Canyonlands: Tales from Narrow Places

Cali Canyoneering – Lower Eaton Canyon

Posted in California & Nevada by canyoneering on June 15, 2010

Lower Eaton Canyon, 3BIV
8 miles
Angeles National Forest – San Gabriel Mountains


The hike up the popular Mount Wilson Toll Road trail to get to Eaton Canyon was sizzling in the mid-morning southern California sun. With frequent breaks in scarce shade we were treated to a panoramic view of Los Angeles and if it weren’t for the typical heavy haze of smog we could have seen the ocean from the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains.

Eaton canyon is a natural wonderland on the outskirts of Los Angeles with warm water flowing down a steep canyon filled with trees and other beautiful vegetation. The canyon also features many natural water slides (although after the devastating Station Fire of last year, many of the drops that were once water slides into deep pools are now rappels because the canyon has been filled with much sand and debris).

I was still rappelling lefty after injuring my hand in Sunburst the week before but that was not going to keep me from going down Eaton. It was great to get out in a canyon with Chris who I had not descended a canyon with in nearly a year. After numerous rappels and down climbs through the considerable flow we began noticing graffiti on the canyon walls. The spray paint on the walls definitely took away from the gorgeous natural setting.

The final two rappels in Eaton are through slippery waterfalls directly down the watercourse. If rappelling while being pummeled by water is not enough you are greeted with the added pressure of a considerable audience from below, as the final two waterfalls are popular hiking spots reached from walking up the canyon. I have never seen such a crowd at the bottom of a rappel! Both Mystery and Imlay canyons in Zion National Park have final rappels into the Narrows, which can give you an audience of a few hikers but they don’t hold a candle to an Eaton rappel on a Sunday afternoon. Chris was the first to go down and he got cheers from over 50 people hanging out at the base of the waterfall. After our group of six made it safely through the final rap without embarrassing ourselves we hiked out of the canyon passing quite literally a hundred people.


Cali canyoneering – Rubio & LSA Canyons

Posted in California & Nevada by canyoneering on June 7, 2010

For Memorial Day weekend, Laura and I drove across the desert to Los Angeles to see our good buddy Chris, get a little beach in and get a taste for some Cali canyoneering in the San Gabriel Mountains. The plan for the first day was to do the East Fork of Rubio into Rubio Canyon, a long and challenging day. After dropping off one of our shuttle vehicles at the bottom of Rubio in a residential neighborhood, which was in stark contrast to the canyoneering I am used to in wilderness far removed from civilization, we attempted to drive up into the Front Range via the Angeles Crest Highway to the upper trailhead for the East Fork of Rubio. A road closure on the Angeles Crest Highway from last year’s Station Fire and the heavy rains over the winter turned us around and we were forced to change our plans.

Rubio Canyon, 3BII
5.5 miles
Angeles National Forest – San Gabriel Mountains

Still nursing her bruised hand from Sunburst, Laura dropped us off at the trailhead for Rubio and wasted no time heading directly to the beach. For Chris and I, the hike up into the Front Range was a on a popular trail to say the least. We passed dozens of hikers as we switched back and forth up into the hills with views of the entire metropolitan area below us. Even through the smog, downtown Los Angeles did not look too far away.

Breaking off the trail we made our way into the canyon, which had a slight flow down the drainage. As we followed rusted pipes down the canyon, we made our way to the first rappel, an 80- drop down Thalehaha Falls. The descent was followed by several more rappels none of which were as interesting as the first. One of the rappels was down the remnants of an old dam. At the start of another rappel, the skyline of downtown LA was clearly visible. We quickly reached the end of the canyon and walked passed homes with manicured lawns back to our car.

Little Santa Anita Canyon, 3CII
4 miles
Angeles National Forest – San Gabriel Mountains

With still a lot of light left in the day, Chris and I hopped on the freeway, sat in a little bit of traffic and drove to the trailhead of Little Santa Anita Canyon (LSA). Another switchback hike under a blazing mid-afternoon sun brought us to the canyon that had a lot more flow than Rubio. LSA was a blast with close to ten continuous waterfall rappels through delightfully warm water or at least warm compared to what we are used to. Like Rubio, the canyon is way over bolted.  With the abundance of natural anchors the bolts are unnecessary but makes descent of the canyon quick and easy despite the concentration of rappels. At the end of the canyon, another hike through a residential neighborhood brought us back to out car.


Voodoo Canyon, as nice the second time around

Posted in Northern Arizona & the Mogollon Rim by canyoneering on June 2, 2010

Voodoo Canyon, 3BIII
6.5 miles
Coconino National Forest – tributary of Secret Canyon


At the last minute I decided to join Eric, Kyle and Bird for a romp down Voodoo Canyon. For Bird, who was visiting from Omaha, Neb., it would be his first time canyoneering and rappelling. Not an easy first canyon. For me it would be my second descent down Voodoo, a canyon as beautiful, exciting and fulfilling the second time around, with fun rappels and down climbs and a magical quality of light completely unique to the space found between these sandstone walls. I really enjoy the report from that first descent, so check it out and below you will find some pics from the most recent trip.