, and a run in with a man sized spider, we were in the canyon ready for action. I was particularly happy to be back at this canyon after I was turned around from it two years ago. Those friggin’ logging roads are a labyrinth, y’know? Last attempt, we arrived at the first rappel at around 1 pm, and decided we were cutting it too close. Time for some revenge.

What’s wrong Maverick? That water cold?

The South Fork is all business right from the start. The canyon probably drops 600 feet in 8 or so rappels, and less than a 1/4 mile in length. A stream flows perennially, so the water is crystal clear and crazy cold. The canyon is a straight up classic.

Tom raps down into the bowels of the Eye.

The elder Ramras doing some vertical slip and slide action.

Clark, the ultimate “poseur.” Nice shades man.

Spidey bites his tongue and wonders why he doesn’t just downclimb this drop.

The more handsome, more athletic Ramras on rappel.

Eric rapping into the Eye of the needle.

Eric, the richest man to successfully enter the kingdom of heaven.


Clark finishing up the Eye.
The Maverick, approaching the Eye.


The Rabbi, although an athiest Jew, was still able to pass through the Eye of the Needle. Probably because we started the canyon with a prayer, methinks.

After a series of killer rappels, the canyon finally reveals it’s namesake. After rappelling 50 feet down another waterfall, the watercourse blasts through a natural arch and into a golden grotto. If the cold water won’t leave you breathless, the view certainly will.

A rappel or two later and the canyon joins up with the Main Fork. The remaining canyon is still downright amazing, full of little downclimbs, an occasional rappel, and neckbreaking narrows. And we only had 6 hours left to enjoy it… Rough day, I tell ya.

Looking back at the climax.

Ram kicking water on my camera.

Bitter beer face.


Eric jumps the last rappel after the confluence with Kolob.

The final sections of water before the Kolob goes bone dry. But wait, Kolob should be flowing at 15 cfs right now, right?

We hit the base of the MIA at around 6 pm. With it’s nasty reputation, the exit didn’t seem a particularly enjoyable way to end the day. So to add a little excitement, Aaron decided he was going to set a new personal record. Shoot, the kid’s only 16, I figured I could hang. 37 minutes later, Aaron had is his personal best, while I was a ways back cussing his horrible route finding and applying pressure to my newly acquired gash in my shin. Fortunately, Ram has the maze of roads and shortcuts dialed up top, so we were back at the car in about 2 hours.

Bruce Neumann rolled into camp shortly after we arrived, and we began the plans for Saturday. We broke out a topo to glaze over the long undocumented route we would descend the next day, and Ram tucked us into bed with stories of 16 hour day awaiting us at 4:30 the next morning…