I recently was married to my life partner Sadie Skiles in adventure-style with a few close friends at an Elopement in Moab / Canyonlands. I normally don’t write about such things but I thought it might be useful to others looking for an active-elopement ideas and a great way to share some stunning photos.
As part of my adventure elopement, the group of us went climbing in Indian Creek. This was my first time and I was so excited about it. I love crack climbing, it’s kinda my thing, my style. Its why I’ve identified so much with Yosemite climbing where I first really got into trad and Indian Creek is a crack climbing paradise.
To commemorate Sadie’s and my recent marriage we decided to go canyoneering. To avoid any trouble with Timed Entry permits to Arches we decided to descend alongside Pool Arch in Pritchett Canyon, outside the park. So six people and two dogs started out on the 4×4 road called Pritchett Canyon Trail.
For a friend’s big 3-0 birthday party in Death Valley we decided to do two big canyons, the first being Styx Canyon (North Fork) (3A IV 22r). Styx was another canyon starting from the high point in the park (Dante’s View 5400 ft) to the park low point (Badwater -200 ft). This is one of the more traffic’d canyons in Death Valley with no need to replace any webbing or fix any anchors. Therefore, it felt a lot more chill than Typhon Canyon, but still an adventure with many 100 ft rappels.
Over “ski week” I drove off to the Grand Canyon for a multi-day backpacking trip on unmaintained backcountry trails. I am kinda a snob about the difficulty of backcountry travel outside the steep and stark Eastern Sierra, expecting the backpacking to be easy, on a beach and along a river after the way down. What I got was rugged trails, 3rd class, exposure and a tourist destination all to ourselves.
We were driving out of camp at 5am, an hour and a half before sunrise, for my first big canyon. Our beta was we were going to descend Typhon (South Fork) (there are many forks) rappelling 18 times down 6.5 miles of technical canyon. It was a good crew, that worked well together and a great day of consistent efficient moving that reminded me of multi pitch climbing. (Typhon Canyon (South Fork) IV)
The reason I met my life partner is because I was at a climbing meet up in cosmic leggings which gave the opinion I must be fun. This would not be the last time I wore bright colored leggings, costumes and even a wig climbing. I do this to express some flair and inject some fun in adventure sports that some approach very seriously. After the camp lightened up at 6:30am I brought smiles to my friends as they saw me in my gray three piece suit ready for a long day exploring a canyon filled to the brim with fossil snails. (Fossil Snail Canyon IV)
The day after our canyoneering clinc a few of us got off to a late start to do Apollo Canyon (3A IV). Like many Death Valley canyons, the only beta was a Facebook photo album from First Descentionist Scott Swanny. As I am getting the feel for these ground up, 2/3000 ft approach canyons, getting off the chossy ridgeline was maybe the highest risk thing we did that day. It was a fun, rarely visited canyon that with a 200 ft rappel off a cairn anchor.
Where to go at the end of December that isn’t too cold or snowy? Death Valley! (It was cold, windy and rained half the trip though) Over the New Years Eve holiday block, a group of us from Mammoth and friends arrived in Death Valley for a 5 day canyoneering trip. I classify Death Valley canyoneering as advanced canyoneering because it typically involves Cairn Anchors which could also be classified as ‘piles of rocks’. Thereby needing additional measures to counter the increased risk.
The group had a variety of skill levels so our trip organizers arranged a clinic going from rappelling and team dynamics to cairn anchors and fiddle sticks in Vinegaroon Canyon. I would call myself an intermediate canyoneer with about a dozen canyons under my belt, but cairn anchors were always very intimidating since I outweigh most men by 30-60 lbs (I’m ~210lbs) so this clinic helped a lot move them from mysterious things to trust to inspectable protection.
A peak-baggers ascent attempt of Blacksmith Mountain
I’ve spent almost three years out here in the Eastern Sierra and its been a big climbing adjustment. Before, from the San Francisco Bay Area, the process was frequent, hard gym climbing, one season of the pure crack style in Yosemite followed by the foothills season of mostly crack practice. However, out in the Eastern Sierra I’ve found much more of a face-crack style of routes that has had me evaluate my generally weak face-climbing skills. Also, adjusting to a different seasonality of climbing that doesn’t involve Yosemite Valley (which is inaccessible for the best seasons from the Eastside).