Thursday, October 18, 2012

10-13-2012 Suicide Canyon

Big Tujunga River

For this adventure I again had to leave my familiar Los Padres NF and head over to our neighbor, the Angeles NF. I was going to go on another technical canyoneering  trip.  The canyon for the day was Suicide Canyon. It’s one of many canyons cut into Mount Lunkins and drains out in to the Big Tujunga River. If you are interested in any of these canyons, the guru of southern California canyoneering, Christopher Brennen, has excellent descriptions on his website.

Through early morning fog I see visions of the things to be

I met up with my canyon-mates at the Stonyvale parking lot at 7:00am. We didn’t waste much time before started out on the use trail to the canyon. What kinda sucks is right off the bat, I mean within 50 yards of the trailhead you have to cross the Big Tujunga River. The river was calm and nice, but there was nowhere to cross without getting your feet soaked. Everybody else just charged across, so I did the same. You have to cross the river again another hundred or so yards down the trail. From there you don’t get wet again until you’re in Suicide’s watercourse. I would suggest wearing a pair of sandals or something until you get past the river crossings, then put on your boots; your feet will thank you.
Crossing the Big Tujunga River

The Maxon Route

We took the Maxon route as described in Prof Brennan's guide. It’s steep and the tread was loose. There are patches of poison oak so you have something to focus on other than your footing. After climbing a few hundred feet we passed some power lines. A little past that, there was a slightly narrow ridge that was easily passed. Then the ‘trail’ got a lot more overgrown. We basically just bushwhacked our way over to the canyon.

Once we had dropped into the canyon we geared up. We followed a small trickle of water down a few yards to the first challenge, a 200 ft. waterfall named, ‘Lovers Leap’.  In his guide, Prof. Brennan uses natural anchors for all his rappels. In the time that has passed since he published his guide, someone (I'm guessing Matt Maxon) has installed bolt anchors at all but one of the rappels.

Overlooking 'Lovers Leap'

Coming down 'Lovers Leap'. Photo courtesy and © Andre

The first rappel of any canyon is always an introspective moment for me. Have I forgotten to secure something? Am I on the right line? Do I really want to do this? A lot of questions race through my head. A big one is, am I about to die? But I go through my mental checklist, ask somebody else to check me out, and when I get the thumbs up, it's time to go. After you really lean back and let the rope take the load and you don't tumble to your death on the jagged rocks below it becomes a fun experience.

Photo courtesy and © Andre

Photo courtesy and © Andre

Down at the bottom I soon realized another danger; falling rocks. The whole way down the canyon we were sprinkled with loose rocks from above. Belaying was particularly risky. At one point I had to duck out of the way of a face shattering, golf ball sized rock that had been dislodged by the person I was belaying. 

 Photo courtesy and © Andre

The rappels kept coming precipitously; we never had to hike far before rigging up again. Once a few of us would get down, we would take a rope and try to find the next anchor while the rest of the group came down. Most of the rappels were fairly tall. There were a least a couple that were in the 80-100 ft. range. 

 Posing for a picture

... I can take or leave it if I please
After a few hours we made it down the last rappel. I would suggest that if you decide to pack up your gear here that you keep your helmet on until you completely leave the canyon. Those rocks I mentioned before were still raining down on us as we made our way back to the Big Tujunga confluence.   

1 comment:

  1. That lover's leap looks like an awesome repel! Good meeting you yesterday, Rich had us dig a hole for a dead man anchor, fun!