Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Helios Canyon

Three years ago, I learned that rappelling in the dark by headlight wasn't as scary as I thought it might be. I would recommend avoiding it whenever possible, but it's not so bad. Oh, sure, there's the part about looking over the edge at the top of a tall rappel and seeing only a black abyss below with no way of knowing if your rope hit the bottom. And certainly, the down-climbs are a little more exciting when the light from your headlight distorts how you evaluate handholds and footholds. And lastly, you see nothing of the canyon you came to explore except the rocks below your feet. But scary? Okay, it's a little scary, too.

The canyon I first discovered all this was Helios in Death Valley National Park. We had a little trouble finding the right approach, a steep mile long climb of some 1,100 feet elevation gain that took much longer than we expected. And by the time we hit the final two rappels, it was dark.

We returned to Helios Canyon with better insight for the approach and a determination to see what we missed by canyoneering at night. What we found was a nice little canyon.

This nondescript crack in the mountainside is the bottom portion of Helios Canyon.
Rich orienting us to the right spot with snow-capped Telescope Peak in the background.

The beginning of the climb made more thrilling by all the loose rock.

Rich and Annette working their way through a steep, slightly exposed traverse.

A pano taken near the top of the climb before we descended into the canyon which is to the right.
Yours truly climbing up the approach with the alluvial fan below. (photo by Rich Schmitt)

Rich took a spill over the sharp rocks. What would a canyon trip be without a little spilled blood?

Kevin about to go down the first rappel, a 60-footer with Rich backing up the cairn anchor.
Jerri going down the first rappel surrounded by lots of air and canyon walls.

A rare picture of me rappelling. (photo by Rich Schmitt)

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