Climber's Ordeal Sparks Interest in Canyon

Climber's Ordeal Sparks Interest in Canyon

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CANYONLANDS NATIONAL PARK, Utah (AP) -- The incredible experience of climber Aron Ralston is transforming Bluejohn Canyon from hidden gem to a highly sought after destination among canyoneers.

Ralston had to amputate his left forearm to escape after it was pinned under an 800-pound boulder.

Bluejohn's scenic, narrow sections had already put it on the map for the elite among those with the climbing skills and technical gear to negotiate rugged canyons.

Since news of Ralston's story of survival, the National Park Service has seen a surge in inquiries about Bluejohn, said Paul Henderson, a spokesman for Canyonlands National Park.

A park service crew retrieved Ralston's hand and lower arm, and the boulder that smashed it was stabilized.

"Obviously we didn't want to leave it out there for other people to run into," said Henderson. "It would probably have ended up on e-Bay," Henderson told The Aspen Daily Times.

He said many callers aren't familiar with the desert southwest and fail to grasp the enormity of the area and its remoteness. Once they learn that the trailhead for Bluejohn Canyon is more than 25 miles off the nearest paved road, their curiosity erodes.

When they hear what it takes to negotiate the route, many surrender any thought of visiting it.

Ralston's story has piqued the interest of serious canyoneers with the skills to tackle such terrain. Henderson said he doesn't know how many people will follow up on inquiries with actual visits.

Bluejohn Canyon is just outside of Canyonlands National Park, sandwiched between Horseshoe Canyon to the north and the Maze to the south. Both of those areas are part of Canyonlands. It is administered by the Bureau of Land Management, which doesn't track visitation to the area.

After Ralston's ordeal, park service workers started debating how often the canyon was visited.

"Everybody was confident in saying fewer than 100 people visit" the upper part of the canyon during the year, Henderson said.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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