Downclimb Fest in Hidden Falls Canyon

November 26, 2022
The first rappel

Out on a recent trip to Red Rock Canyon I was unable to climb due to an injury and was looking for non-4×4 required canyons in the park. I found Hidden Falls Canyon (3A III, 4-11r, 120ft) on ropewiki and thought it looked beautiful and was worth the effort with its rocky watercourses, bouldery washes and endless down climbing.

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Welcome to Death Valley Canyoneering

November 14, 2022

I don’t need to tell you that Death Valley is a desolate place, the name says it all. However, its worth emphasizing that while the main roads might be full of people, the canyoneering retains the Wild West attitude of its origins. As I share more about Death Valley canyoneering, there is a worry about more people coming into it with a different mindset than the place allows. This post is as much as an introduction as a warning to what canyoneering in the lowest place on Earth is like. My background is over a dozen Utah canyons and over a dozen Death Valley canyons with ~80 rappels off cairn anchors. For some this is nothing, for others this is everything. In summary, there are three things I think people should know about Death Valley canyoneering: self-sufficiency, cairns and Swaney.

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Fun Times in Funky Lizard Canyon

Start of Funky Lizard Canyon

As with most Death Valley canyon’s, we have limited, but essential, beta: number of raps, longest rap, some GPX lines and a photo album from the first descentionist: Scott Swanny. Given we were warming up for the season (and most park roads were still closed) I picked a canyon from a ‘canyon-cluster’ on the SW of Death Valley that had not-too-long rappels, not-too-many rappels and a short approach to optimize for success and mitigate risk as it was likely any canyon since the Fall 2022 rain event was scoured and we’d have to rebuild every anchor. Funky Lizard Canyon (3A III, 10r 110ft) turned out to be a fun, straightforward canyon that our team breezed through.

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Return to Rainbow Canyon

View of rainbow canyon from Rappel 2

Rainbow Canyon (3A I) first introduced me to cairn anchors back in 2019. This was back when I was still descending canyons in climber style: a two-person team with ATCs and dynamic ropes. I was so nervous I backed up the cairn anchor with a boulder 50 ft back for when I went down first. However, it was worth it for the beautiful rainbow coloration of the walls and wide views of this deep canyon.

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Darwin Falls: The Only Water Canyon in Death Valley

Rappelling the ‘real’ waterfall of Darwin Falls

Darwin Falls is a little waterfall people can visit from a hiking trail in Death Valley, but the real gem is the 150ft waterfall unseen from the trail but just above. It is only accessible by canyoneering and in the sole water canyon in Death Valley. Darwin Falls (3B II) was our first canyon of the Death Valley season and was much changed since the prior descent in 2020.

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Traveling through Norway

July 21, 2022
View from the fjord in Lofoten Islands

After a 18 hrs traveling journey we arrived on the outskirts of Oslo off the plane as the sun is going down at 11pm. This would be the most darkness we would get the entire trip. Looking out the window at quaint farms with uniformly free rolling grasses I touch that feeling I have when I first travel out of country. Feeling transported via a metal box to a completely different environment immediately which feels otherworldly even if it’s an EU country. Everyone is speaking different languages, the scenery is such a change from “golden” California and I am in a problem solver state almost constantly when it comes to getting to where I want to go. In this article, I’ll talk about what I learned about traveling in Norway over 18 days visiting Oslo, Bergen and the Lofoten Islands from Svolvær to Å.

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Bicycle Tour through the Mountainous Lofoten Islands

On our honeymoon trip to Norway, Sadie and I spent eight days in the a Lofoten Islands. Along the way we climbed in the rain, hiked mountains, hung out on white sandy beaches and sailed in a fjord. However the main thing we did was a six day bicycle tour from Svolvær down to the end of the road in Å (90mi 5.5k).

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Just Outside Oslo: Goat Island

 We went to Håøya aka Goat Island for a hiking and farm-to-table experience. All we knew about this going in was a recommendation from a friend that said there were free roaming goats and a good bakery on an island outside of Oslo. That was enough! 

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Snowfields of the Nansenbu Alpine Hut

Nansenbu Hut

On our trip to the 300 days of rain, fishing village of a city that is Bergen we decided to take a trek out to an alpine hut. I chose the longest hut from trailhead in the area (Nansenbu) which also turned out to be the most easily accessible by train. The trip was 9 mi and 4200 ft from the train station in Voss to the hut. It featured an unexpected plethora of snow fields, a foot soaking amount of steep muddy trail and a picturesque alpine hut all to ourselves.

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Watermelon on Mt. Baldwin via Laurel Lakes

June 27, 2022
Photo by Ethan Fichtner

Ahhhhh permitting in the Eastern Sierra. When I moved to Mammoth Lakes, I was stoked for walk up permits because I could finally get them easily from the Mammoth Welcome Center the day before. However, after COVID, ‘walk up’ turned into two weeks before the entry date and all online. Great for non-residents like I used to be, but a bummer as a resident because it meant using an online system that can be hyper competitive. Thus we got a permit for Laurel Lakes just out of Mammoth Lakes and then went over the Laurel Col. to the Convict Lake Basin to climb Mt. Baldwin.

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