Early Drop into Sentinel Canyon

Rappelling down the partially fluted pink rock

Death Valley approaches can feel more dangerous than the canyons themselves, which I guess shouldn’t be surprising given that is how climbing can work too. This trip down to Death Valley after an overnight wind/rain storm, we headed out a little after 8am to hike to the top of Feral Ass Canyon (3A III, 9r, 230ft). We would instead decide to drop into Sentinel Canyon (3A III, 13r, 130ft) which runs along the approach early but still hit 7 rappels, mostly small.

A rarity in Death Valley, we walked directly out of camp to cross the rocky landscape to the start of the climb just to the right of the mouth of Sentinel Canyon. We took a left leaning, light in color dirt pile that has some give to it (maybe the rain softened the ground).

It was steep, all the rocks you came across pulled right out. The team had some challenges heading straight up it. After 350ft of climbing (around 1,550 ft) thing ease up a bit and it became easy to walk.

Hiking up the steep slope at the beginning of approach

We proceeded further up to 1,900 ft, about halfway up the approach when we reached the head of Crumble Stone Canyon (3A III, 8r, 80ft) we checked in with the group and decided to start a decent given comfort levels and rate of progress. Instead of Crumble Stone we saw Sentinel was opened up on our left and we decided to drop in off the moderate slope from the ridge we were on.

The canyon went like this:

  • Two 10 ft downclimbs
  • 15 ft rappel fiddlesticked off boulder
  • 12 ft off slotted rock chock
  • 70 ft two stage rappel (30ft then 20ft drop) off cairn (replaced knot chock)
  • 25 ft off cairn, less than vertical
  • 60ft off chocked cairn down pink salt looking partial flute
  • 40 ft off braced cairn
  • Small down climb to 70 ft rappel off big rock cairn
  • 30ft fiddlesticked off small tree
Two stage rappel

The last longer rappel

Fiddlesticking the rappel off a tree

Most rappels are vertical or less than vertical but there were a couple overhung sections among the rappels. The canyon went very straight forward in Death Valley style but didn’t have much ah-hah moments of cool finds. It was a good experience to know that we can head up to this group of canyons (Joyride, Feral Ass, Sentinel, Crumble Stone) that share most of the same approach and we have options to adjust. We finished the canyon in 1.5 hrs approach from road, 2 hrs in canyon and 20 min across the wash.