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.
We parked just after the 30 mph sign coming from the East, up 190. This is where we come out of the canyon at the end of the trip. Then we walked cross country to the mouth of rainbow. The first rappel was off a slung chockstone (previously a slung boulder in 2019) with the webbing wrapping around the corner for the 130 ft rappel down a broken runnel.
Next we reached a rare sight in Death Valley: two bolts for the longer 150ft rappel to the top of a pothole with an R-rated circumnavigation around it where a slip means a 30 ft fall.
The last rappel goes through the rainbow rock and is great for pictures. It was < 100 ft rappel off a cairn anchor we built using an abundance of heavy stones. There were other options for boulders which would have had worse directions of pull but worked. We fiddlesticked this last one. At the bottom we found a bunch of webbing and chord which must have been on some boulder that washed down the canyon in the historic rain event in Fall 2022. Meaning we must have been the first group down since those rains.
Finally there is an obvious ramp you can see that you take up. I remember it being no big deal, but it felt like scrambling out of Owen’s River Gorge without a trail this time. Hard pack dirt, topped with loose rock frosting for most of the way until you reached some bigger rocks which themselves were happy to fly down the slope if given a small amount of force.