First Ascents and Capsized Canoes on the Green River…

I’m soaking wet and shivering, desperately hanging on to the side of our tipped canoe as the river pushes us along.  One day I’ll look back on this moment and laugh, I thought.  But for now, this really sucks.

Our boat was riding low.  We were a team of six with three canoes, setting out to establish new rock climbs along the Green River in Utah- my most recent adventure with Chris.   We did a similar trip last year and loved it so much we vowed to make it an annual event.

This time we had established two new crack climbs on one of the many red faces of a desert buttress, but there was another area we wanted to check out.  We were half-way through our trip and moving camp.  Chris and I had volunteered to take some of the extra weight in the move, like the camp table and the big metal box the rental agency called a toilet.  And on day four of our eight-day trip the “toilet” was a little heavy.

Along with the big metal box we had what felt like three hundred pounds of climbing and camping gear in our boat.  Normally being in a low-rider canoe is no big deal on the Green.  This section of river is normally as calm as a cucumber, allowing for  shenanigans such as linking up canoes, blasting music, passing the bottle, and jumping off the boats to cool off or go pee.

Today the river was less cucumber and more pickle…and it turns out canoes are not the most stable form of transportation to float down a river.

We turned a bend and suddenly the wind picked up.  Moments earlier we were in our basking in the sun in our bathing suits and jumping in to cool off- now it was raining and downright cold.  The lazy river was soon making waves and even white caps, and all of a sudden our Sunday joy float felt more like The Perfect Storm.

Chris and I tried to keep our canoe head on into the waves, but a few big ones came all at once and we were angled all wrong.  One big splash and we had taken on water-  I knew we were hosed.  Sure enough, as if in slow motion, we tipped with the next wave.

We are obviously not boaters.

I’m hanging from the side of our overturned canoe thinking- this is actually happening.  It’s certainly not a worst case scenario  but it’s definitely a ‘this-really-sucks’ situation as I’m watching most of our gear getting soaked and some of it swept downstream.  We tied down most of the bigger stuff (including the big metal box) but not all of it.  No one expected to tip their canoe on this section of the Green.  I stare at my life jacket floating next to me and can’t help chuckling to myself.

We were able to latch on to our friend’s canoe with one hand and hold the capsized one with the other.  We desperately attempted to dock, and we ended up on a down-sloping rock with a slippery mud-siding and retrieved most our gear.  The boys were eventually able to tip the canoe to get the water out and right it.  This is surprisingly hard to do as none of us were Outward Bounders and it turns out water is really heavy.

A failed dry bag containing my sleeping bag and clothes made for a shivery night, but good friends sharing dry clothes and snuggling with the husband warmed me up.

All in all we established ten new crack climbs along a thirty mile stretch of the Green, and sacrificed only a camera and Chris’s beloved journal to the muddy bottom of the river.  But most importantly, we made memories of an adventure we’ll remember and laugh about for the rest of our lives.

Celin and Laura floating the Green in good style

Celin and Laura floating the Green in good style

One of many gorgeous desert blooms

One of many gorgeous desert blooms

Laura testing out Cross Your Heart, a 5.11 Weidner Team FA

Laura testing out Cross Your Heart, a 5.11 Weidner Team FA

Dan, Chris, and Celin- Boys being boys

Dan, Chris, and Celin- Boys being boys

Celin climbing the awkward chimney start of Cross Your Heart, 5.11

Celin climbing the awkward chimney start of Cross Your Heart, 5.11

Chris capturing a moment with his camera before it sunk to the bottom of the river

Chris capturing a moment with his camera before it sunk to the bottom of the river

Rehearsing Sexy Chocolate, 5.11 Team Weidner FA

Rehearsing Sexy Chocolate, 5.11 Team Weidner FA



  1. natalie rose jaime · · Reply

    Awesome read! Looking forward to seeing photos! Condolences for the journal….

  2. Hey Heather – can you give me a little beta on where you put in on the Green and if you rented boats out of Moab? We are looking to do a very similar trip in October with some FAs and repeats of existing lines. I would like as much info as possible as far as who to rent boats from out of Moab, what to rent from the outfitters and what to bring of our own (we are flying into SLC) and mostly logistical type questions. Also, where to find the highest concentration of FAs and best campsites. If there is a good guidebook or website with climbing/camping info that would be equally helpful. Thanks in advance. Best, Dan

    1. Hey Dan! Thanks for reading and I’d love to give you some beta. We put in at Ruby Ranch and the take out was Mineral Bottom. I’d recommend renting canoes, coolers, toilet, and dry bags from Canyon Voyages, and we used Tag-A-Long for transport. You will also need a permit but it’s easy, Tag-A-Long can give you that info. As far as exact sites for climbing and camping, we’d like to not reveal much info as we still want to go back for more in these particular areas, but there are so many more FAs to do all along the river it’s crazy! There is no shortage for sure. The biggest crux is finding a place to camp as the invasive Tamarisk is nearly impossible to get through. As for a guide, there is not a climbing guide out to my knowledge, but Canyon Voyages sells a great river map which we used exclusively, and it helps to bring binoculars to check for cracks, anchors, etc. Hope this helps and have a wonderful trip!

  3. yuji sato · · Reply


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