Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Eaton Canyon

After talking about it for what seemed like years, the U.S. Forest Service has announced that it's shutting down the bottom portion of Eaton Canyon to everyone (well, it was actually a stealth announcement; there were no public hearings). The canyon is a spectacular, waterfall-filled gouge running down through the San Gabriel Mountains above Pasadena (near Los Angeles). The reason for the closure is both to save people from themselves (five hikers have died in the last four years while trying to go up a steep, crumbly trail at the bottom of the canyon) and presumably financial (one ranger told me they spend half a million dollars on rescues every year). You might think this wouldn't affect the many canyoneers starting at the top of the canyon and (sort of safely) going down with ropes, harnesses and rappel devices. But if they're caught in the closure zone at the bottom, they'll be fined.

Perhaps this will all be settled soon. There's talk of instituting a permit system for canyoneers. But it does set up an interesting issue of how a fairly reckless group of unprepared people going up the canyon can impact another group of largely prepared people going down the canyon. (The same ranger who told me about the rescue price tag also said they've pulled out people who saw videos of the canyon, bought rope from Home Depot, and tried to go down the canyon, minus any significant training or experience, and got into trouble of one sort or another. So this isn't just the clueless kids unable to recognize the obvious dangers of climbing up a wet, slippery canyon.)

Or, the canyon could be shut down for a long time. You never know.

With all of this in mind, I gathered together a few shots from my three trips through the canyon as a reminder of what a wonderful place this is.

Here's the problem: this lad climbed up a rotten, precipitous trail to get to this waterfall so he could jump off the 80-footer into a pool just deep enough to keep him from busting his body into pieces.
The canyon's final rappel coincides with a waterfall that people hike up to on an easy, almost flat trail. But unfortunately, some of them don't stay there but press on up the crumbly trails to the next fall or beyond where it gets slippery and even more dangerous.

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