Here’s A Little Canyoneering Goodness to Welcome in the New Year

When you only know how to do one thing, you do the darn thing.

Where did you spend New Year’s this year? If you’re like me, you might have been curled up on a couch with a beer and a movie. If you’re more adventurous, maybe you were out at a bar with dim lights and champagne, or standing on a friends’ rooftop taking in the fireworks. If you’re really adventurous, and maybe a little bit crazy, you were deep in Bears Ears National Monument, picking your way through iced-over canyons and slurping hot ramen in a parking lot.

This film is about the third kind of person.

With treasured places like Bears Ears being dismantled by the current administration, these canyoneers’ annual tradition—a frigid trip through the slot canyons of Bears Ears spearheaded by the one trick pony himself, Steve Ramras—became a little more poignant. After Trump’s December 4 announcement, White Canyon and all its tributaries are no longer protected as national monument land.

For 15 years, Ramras and friends—and a few strangers, usually—have rung in the new year in true desert dirtbag style in White Canyon. It’s a tradition that runs on the strength of outdoor adventures to bring people together, and on a real, powerful love for the desert. This short film by Dan Ransom gives viewers a chance to look back on years of Freezefest—the tradition’s tongue-in-cheek title—with Ramras himself.


Showing 11 comments
  • Mike

    Love the video but I don’t understand the write-up.

    Bears Ears was designated a national monument in December 2016, right? But they’ve been doing this trip for 15 years. So how did they do it before the designation?

    • jacob

      Monument designation is a way of protecting federally owned land. It took Forest Service and BLM land and changed it’s status (it’s still managed by the USFS and BLM).

      • Mike

        Exactly….so (in essence) nothing has changed from two (or 15) years ago, except a part of the place is now protected that once wasn’t. Nobody’s access to go canyoneering/hiking/camping/etc has been stripped.

        A far cry from “Bears Ears being dismantled”.

  • Kevn

    Please give the politics a rest. White Canyon had managed to be a scenic place for hundreds of years without a national monument designation and it will continue to be regardless of that designation.

    • jacob

      And there’s also a lot of other places that used to be scenic that don’t exist as they once did because of a lack of some sort of preservation status. The Hetch Hetchy valley is probably one of the most famous examples I could site but there are many more. If there is no chance of development ruining that area what does it matter if it is designated a monument?

      • jr

        What politics, Kevin? Why don’t you give your brand of politics a rest? How could protecting White Canyon have any sort of negative affect on you at any degree?

  • Stephen

    Just because it was recently designated as a National Monument does not mean the area did not exist before. Folks have been adventuring in the area for years. Well, centuries actually. 😉
    There is all sorts of adventures from simple dayhikes, backpacking to extreme canyoneering and everything in between. Holy Spectacular area!!!!

  • Tom Jones

    Before Monument designation, the land was Federal public land (BLM land) that no one had figured out how to extract resources from, yet. Monument designation clarified that it was land to be preserved for future generations, and protected it from extractive industries. Removing the designation again opens it to potential resource extraction. Capiche?

  • tom

    the way i see it, why we have trump in the white house and why so much public lands are threatened is we need to get rid of two methods that bring these from possibly happening. first, why do we have the electoral college? if we chose a pres on the popular vote we wouldn’t have trump (or war monger geo w bush previously). Clinton and gore won the popular vote, i was raised to believe the majority rules, the majority wins. second, why do we allow riders in legislative efforts? a rider is what is gonna possibly allow drilling in the arctic refuge, and here in Arizona a rider was attached to a defense spending bill to trade oak flat (public lands sacred to apache culture and mtn climbing culture) to resolution copper mining company. a bill, legislation, should be singular, one subject only, no riders……..que piensan ustedes?

    • steve

      The riders blow me away. Tax bill had the ANWR stuff in it … how does that have anything to do with big corporate and top 1% tax cuts?

      Regardless, Bears Ears looks amazing (hopefully make it there this summer, I’m a few hours to the north). My preference would be a national park protection, but that wasn’t possible, so national monument worked well enough. Now it’s mostly no protection and it’ll be leased out to extraction, grazing etc. And if the Utah politicians ever get there way, it’ll be given free from the Fed’s (i.e. everyone) to the people or Utah. The people of Utah are then free to sell it, and then nobody gets access.

      Love the video, great work there, looks very cool

  • Greg

    …as long as American use automobiles, want gadgets to explore with, and use/wear oil-based textiles we will be conflicted and challenged in the political debate over common land use (also many other oppositional, political debate arenas) and intrinsic/aesthetic value vs. instrumental/resource value. What is worth considering is how tourism has become an industry that functions to extract aesthetic properties of an area. Companies cater to this extraction and actually profit from it, even if attempting to practice eco-friendly design (Patagonia). So, how can we “tour” without oil? How can we have oil without mining? How can we mine without land? If you want to have a voice politically, consider consumer advocacy.

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