Monday, January 19, 2015

Inconceivable Canyon

It's amazing to me that there are canyons in Death Valley National Park that haven't been explored or are just being mapped out. The so-called Princess Bride area near Stovepipe Wells in the Panamint Mountains was only recently explored and described by a guy named Scott Swaney who is credited with the first descents of the canyons there. Thank you, Scott. With a whole lot of whimsy, he named the canyons after moments in the movie, Princess Bride. So you have canyons called Humperdink, Prepare to Die, Buttercup, Pit of Despair, Fire Swamp and Miracle Max. We descended Inconceivable (after the line, "It's inconceivable!") and it was a marvelous canyon, full of big rappels and challenging—but not too challenging—downclimbs. Loads of fun. So much amusement, in fact, that we barely got out of the place before dark, and even then, we had to use headlamps for the 2.5 mile hike back to the car. I suppose as proof of how much I enjoyed the trip, I took hundreds of pictures and could only pare them down to 23 finals.

Starting the semi-cold approach at 7:30 in the morning. Our destination is the steep slope to the right of the brown mountain (center).

The alluvial fan coming off the mountains.
Starting up the steep approach. Those rocks look pretty innocent but they were so rough, they were like needles. Plenty of cut fingers ensued.

Poor Annette felt too sick to continue, so she returned to the car, following the wash down. She's there at the bottom of the shot.

Rich unraveling the 300-foot rope.
Rich took a tumble.

Buttercup Canyon.
The dreaded "sticky bush" that clings to everything it touches like Velcro with needles that prick your fingers when you try to tear it off your clothes. Nasty stuff. Its real name is Death Valley stick ring plant.

Kevin and Jerri belaying Rich as he tries to find a route past the first major downclimb.

Kevin working his way around the downclimb.
Rich on the first rappel.

Kevin backing up the anchor for Rich.

Jerri on the first rappel.

Jerri rigging the rope to a rock cairn anchor. She's right near the edge but clipped into the anchor with a safety line.

Kevin descending the second half of the longest rappel of the day, a 280-footer.
Rich helping Jerri out of a muddy pothole.

Rich maneuvering over the edge of a rappel.

The last rappel just as the sun is setting.

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