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‘Out of nowhere–desert sand to raging water’: Canyoneering guide warns of flash flood dangers in slot canyons

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WAYNE COUNTY, Utah (ABC4 News) – Weather conditions play a key factor in outdoor recreation like canyoneering in south-central Utah. A guide shares what can happen with heavy rainfall and his love for the outdoors. 

Harnessing up and rappelling down the side of the remnants of a canyon wall, Tim Pote is belaying his son, Jasper, down to the ground.

Tim said the area near Capitol Reef National Park has similarities to a slot canyon – and as a canyoneering guide, he said knowing all weather conditions is crucial, but the most drastic danger he said is rain.

“The weather you encounter are flash floods. It creeps up on you, it’s fast and as we know in Utah, it can be tragic and devastating,” Pote said.

RELATED: Over the last 100 years Utah has experienced several deadly flooding events

Flash floods happen when it rains rapidly on dry soil, Pote said, and all of that water often has nowhere to go, but through carved passages in the earth.

“Out of nowhere, it goes from desert sand to raging water above your head, tumbling debris,” Pote said.

If a person encounters a flash flood, Pote said it can be “the most beautiful thing you find in the desert” but from a safe distance.

RELATED: Utah flash flood kills two sisters, officials explain nature of area

“Waterfalls start running off everything, and it’s humbling, and it can be a powerful experience,” Pote said.

He said if a person is in a situation where flash flooding could occur at any moment, he said to climb to higher ground.

As a guide and co-owner of Capitol Reef Adventure Company, Pote said before taking groups on guided canyon tours, he checks satellite and radar weather reports, as weather determines safety.

“Just being vigilant with safety stuff and backing out of a trip if it’s bad weather,” Pote said. “It’s hard people paying ya, but you gotta make hard decisions to keep people safe.”

While weather can create dangers for any canyoneering activity, Pote said he enjoys sharing his love of the outdoors with others.

“I guide these trips because this is what I like to do. I love to be in the wilderness, I love to be with family, friends, sharing in what nature has to offer,” Pote said.

And his love for adventure isn’t only on workdays, but it’s in his free time.

“Me and a couple of friends are getting ready to go into a canyon, where we’re going to for three days, camp and hike, repel and climb our way down to a river,” Pote said, “inflate some boats and climb back out to the beginning of it.”

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