Monday, April 6, 2015

Deimos Canyon: Mars Awaits You

Not sure what that title means. Or maybe I do. Deimos is a moon up there circling the fourth planet. In Greek mythology, Deimos was the son of Ares and Aphrodite. He would go into battle accompanied by his father's attendants, Fear, Trembling, Dread and Panic.

Deimos Canyon was like another world, another planet. Stark, narrow, perched on a steep mountainside looking more like a shallow, ragged cut through the rough, red rock than a proper canyon. Once inside the canyon, it felt as though we had entered a crack on an asteroid. And for as difficult as it was to get there, it might as well have been interplanetary travel. The four-and-a-half hour climb was 3,000 feet in two miles. So steep, that in places we were clawing our way up on all fours. I got temporarily sick.

I think preachers and self-made millionaires say that hard work is its own reward, and certainly that was the case with Deimos. Or at least, I sort of felt the moral superiority of someone who has put everything into the effort and was finally satisfied in the end. The canyon was steep, full of sometimes frightening down-climbs and about 20 rappels (along with three or four "meat anchor" rappels where we each went down the rope supported only by the lucky guy chosen to climb down some squirrelly pitch with help from the rest of us). There were several "rabbit holes" throughout the canyon. These were mostly formed by huge boulders that had dropped down from up above, wedged against other boulders or the narrow walls and formed portals through which we crawled. Atop one rappel, Rich, who had fortunately already rigged up his rappel device, suddenly had the ground underneath him give way. Rocks and debris rained down below while Rich was introduced to all four attendants at once. Fortunately, Rich stayed safe, but stood there panting with a pale demeanor that lasted a few minutes.

The rock was just plain weird. On one extremely vertical rappel, the rock was cut at right angles as if it was part of a quarry. I still don't have a geological explanation for that one.

It took us 14 hours to complete the canyon, getting out by headlamp. I suffered, a lot, but in the end, I'm so glad I did it. (But don't ask me to do it again.)

Early dawn start up the alluvial fan, 6:15 a.m.

Clawing up the mountainside with Badwater (282 feet below sea level) way below us.

Taking a break to figure out our position.

Rich checking his GPS for way points.

Deimos Canyon—that cut running down the mountain upper right to lower left.

Duct tape repairs on Rich's falling-apart approach shoes.

Kevin and Jerri taking a rest with nearly a thousand feet of climbing to go.

Rich and Annette climbing.

Jerri working her way along a gravelly traverse.

Jerri on the first rappel.

Canyon scene.

Rich as seen through a rabbit hole.

Kevin, as seen through a rabbit hole.

The rope on this rappel doesn't look like it's long enough, but it stretched at the end.

Annette on the rappel where the rock was cut at right angles.

Canyon scene late in the day and one of our down-climbs.

No comments:

Post a Comment