Downclimb Fest in Hidden Falls Canyon

November 26, 2022
The first rappel

Out on a recent trip to Red Rock Canyon I was unable to climb due to an injury and was looking for non-4×4 required canyons in the park. I found Hidden Falls Canyon (3A III, 4-11r, 120ft) on ropewiki and thought it looked beautiful and was worth the effort with its rocky watercourses, bouldery washes and endless down climbing.

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Welcome to Death Valley Canyoneering

November 14, 2022

I don’t need to tell you that Death Valley is a desolate place, the name says it all. However, its worth emphasizing that while the main roads might be full of people, the canyoneering retains the Wild West attitude of its origins. As I share more about Death Valley canyoneering, there is a worry about more people coming into it with a different mindset than the place allows. This post is as much as an introduction as a warning to what canyoneering in the lowest place on Earth is like. My background is over a dozen Utah canyons and over a dozen Death Valley canyons with ~80 rappels off cairn anchors. For some this is nothing, for others this is everything. In summary, there are three things I think people should know about Death Valley canyoneering: self-sufficiency, cairns and Swaney.

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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.

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Return to Rainbow Canyon

View of rainbow canyon from Rappel 2

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.

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Darwin Falls: The Only Water Canyon in Death Valley

Rappelling the ‘real’ waterfall of Darwin Falls

Darwin Falls is a little waterfall people can visit from a hiking trail in Death Valley, but the real gem is the 150ft waterfall unseen from the trail but just above. It is only accessible by canyoneering and in the sole water canyon in Death Valley. Darwin Falls (3B II) was our first canyon of the Death Valley season and was much changed since the prior descent in 2020.

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Rappelling Alongside Pool Arch

April 25, 2022
Going down the first rappel with Pool Arch in the foreground

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.

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Descending the River Styx (North Fork)

March 14, 2022
Descending one of the last rappels

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.

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Surprise rappels in Typhon’s South Fork

January 19, 2022
A short, more slotty section of the canyon

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)

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Dapper Canyoneering with Fossil Snails

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)

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Apollo Canyon-eering

January 2, 2022

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.

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