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.

Getting out there is listed on a map as a road and it is. Its a hard-packed gravel road which had washboarding for the first five miles until the road turns South. Then its another five miles to a massive camping area just within Surprise Canyon Wilderness.

A little past the campground we pulled to the side of the road and started our hiking out to Funky Lizard Canyon across rocky ground.

Walking from the road to the canyon

On the other side of a large wash mouth we started uphill on hard packed gravel and dirt for a few hundred feet.

Starting up the hard pack

Then we crossed through a broken canyon to our right before starting up a broken rock section. Starting on the right of the ridge before crossing over to its left side when ridge-right became more eroded.

From atop the rock section you can look into Funky Lizard Canyon and see the first and longest 100 ft long rappel into the canyon proper. To the main fork, you keep going up until you see a black wash which is the start of Funky Lizard Canyon.

At the top of the canyon, about to turn right and start descent

Turning down the black wash and walking down a short ways, we reached the lip and built a cairn anchor above the 100 ft vertical drop (R1).

Building cairn anchor for R1
First Rappel

As with all the rappels in this canyon, a fireman belay is not recommended as a lot of rock came down on rappel. Also typical, it was a short walk to the next rappel (R2), a 75 ft near-vertical drop, off another cairn.

Cairn anchor for R2
One person descending R2 while another rappelling R3 down the watercourse

R3 was from a rock chock with 25 feet of downward walking and then a short 25 ft rappel down the beautiful quartz bedrock centered in the whole canyon. Possibly bypassable on the right.

R4 was another short 30ft rappel off a boulder pinch followed by a 30 ft down climb.

Anchor for R4
The lip for R4

The next two drops, 40ft (R5) and 50ft (R6) were off existing cairn anchors that we rebuilt inorder to inspect and replace the webbing.

Rebuilding anchor for R6
Rappel 6

This brought us into a protected alcove for lunch before turning the corner for the last 75 ft rappel (R7) with an overhung section that we fiddlesticked for fun.

Anchor for R7

Rounding the next corner we were done, out of the canyon in good time. 1 hrs ascent, 3 hrs in canyon and 20 minutes back to the car.

Saw lots of burros on the drive out to Surprise Canyon