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A Lifetime in the Canyon Country – One "Wow" After Another

Tue, 2022-01-25

Bill Priedhorsky is the Mountaineers’ Canyon Country veteran, having spent 43 years exploring slickrock and canyons in 124 multi-day trips. Something special about this part of the world keeps him, and so many other Mountaineers, coming back again and again. It is a country of “wow”, where beautiful and amazing sights are waiting just around the next year. The landscape is one where the bones of the Earth are open to the sky, with its bare slickrock surfaces extending for miles. The world is turned on end in the canyon country, one cleft following another. The landscape is a puzzle of navigation – a hundred yards walk takes one to an entirely new point of view, and a goal half a mile away might take a half day to reach. A new mystery can appear any minute, and does.

In the words of Edward Abbey, “The canyon country of southern Utah and northern Arizona - the Colorado Plateau-is something special. Something strange, marvelous, full of wonders. As far as I know there is no other region on earth much like it, or even remotely like it. Nowhere else have we had this lucky combination of vast sedimentary rock formations exposed to a desert climate, a great plateau carved by major … into such a surreal land of form and color.”

Bill will share highlights of decades in the Canyon Country, focusing on the last few years of new adventures. His canyon adventures started with rough backpack trips, but have been replaced by more comfortable outings where beasts of burden carry the load into camp. Recent trips ranged across the Canyon country. A llama trip to Fool’s Canyon took us to a remote corner of the Grand Staircase/Escalante National Monument, with the gift of water – rainstorms that turned cliffs into waterfalls and flats into lakes. Two years later was an October of drought, but enough water persisted in nooks and crannies to support a trip to Ladder Canyon, where a historic stairway to the Escalante River allowed for a swim most days.

November and December are too dark and cold to camp, but not to explore. Every mid-November, the Mountaineers establish a base in Moab town and spend the days exploring. Moab has become crazy busy, but November is a bit quieter. Despite its fame for jeeps and mountain biking, Moab is just as worthy for hiking adventure, and the Mountaineers discover new destinations every trip. Another base for exploration is Bluff, Utah, just 5 ½ hours from Los Alamos, but next door to one “wow” after another on Comb Ridge, Cedar Mesa, and White Canyon.

With a little luck, Bill hopes to be adventuring in the canyons for years to come.

Mountaineers’ meetings are held on the fourth Tuesday of every month. When held in person, they take place in the planetarium of the Pajarito Environmental Education Center (PEEC), 2600 Canyon Rd, Los Alamos, NM 87544. Recent meetings have been held electronically starting at 7:00 PM; the Mountaineers are considered when and how to return to in-person meetings. The link to the event can be found at

Sunset over the slickrock, seen from base camp. The Mountaineers’ October 2021 llama exploration was based on Antone Ridge, atop an escarpment that rises from the town of Escalante, Utah.


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