Sunday, June 5, 2016

Nerfherder Canyon

Okay, I feel a little silly saying I descended Nerfherder Canyon with my friends. The term sounded familiar to me but I didn't recall that it came from Star Wars and an epithet Princess Leia had hurtled at Luke Skywalker and Han Solo for some perceived stupidity on their part. In any event, Nerfherder Canyon (in the San Gabriel Mountains) was only first descended last January and it indeed felt as if we had entered a place few had explored. Lots of bushwhacking and placing anchors on rappels with none.

I've always worried in an academic sort of way about the possibility that one of us would get injured on a canyon trip and what we would have to do to handle that. Well, it happened. Alan, a newbie to canyoneering (I'm not saying this had anything to do with it), had slid on a wet rock while trying to avoid a deep pool and instead went down in the nasty water up to his waist, which is saying something given Alan is a tall dude. The impact was enough to sprain his left ankle and he decided to bail before we got to the first rappel. Kevin volunteered to escort him back to the top, a trip which was apparently painful and challenging to their route-finding skills.

In the meantime, four of us continued down-canyon crashing through the poison oak-infested undergrowth and fallen logs. Somewhere in there, Annette declared she wasn't returning to this canyon. Once we exited the canyon, we hiked down an abandoned trail to a use trail that took a more or less direct, steep route up a mountainside to our shuttle car sitting along Highway 2. I have to admit that I'm not entirely tempted to do the canyon again, but even for all that, I still say a day in a so-so canyon beats a day binge-watching Netflix.

Annette maneuvering around a burned tree from the Station Fire as we begin the descent off Highway 2 to the canyon.

Mild bushwhacking on the approach. It got a lot worse.

Jerri trying to avoid dunking her shoes into a pool while swinging around a branch.

Annette reacting to her ankles getting wet after she slipped into a pool.

Rich gallantly assisting Annette over a pool.

Kevin stemming over a pool of questionable water.
Alan slipping off the rock an into a deep pool. (It helps to have a camera that shoots 12 frames a second.)

Alan grimacing from the cold water or having twisted his ankle, or both.

Rich makes his way past a pool while Alan tries to decide if he should continue down the canyon.

Jerri on one of the first rappels.

The Smooth Operator device we employed where there weren't any anchors. The last person disengages the caribiners and at the bottom yanks on pull rope to pop loose the knot. Everything just slides down the rappel so we can recover the rope. Leaving no anchors behind is called ghosting a canyon.

Rich finishing up a bushwhacky rappel.

Hauling in the rope is a group effort.
Rich tossing his rope bag past a down-climb.

Annette splashing through a pool.

Jerri on a short rappel.

Jerri leaping over a pool.

Working our way down a series of pools.

Rich backs up an anchor while Jerri tackles a long rappel.

Hiking back to the shuttle car.

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