Friday, February 10, 2017

Vinegaroon Canyon, Death Valley

As we all should know, sometimes the journey is more interesting than the destination. That's certainly the case with Vinegaroon Canyon in Death Valley. The canyon itself is mildly scenic with one nice rappel—the first one is a vertical, 85' wall with a pleasant free rappel—some challenging down-climbs and a couple of narrow passages. Ah, but the approach is far more spectacular. Here is Death Valley geology with all its colorful weirdness. The hike starts from 20 Mule Team Canyon and crests a ridge from where you look down into the canyon and past it to the Amargosa Range. Then you drop down into upper Scorpion Canyon where copper ores create streaks of blue and green. Splashes of red from iron stain the fluted hillsides. Lastly, you climb back up to a windy ridge draped with lavender rocks and there are still more views, this time of what seems like the entire Death Valley park. Even on this cool, stormy day, the vista was grand. Finally, you descend into Vinegaroon Canyon (by the way, a vinegaroon is a type of scorpion), and, well, it's at times underwhelming. Perhaps I'm jaded, or perhaps the canyon just can't compete with the approach.

20 Mule Team Canyon and the wash that took us into the hills and our first climb.

The easy ascent into the wash. We would soon climb near the green, fluted cliffs in the background.

Rich starting the climb out of the wash.

Climbing along a slab of rock and loose pebbles. Always a little tricky.

Jerri climbing with 20 Mule Team Canyon and the Amargosa Range behind her.

A green monster watching Rich as he descends upper Scorpion canyon.

I'm a sucker for lone bushes and for whatever artistic reason, I find them irresistible.
Okay, that and bushes stuck in the mud from some recent rainstorm.

Kevin cruising past the multi-colored stains of upper Scorpion Canyon.

Climbing out of upper Scorpion Canyon and to more views.

Lavender rocks. Not sure what mineral is causing that.

Hiking the ridge with all of Death Valley seemingly below us.

Rich and Jerri.

The hike along the ridge involves an up-and-down route in what was at the time an occasionally howling, cold wind.

Kevin descending through the colors.

One in a series of stops to check our route. The canyon isn't obvious until you actually drop into it.

Rich gearing up atop a down-climb.

With Jerri and Kevin acting as a "meat anchor" Rich works his way through a tricky down-climb.

Rich spotting Kevin on a down-climb.

Helping Jerri survive the same down-climb.

Making our way through a passageway.

Another down-climb.

A cairn some past canyoneer left behind. Purely decoration. There wasn't much question as to which way to do. Down.
Another passageway.

Jerri descending one of the more scenic spots in the canyon.

The down-climb wasn't difficult, but that boulder held your interest.

Another short passageway through the rock.

You know a down-climb has a challenge factor when Jerri tackles it stomach against the rock.

Rigging the rope attached to a large cairn anchor. Whoever built it wasn't taking any chances.
Rich looks down before stepping off on the rappel.

Apparently grateful for the assist, Jerri plants a kiss on Kevin's head.

Kevin on one of the last rappels.

Mouth of the canyon, late afternoon, with the Panamint Mountains a few miles away.

The alluvial fan we had to cross in order to get to our shuttle vehicle.

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