Death Valley feels like a place people are told to visit but then don’t know what to do when they get here. It’s an American road trip destination where people drive through to stop for ten minutes at various pull offs. However, if you are a canyoneer and don’t mind a solid hike there are nearly one hundred documented canyons out here with big drops and with no water (rated A). Just make sure you have a GPS device and all the beta recorded before you go, there is zero cell service here. Unfortunately, the style of canyon seems to lend itself towards kairn anchors: piles of rocks stacked on top of a single slung rock. Our first experience with this sketchy cannoneer “anchor type”.
Some of the most enjoyable trips I’ve had are pulling into to medium-small climbing areas where I have no expectations and being blown away by the rock and route quality. The availability of camping and access. The lack of crowds. Places like the crystal crusted granite Needles of South Dakota, the steep North Shore cliffs of the Palisade Head in Minnesota and splitter gray cracks of Woodfords Canyon in East Tahoe. On my pilgrimage out to the Great Salt Lake for the Thanksgiving holiday, Sadie and I discovered a new such area in Saint George. Choosing to leave the lines behind at Red Rock for exploring the mysterious 1000+ routes around Saint George just two hours away.
Spry Canyon (3B III) feels like an off-trail slab approach and then starts as a wide forested canyon typical of Zion. However, it’s charm are the multiple narrow, dark and wicked cool slot canyons, each a couple hundred feet long. These slots contain sometimes unavoidable pools of water (even in October), however there are typically alternate rappel options to avoid those sections of the canyon to keep dry if you look around before rappelling in. Super cool canyon, I think I liked it more than Behunin.
The sky is just lightening with a touch of pink as we dropped off at the top of The Narrows, one of the best hikes in the world. It is cold, in the upper thirties so I’m wearing a light base layer, fleece and waterproof shell over wetsuit. After walking a couple miles on road, past a dilapidated cabin. were started by bounced across the rocks across the Virgin River in a dance to keep our feet dry.
Behunin Canyon (3A/B III) was a very straightforward canyon with two fun, longer rappel sections and two slot canyon rappels. In those sloty parts there were small pools in early October but that added to the fun by bridging around them. Overall, the canyon offers a variety of sandstone, a long hike and an easy, straightforward day. Also, about half the rappels could be downclimbed instead of you wanted.
A few weeks back I visited Moab with the goal in mind to climb desert towers, accomplishing a dream of Sadie’s for her birthday. The Falcon Guide had some of the most popular climbs, but if I bought a guide book for the area again it would be the more recent and fully featured High On Moab book. Surprisingly it was actually this map from summit post that really lead me to discover the variety of towers in Moab. If you are a moderate climber who is comfortable trying some aid, these are the regions and climbs you must check out (in order of preference).