Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Rubio Canyon

Rubio Canyon is the first canyon I ever descended using ropes. The canyoneering class I took conducted its instruction there, and it was a somewhat sadistic choice. The first rappel is about 85 feet or so down a roaring waterfall that is known amongst canyoneers for the rock surface being slick as oil. You have to really want to learn how to rappel in order get down. I did, sort of. I was rewarded with banged-up knees and my first indication that hiking boots wouldn't cut it for canyoneering in wet places. 

Now Rubio is a comfortable place for me. A canyon to practice on and keep sharp for the really extreme stuff we now do (funny, it seemed pretty extreme to me when I first did it).

So I decided to use the canyon to try out fixing a major complaint I have about photographing canyoneering and that is getting a feeling of action in the pictures. Even people on a rope start to look a little static to me now. So I went with an old trick, using slow shutter speed for blur and flash which freezes any action it touches. What I got isn't perfect, but it's a start.

I locked off on the first waterfall, named Thalehaha, and looked down as I waited for someone to go down the rope.

Annette is actually ascending the rope to fix a stuck rope.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Helios Canyon

A friend asked me to post pictures of Helios Canyon in Death Valley which we went through about two years ago. Always happy to relive the glory.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Death Valley canyons

I have to admit that the thrill junkie in me absolutely loves the technical canyons in Death Valley National Park. That is, the canyons (as previously posted on this blog) that often involve arduous approaches, high, long rappels and nearly impossible down-climbs. But nearly as spectacular as those rugged canyons are the ones that are much, much easier to get in and out of. Here are three that I recently visited, Marble, Mosaic and Fall, that didn't need a rope and were still fun.

A desert big horn sheep's skull in Marble Canyon.
A hiker passes through a multi-colored passageway in Marble Canyon.

Hundreds of years-old petroglyphs in Marble Canyon, most of them indecipherable.
Another view of the petroglyphs. Is that a coyote in the lower right? No idea.
A narrow passage in Marble Canyon. Much of the rock here was laid down when this was originally the bottom of an ocean.
The petrified wood look of the rock in Mosaic Canyon.

Mosaic Canyon's narrow corridors.

I'm not sure if conglomerations of rock like this are why it's called Mosaic Canyon, but I'm willing to bet it was.

Hikers make their way through a series of easy-to-climb ledges in Mosaic Canyon.
Nearly invisible from a short distance, Fall Canyon's entrance takes you into a cathedral of rock.
The lower section of Fall Canyon.
Fall Canyon narrows with views to the Grapevine Mountains above.
Yours truly winding through the upper Fall Canyon slot section.

Barrel cactus growing above the upper section of Fall Canyon.

The polished walls of upper Fall Canyon.

Just past this boulder the upper Fall Canyon narrows takes a quick left turn into another chamber.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Suicide Canyon

Right up front: No, I don't know why they call it Suicide Canyon, nor has anyone explained why the first rappel, a 190-foot drop, has been named "Lover's Leap."

One thing Suicide Canyon made clear to me was how canyoneering thrives in Southern California. This is one of the harder canyons to get to and, still, there was plenty of evidence of people regularly descending it. 

Starting near Tujunga Dam, the route quickly leaves an easy trail for a faint path that steeply climbs through brush and over loose soil and rocks. Think hand-over-hand in places that start to feel vertical. So precipitous that if you stop for a moment, you slide backwards. Eventually that tops out to a plateau of sorts covered by cat's claw and other vines that rip off flesh as you push through. My arms bled from cuts I strangely didn't feel. Not much of a trail here. We just relied on Rich's GPS to guide us to the drop-in point which was steeper and looser than the climb up.

But once in the canyon, the eight rappels were a joy to negotiate. Somehow, this canyon is just right. Tall, long rappels are interspersed with easier ones. Even during a drought, there's water here. Relaxing is the best word to describe Suicide Canyon. (When will I ever again get to put relaxing and suicide together in the same sentence?)

Suicide Canyon: The first rappel is in the sunlight and the approach through the thick brush is in the upper left of the picture.

Rich busting through the brush.
Cammy working her way down the loose, steep slope to the top of the first rappel.
Cammy on the first rappel.
Kevin checking out a vertical section on the first rappel.
Rich, midway through the canyon with (I believe) Fox Peak behind him.
Jerri's rappel device called the CRITR.
Kevin on a rappel near the bottom.
Cammy rappelling with Jerri belaying. Note the water seeping down the rock. During a drought!

Rich about to step into the mystery leaves (he isn't sure what's underneath; a pool of water, actually).

Jerri rappelling on the second-to-last drop.

The final, 170-foot rappel.