Saturday, July 20, 2013

07-06-2013 Lytle Creek



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 I think this was the most enjoyable San Gabriel canyon I’ve had the pleasure of descending. You will need a permit for this hike. The trail is in the Cucamonga Wilderness, a bit north of the small town of Fontana. To get to the trail-head you have to drive on a bumpy dirt road for a couple of miles. After you park, it’s an 1800 foot hike up to the drop-in point. It took our group about two hours get the drop-in.

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At first there wasn’t any water in the creek bed. Soon after we started going downstream the water started to emerge from the dry ground. It wasn’t too much longer before we reached the first rappel.  I finally got to use the new rope I bought almost a year ago. It’s a 9.2mm Canyon Rope by Blue Water. It’s a bit “faster” than the 9.5mm Sterling Canyontech that we also brought along. 

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The second rappel was the best. It was a two stage rap that totaled about hundred feet. The first drop is about 25 feet. When I got to the edge of the second section I found a large boulder teetering dangerously. I locked off and pushed it off the edge. It hit the pool below with a very satisfying splash.

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I was excited. When I got to the end of the rappel, I had to drop into a little swimmer pothole. I’m over six feet tall and I had to swim a few feet before I could bounce off the bottom. As soon as I hit the water I got a wicked cramp in my right calf. Combining the cramp with a harness loaded with climbing equipment and I was struggling a bit to get out of the pothole. I did get out though, and I stretched out my cramp.  The next person came down, and then I called up to the rest of the group to throw down another rope so I could proceed to the next anchor and rig up. They threw down a rope that landed in the pothole. I jumped into the water again to retrieve it. This time my left calf cramped up. This was the most painful cramp I think I’ve ever had. I had to ask my canyon-mate to help stretch it out. I popped a few S-caps and pounded some water and hoped for the best.
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A few minutes later I was good to go find the next rappel. We found it a couple hundred yards downstream. This was another rap into water, though not as deep as the previous one. I rigged up my rope and proceed down the waterfall. A few feet down I found myself straining to keep the rope from slipping through my Totem. I had to add some friction on the fly. This was the first time I’ve had to bump up the friction on a rappel. Lucky for me adding friction to the Totem is super easy.  The pool at the bottom was only waist deep.  

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Looking Down the Last Rappel

 There were two more wet rappels and then it was time to exit. The hike out took another hour or so. Thanks again to John C for taking care of the permits, and organizing this trip. Despite the cramps, I thoroughly enjoyed this canyon. I can't wait to do it again.

Friday, July 19, 2013

05-25-2013 Vivian Creek.


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This was a really fun canyon in the beautiful San Gorgonio Wilderness, just outside of the town of Redlands. A permit is required to hike the trail. The hike to the drop-in point is lovely.  It took us about 45 minutes, and we gained 1000ft in elevation. 

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After we dropped into the watercourse things only got better. Vivian Creek was clear and cool. The water was the perfect temperature for hot day.

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The rappels were really fun. On a warm summer day rappelling through the water is rejuvenating. We had to build on anchor, and we replaced a few oversized rapids at a couple of the anchors.

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This was a very nice canyon with great views of the San Gorgonio Wilderness. I’ve got to thank John C for getting the permit and organizing the trip. It was a adventure I look forward to doing again in the future.

Friday, February 8, 2013

01-16-2013 Classic Canyon and Fall Creek

 Fall Creek right above the shadow.

This day of canyoneering started out good, became terrible for a little bit, then got back to being really fun; I’ll explain. I met up with some canyoneers near the junction of the Angeles Crest Highway and Big Tujunga Rd. The main canyon we wanted to go down was Fall Creek.  Instead of taking the fire road described in Brennen's guide, we agreed that taking Classic Canyon down to Big Tujunga Creek would be more fun.

As a second bonus we decided to take a little known canyon dubbed Camp Five down to Classic Canyon. Camp Five is really just the upper part of Classic Canyon. The drop-in point is just a few steps away from Big Tujunga Rd. We reached the only rappel in Camp Five after about half an hour of hiking. It was a pleasant 60ft drop through a lightly flowing waterfall. Looking up the waterfall from below I thought to myself, “This is a lovely way to start the day.”

Not too many people travel this canyon. This anchor station was pretty overgrown.

That's me coming down the only rappel in Camp Five. Photo courtesy and copyright Mark C.

The fun didn’t last for long. Immediately after the waterfall the canyon got choked up with brush. Since I wasn’t carrying a rope I thought I might as well take the lead and try to break the brush for everyone else. That was a mistake on my part. The following hour was spent fighting (kicking!) thorny vines, ducking fallen branches, and trying not to break an ankle in hidden holes. Somewhere along the way I looked down and saw an old can half-buried in the ground. I picked it up and examined it. It was an Aspen Soda can. Pepsi stopped making that stuff back in 1982. So that can had been sitting in the canyon for the last 30 years. I stuffed it in my bag to take it back my collection of old cans I’ve found on my hikes through the years.

Looking back at Camp Five Canyon. I shan't be going there again.

Camp Five ends where the watercourse intersects with the fire road. We walked down the road a few hundred yards until we found a nice spot to drop into Classic Canyon. Classic gets some traffic, so the going wasn’t nearly as difficult as Camp Five. In fact, it was back to being a nice hike again. There was a nice cold, little trickle of water in the canyon now. The second rappel in Classic terminates in a small pool with thigh deep water (I’m 6’3”). It was a nice warm day so the water was refreshing to me. However, had we started with Classic first thing in the morning it might have been a bit cold for just regular hiking clothes. I was wearing 3mm booties and canyoneering boots to keep my feet warm. The last waterfall in Classic was a beautiful 160 footer.


It was a short walk to Big Tujunga Creek from the last waterfall in Classic. We stopped and ate some lunch. Then we hiked up creek until we crossed the fire road again. From there we took the fire road up to a deep bend towards the back of Fall Creek and dropped into the canyon.

Trekking up Big Tujunga Creek. Photo courtesy and copyright Mark C.

Just a single bolt here.

Fall Creek is a nice wet canyon.  On a colder day I would say a wetsuit might be in order, but this day was sunny and warm, so neoprene for my feet was all that was necessary. I really enjoy rappelling through water. The exhilaration from the water splashing me in the face combined with dangling from a single line in the middle of a remote and beautiful canyon washes away the stresses of urban life. On the taller waterfalls I like to stop mid-rappel for a few seconds and try to soak in the moment.

Dropping into the second and third waterfalls. Photo courtesy and copyright Mark.


 
The first rap in Fall Creek is off a single bolt. When we got to it we found a pathetic little piece of cord set up in an attempt to back up the bolt to a bush. The bolt looked solid enough for a 25ft rap, so we didn’t bother with trying to back it up.


The last waterfall of Fall Creek

Fall Creek is a pretty quick canyon. There are four rappels stacked up fairly close to each other. Bolts have placed on the third waterfall since Brennan last updated.  A capable group like ours can make it through in just a couple of hours. After finishing Fall Creek there was really only one thing left to do, hike back up to the cars. This is a long, not fun, slog of a hike. But we eventually made it back to where we had started. I really liked this group; everybody had a good attitude, and was fun to hang out with. I’d really like to hit up some more canyons with these folks again if I can.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

12-08-2012 Hall Beckley Canyon

I've been going down to the Angeles National Forest a lot recently. On this day I drove to La Canada/ Flintridge to meetup with a few other canyoneers to explore Hall Beckley Canyon. Christopher Brennen describes a car shuttle in his guide to this canyon. I can tell you definitively that the shuttle is not the way to go. There is a fire road you can hike that starts at the exit point/parking area, and goes all the way up to the drop in point. Our group split up with one half hiking the fire road, and the other half (mine) driving up the Angeles Crest Highway to the drop off point described by Brennen. The trail up was in good shape, and pretty nice. When we peaked out we got a nice view of the cities.

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A view of La Canada/Flintridge from the Mount Lukins fire road

When we made it over to the drop-in point we found that the other group had beaten us there by a good ten minutes. The fire road is the route to take. When we finished the canyon these guys would be able to hop in their cars and drive away, while someone from my group would have to drive me back to my truck parked on the side of the highway twenty minutes away. The shuttle is just a waste of time and gas.

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Dropping into the canyon
 
We geared up and dropped into Hall Beckley. The first thirty minutes are a steep decent down a use trail. The first rappel was a short one anchored with some webbing that should probably be replaced soon.

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The first rappel

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 That webbing doesn't look too good

The next few rappels and down-climbs were pretty straight forward. There was webbing already in place at all the raps. Some of the webbing looked a little sun bleached and might need replacing soon. The biggest rappel in the canyon is 140ft with five ledges before you get to the bottom.

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The large multi-step rappel 

After the next rappel there is a cave on the the left hand side of the canyon. I only crawled in about 10, but it goes back about 75ft before it's closed off by a man made wall. After the cave the battle to keep my shoes dry became futile. We started to see a lot of piping and cable that has been long forgotten by the water company.

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Steel cable ladder

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Brennen has eight rappels listed in his guide, but we had to rap eleven times. The wire cables he describes as being down-climbable are no longer viable. After we climbed down a couple of debris dams it was a short walk to the quiet neighborhood that we had met at in the morning.

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The first and bigger of two debris dams

One of the members of our group, Jason, runs a neat canyoneering  resource called uCanyon. The site has all kinds of canyoneering information. One thing Jason does is make these awesome illustrations of canyons with all the information you need. Here's the one he made for Hall Beckley:

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

11-24-2012 Supercloud Canyon

I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to work off some of the excess Thanksgiving calories this weekend in a canyon. Located in the Angeles National Forest, cut into Mount Disappointment is a shady, pleasant canyon dubbed Supercloud Canyon by Christopher Brennen. I met up with with my fellow canyon-mates at the Switzer Trailhead along the Angeles Crest Highway. This trip requires a car shuttle; so we left a car on the side of the road near our exit point, then we managed to fit six more people into my truck and we drove up just past the Red Box Ranger Station to start our hike.

The approach to the drop-in point is an easy 45 minute walk up a gated Forest Service road to a use-trail that takes you to a steepish scree slope. Dropping into the canyon was a simple affair. The scars of the Station Fire are still visible on the larger trees.


Debris Dam


After maybe a 10 minute walk we came to the first rappel. Like the previous two canyons I've done, this one has been bolted since Brennen last updated his beta. After inspecting the webbing and bolts, we proceeded to rap on down.

Getting ready for the first rap

After the first rappel things proceeded quickly. The next station was just a short walk down canyon. We had a couple of ropes, so we were able to rig the next rap as soon as a couple people got down. And that's how it went. The two rappels that weren't bolted were rigged to solid tree anchors, so, no worries there.

 Fireman's belay at the first rappel


 Solid natural anchor for the third rap

Yeehaw!
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A nice fallen tree anchor for the last rap

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Looking up at the last rappel


There was a trickle of water at the last waterfall. It was just enough to keep the moss moist, my feet did not get wet. After the last rappel it's a bit of a walk to the highway. There's a decent trail with a bit of rock hopping here and there. There were a few pools of water along the way. There are the remains of a concrete structure just past a debris dam. We got a little mixed up trying to find the use trail back to the cars but after a few backtracks we figured it out.

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Did somebody live here at one time? Maybe it was related to the nearby debris dams?

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 After crossing a little log bridge be ready to turn left down this use-trail.

This was a fun little canyon. I really enjoyed the company of my fellow canyoneers. I hope we can meet up and do another canyon soon.
A view of Los Angeles from the Angeles Crest Highway