Wednesday, January 27, 2016

In Praise of Smaller Canyons

Sometimes, canyoneers just want to have fun. You know, plop down into a convenient, little canyon with a few rappels on a pleasantly warm winter day. Some gurgling water for atmosphere. A little breeze to remind you it's January. The undergrowth is a bit dormant and stamped down by previous rain and cold temperatures, so no bushwhacking to speak of.

This would describe Fall Canyon, a minor jewel in the San Gabriel Mountains near Los Angeles. The hike in is maybe two miles on an abandoned fire road that descends into Big Tujunga Canyon, crosses shallow Big Tujunga Creek and ascends a short distance where one can drop into Fall Canyon. Lickety-split, easy-peasy, you're at the first rappel of a mere four altogether. There's a log wedged across the rock above the rappel to remind you that this gentle canyon can get rough on occasion; after all, that log probably washed down in a flood. (There's another one below at the second rappel.)

There are reasonably solid bolted anchors at each rappel, so there's not much to do here but rig up a rope and head down the rugged rock face for 40 feet. Conveniently, the anchor was placed to avoid the water spilling down into a tiny pool.

The next two rappels are 45 and 25 feet. The morning sun is warm on the rock and you can't believe there's an El Nino threatening somewhere out there. The last rappel is 90 feet and mostly down through a waterfall. I swung from side-to-side to avoid splashing too much in the main stream, but I came out wet anyway. No big. By the time we got back to cars, I was dry. Just a pleasant day in a pleasant canyon. We'll grind out a big trip some other day.

Jerri crossing Big Tujunga Creek.

Winter trees, Big Tujunga Canyon.

Jerri taking the escalator down into the canyon while Rich uses the stairs.

Preparing the rope for the first rappel.

Rich rigging the rope for the first rappel.

A log that washed down the canyon.

Rich tossing the rope for the first rappel.

We make it a habit of watching each other set up on rappels just make sure no one goofs up, like forgetting to lock the carabiner.

Kevin starting down the first rappel.

Rich tossing the pull rope over the second rappel.

Jerri, the queen of canyons, on her throne.

Rich descending the second rappel.

Rich starting down the third rappel.

Jerri untangling her rope from some branches.

Rich headed down the last rappel.

Jerri swinging out to avoid the water on the last rappel. It didn't really work.

Kevin descending the last rappel.

Kevin on his toes.