BY RICH RUDOW'S estimate, the Grand Canyon holds some 300 “really worthy” slot canyons. He should know: Rudow, 47, general manager at GPS-software firm Trimble Outdoors, has spent more than 500 days below the rim since 1989, using his company’s goods to locate and systematically tick off slot-canyon descents.
Rudow had an impressive 2011. In February, he spent 30 days floating the Colorado River, using rafts as a bobbing base camp to explore 22 more slots, six of which were firsts. “These aren’t your in-and-out slots of Utah,” Rudow says. “This is multiday expedition canyoneering.” Think technical, steep, and no guarantee you’ll actually punch through.
Rudow’s crowning achievement came in October 2011, when he led a group of hardcore canyoneers down his most audacious first descent yet—a rim-to-river journey through a remote 1.6-mile-long sliver off of the Yumtheska Mesa, sandwiched between the Havasu and National canyons. He dubbed it Obsession, because for years he knew the canyon was there and must be good. But it took him two days just to get to a point where he could (sort of) see the exit.
“It was the culmination of years of exploration, and epic in every sense,” he says. “It was also scary as hell.”