The Wave Lottery

Sun 20 Oct 2019 18:35

Made famous by a Microsoft Windows desktop background, the Wave is reputed to be one of the tougher hikes in Grand Staircase Escalante: people have got lost, been airlifted out and even died attempting the 6 mile hike across sand dunes and loose rocks in temperatures up to 110F, so we thought we’d give it a go.
There are only 20 permits per day, 10 of which are allocated in an online lottery 4 months in advance, so we had no chance there. The other 10 are allocated by lottery in person at the BLM Visitor Centre in Kanab (town slogan; ‘The Greatest Earth On Show’), for the next day’s hike, so we turned up to see how it works.
After a briefing at 0830, party leaders are invited into a back room for the lottery itself. You fill in a form which must have an emergency contact ‘who cannot be you or a member of your party – it has happened’ and your vehicle index (‘I don’t know my index’, ‘is it parked outside?’, ‘yes’, ‘it’s just  a short walk!’)
At 0900 entries close (0905, ‘can I still enter?’ ‘No’) and you are allocated your number (we were no.1), which you are expected to remember. Respective numbered balls are put in a little lottery machine (as long as no-one took yours as a souvenir!) One time the ranger writing the numbers missed out a form, the other ranger giving out the numbers noticed and brought form 84 back to fill in position 20 – a swift slightly heated discussion between the rangers ensued…
Then the numbers are drawn, 1 at a time….
1….54, party of 1

2…55, party of 2 (7 places left)

3..unbelievably, 57, party of 2 (5 places left)

4… good grief, 84 – poor number 20 was dumbstruck

5… 4, party of 4 (1 place left, but, if you were in a party of 2 or more you could select 2 people of your group to go ‘for safety reasons’)

6…35, party of 2.

So, we were ‘unlucky’ not to get picked, we did try 3 times, but there were between 57 and 83 groups representing 130-180 people wanting places; better than the 2000 entering the lottery each day online, whose $5 entry fee pays for the whole shebang, but still difficult odds.