Send us a suggestion!

CA: Death Valley Death Valley Exploration of ROCK Canyon, near Hades, 02/17/2013

Discussion in 'Trip Reports' started by Lisa, Feb 20, 2013.

  1. Lisa

    Lisa

    Messages:
    21
    Likes:
    65
    Ahhh..canyon explorations. They are always exciting and have the potential for the most beautiful canyon in the park or a total epic. They are exciting because anything can happen and often does. In other words, bring your bivy gear because chances of spending the night are above average. We assemble our team, get to the bottom of the approach hike and eye the 2000 foot elevation gain on the standard Death Valley terrain. The hike is straight up the side of a steep, loose, enormous mountain. Up we go! We climb steadily for a couple hours. We stop to take a break at a huge rock formation that looks just like a face with a distinct snaggletooth. We start to toss rocks at the face to see if we can knock out "Hagatha's" one remaining tooth. Emergency tooth removal in the canyon!

    No one hit the tiny snaggletooth. "We got out of the canyon in the dark because..." says Tom and we all laugh and move forward. The pace is casual and we play a bit, but there are challenges of unknown length and difficulty ahead. After plenty of traversing on loose rock and a quiz on map reading from Tom (which I failed), we find our little slot. We all rappel into it except our best climber, Jenny, who removes the rappel rope and downclimbs with it. We're getting more committed now. Tom has a topo map of the area but we don't know what we will find in this 2000 foot high slot. We have several ropes, the longest 300'.

    We continue down the canyon. The views are enormous. We are on the side of a mountain right next to the Salt Flats area. Across Salt Flats sits 11,000 Telescope Peak capped in snow. We're in a beautiful place, but it's not really a slot canyon. We are in a wide v, happily exposed to the warm sun. We create anchors using rocks and we all rappel down. The rock in the canyon is loose and getting looser as we descend. Each time we round a corner it looks like there's a huge drop in front of us into Hades Canyon that would be far too long for our ropes. The views are deceiving and we always manage to find a way down with our 300 foot rope.

    The next rappel is about 50 feet into a small alcove with another rappel 30 feet away. As I rappel down, the rocks crumble away from the wall in front of my feet with each step. It's customary to yell "ROCK" to alert the people below. ROCK ROCK ROCK! The entire canyon wall is raining rocks onto the small platform below, which is also a mess of medium sized rocks. Everything in the canyon seems to be crumbling away.

    The small platform is completely covered in medium sized, loose rock that readily showers down the next 80 foot drop whenever anyone goes near the edge. Great. As we rappel the rope will saw into the brittle cliff edge lined with grapefruit sized rocks, breaking them loose and sending them down on top of the person rappelling. This is not good.

    Tom is first to see the predicament. He proposes a creative solution and then he is the first to try it. We will keep using the anchor above rather than creating a new one in the rubble. The fall line of the rope will be around a rocky corner, which also crumbles away when the rope rubs it. It doesn't crumble as much as the cliff edge, so this is about as safe as it's going to get. We'll rappel on two independent strands, that way if the rock fall rips the rope hopefully it only rips one strand.

    To add to the excitement, Julie has doubts about the anchor above after seeing it shift ever so slightly when Wayne rappelled down with a heavy pack. She suggests a meat anchor backup for this rappel so I offer to help and we take a seat in the rubble pile with really nothing to brace against if the anchor fails. Tom weights the rope and starts down. I can hear the corner crumbling and rocks falling down. We are all relieved when Tom is safely down.

    The rocky corner is still crumbling, though, and ultimate care must be taken when choosing the rappel line. No matter what, rock fall is inevitable. Luck, fate, whatever determines the size and location of the falling rock. My turn. I gingerly get on the rope and inch around the corner, small rocks raining down all around my legs. The corner is crumbling but at least I don't see any big pieces coming off. It's an act of faith, rappelling as quickly and smoothly as possible. Even so, a grapefruit sized rock sails through the air a few feet away from me while I dangle on the rope. I finish the rappel. Everyone else makes it down safely and we feel greatly relieved when the 300 foot rope pulls down this two stage rappel and around the rocky corner.

    From this point forward, the canyon is so crumbly that we yell ROCK constantly. On every downclimb, the rock falls out from under our hands. We start to use handlines on every drop no matter how low the angle of the rock. ROCK ROCK ROCK! It feels horrible to knock down a rock and see it tumble toward one of my friends. It seems to happen in slow motion, as the rock bounces and gains momentum, following the bottom of the v shaped canyon right at the person in front of me. We finally finish the canyon with no injuries but a plethora of jokes about ROCKS!

    We exit with plenty of light and celebrate with drinks, snacks and an awesome horse mask at the car. Jenny gallops up and down the road to celebrate our first and only descent of ROCK canyon.

    P.S. When saying the name of the canyon aloud, "ROCK" must be yelled. "Canyon" should be said in a normal tone of voice.

    featured image for the homepage
    slide.
    DEAN BROOKS, Marlowe, Kevin and 5 others like this.
  2. Jenny

    Jenny

    Messages:
    210
    Likes:
    599
    Nice write-up Lisa! Does anyone have photos?
    You know that when the approach is much better than the slot, that the canyon isn't a great one. Some explorations turn out to be duds. Only a few turn out to be a waste of time. But this canyon day turned out to be a top-shelf canyon day. It offered so much laughter, exercise, playful fun and communication (aka "ROCK ROCK ROCK!!!!!). Heck, Lisa even offered a communication therapy session on a snack break. It was a day spent with wonderful folks in a beautiful place. It took a lot of rock dodging skill and good humor to make it safe and fun. Thanks to Tom, Lisa, Kevin, Julie, Eric and Wayne for an enjoyable Death Valley day!
    Alane Urban likes this.
  3. ratagonia

    ratagonia

    Messages:
    5,457
    Likes:
    6,752
    Location:
    Mount Carmel, Utah
    Great Writeup Lisa. Here's a few photos and a map...

    dvrock01.
    Hiking up the fan to find a "reasonable" way up the face.

    dvrock02.
    Rest Stop before heading into the canyon.

    dvrock03.
    SUPER loose rappel.

    dvrock04.
    Downclimbing lower in the canyon.

    dvrock05.
    Wayne, Jenny and Eric downclimbing.

    dvrock06.
    Downclimbing a ridge to get into Hades Canyon near its mouth.

    dvrock07.
    You call this rock?

    dvrock08.
    Walking out the fan.

    DVRockCanyon.

    Here's the map, so you can avoid doing this one in the future.

    Tom
    Marlowe, Bill, Kevin and 3 others like this.
  4. Dan Ransom

    Dan Ransom Staff Member

    Messages:
    542
    Likes:
    711
    Location:
    Salt Lake
    :rofl:
    DEAN BROOKS and canyoncaper like this.
  5. Lisa

    Lisa

    Messages:
    21
    Likes:
    65
    Thanks for adding pics and map, Tom. I can't believe I forgot to mention the therapy session in my write up. I hope we all learned something about reflecting that day! We sure learned a lot about avoiding falling rock. A top shelf canyon day, indeed!
    Dan Ransom likes this.
  6. Kevin

    Kevin

    Messages:
    157
    Likes:
    80


    Here are a few more pics of ROCK! Canyon.
    Jenny and Dan Ransom like this.
  7. Canyon Collective

    Canyon Collective - Staff Member

    Messages:
    59
    Likes:
    176
    River likes this.
  8. Erik

    Erik

    Messages:
    54
    Likes:
    74
    Location:
    Idaho
    A few more pictures...

    Climbing up to the canyon.
    P2187959ed (Large).

    Overlooking Badwater Basin.
    P2187967ed (Large).

    Jenny on the approach.
    P2187968ed (Large).

    Enjoying the last of the shade.
    P2187973ed (Large).

    Near the top of the canyon.
    P2187979ed (Large).

    Dropping in.
    P2187989ed (Large).

    Don't touch the walls or they'll collapse.
    P2187992ed (Large).

    Lisa on rappel.
    P2187996ed (Large).

    Another loose rappel.
    P2187998ed (Large).

    Looking back up.
    P2188002ed (Large).

    ratagonia building an anchor.
    P2188008ed (Large).

    Almost done.
    P2188012ed (Large).

    Wayne Burns hoping for another loose rap.
    P2188010ed (Large).

    Kevin starting down.
    P2188015ed (Large).

    Partway down the multistage rappel.
    P2188019ed (Large).

    The left wall was more like frozen kitty litter and released a continuous rain of cobbles.
    P2188023ed (Large).

    Is this really rock?
    P2188027ed (Large).

    Jenny looking at one of the downclimbs.
    P2188030ed (Large).

    Another loose downclimb.
    P2188032ed (Large).

    Meeting up with Hades.
    P2188036ed (Large).
    Kevin, Lisa and Jenny like this.
  9. ratagonia

    ratagonia

    Messages:
    5,457
    Likes:
    6,752
    Location:
    Mount Carmel, Utah
    River - no pictures showing.... ????
  10. Erik

    Erik

    Messages:
    54
    Likes:
    74
    Location:
    Idaho
    Operator error. Hopefully it's working now.
  11. ratagonia

    ratagonia

    Messages:
    5,457
    Likes:
    6,752
    Location:
    Mount Carmel, Utah
    Looks great, Erik. Please add a few of those to the ROCK! Canyon on the Betabase.

    Tom
  12. EvergreenDean

    EvergreenDean OK with what happens

    Messages:
    231
    Likes:
    276
    Location:
    Boulder, UT
  13. EvergreenDean

    EvergreenDean OK with what happens

    Messages:
    231
    Likes:
    276
    Location:
    Boulder, UT
  14. Stephanie

    Stephanie

    Messages:
    16
    Likes:
    16
    Sounds like.... fun? Nice write-up, Lisa! I'm not sure I'm sorry I missed that particular canyon. ;-)
  15. Jenny

    Jenny

    Messages:
    210
    Likes:
    599
    I enjoyed this loose, rocky-rollin' canyon day so much. The approach was the best I've done in my minimal DV experience. The route climbs steeply, dropping early into a scoured water course that made for delightful climbing. There was just a short section of tumbling upclimbs with a nice dispersal of slabs and ledges. Near the top we passed a number of deep caves and on to a beautiful sheep-trail-traverse, with amazing views, passing an isolated rincon that I thought was very interesting. Wayne and I crossed above the drainage that the others descended and did a quick romp up canyon. There is a narrow, deep and very inviting section of pour-overs and shallow potholes that may make the journey worthy of another visit. There's a lot of canyon above that, as well. Better to drop in from the top, I suspect. Then again, you don't want to miss the full meal ROCK!!!! deal, eh?
    Ram likes this.
Similar Threads: Death Valley
Forum Title Date
Accidents and Near Misses Recollection of the fatality on January 30th, 2021 in Deimos Canyon; Death Valley National Park Feb 1, 2021
Accidents and Near Misses 2021 01 30 Fatality in Deimos Canyon, Death Valley, CA, USA Feb 1, 2021
Meet Up Death Valley - Jan 4-6, 2021 Dec 29, 2020
General Discussion Death Valley joint training Feb 27, 2020
Accidents and Near Misses Death Valley Rappel fatality, March 23, 2019 Mar 25, 2019
Accidents and Near Misses Styx Canyon Death Valley NP - anchor failure, short fall November 2018 Nov 3, 2018