Canyons ‘n Climbs

canyonsandclimbs_thumb001Spring. Flowing water. Tolerable heat. Rampant poison oak. Road trips.

Post Red Rock Rendezvous, life has been a flurry of canyons, climbs, driving, tabletop war, jumping, riding in cars, camping, recording interviews, and work squeezed into the cracks. After learning our descent of the stellar San Jacinto was unfortunately illegal and thankfully avoiding any fines, we headed to Arizona where the Canyons Gods toyed with the weather. Rainy nights and occasional day-time drizzle did not impact us in the end and we were able to run Punchbowl, all of Waterslides, and Christopher Creek. The latter two I highly recommend if in the area. Highlights included stealth rappelling to avoid further scaring a baby mountain goat perched precariously on a ledge, superb natural slides, short rappels that transitioned into jumps, and a roadside sign for “Adult Cabaret” topped by a cow sculpture.

G.O. Get Outside is going to become more than just a video web-series and I am actively recording an audio podcast to accompany it. Ten interviews are currently in the can, the first was recorded in Yosemite’s famous Camp Four featuring a wacky Aussie traveler I met earlier this year in Red Rock. During our short stay in Yosemite, Jeff and I climbed The Grack on the apron of Glacier Point. It was a great confidence builder and a chance to test out the newish GoPro Hero 4.

I ran back to L.A., knocked out a bunch of work, squeezed in a few climbs and a few podcast interviews, then hopped back in the car for a long day of driving, canyoneering, and car shuttling (and a little bear spotting as well). Salmon Creek features a spectacular ~680 waterfall that can be rappelled in multiple stages. We tackled the wall by posting a man at the top of each stage, rigging each rap, then descending in sequence leaving the option to ascend and escape if necessary. This led to a fun-filled hour of standing on a small ledge watching each person rap past while entertaining myself by badly singing bad songs. Hanging 500 feet up on a wall while belting out “Hooked on a Feeling” is something you should all add to the Bucket List. Five stars. The unfortunate part of the canyon was the never-ending bushwhacking during the egress and the poison oak that covered my torso afterwards.

Early June brought a quick trip to one of my favorite climbing spots, Tahquitz, where Brian and I climbed Angel’s Fright and The Trough. The exposure on the last pitch of Angel’s Fright was exhilarating. Brian forgot his climbing shoes in the car and had to lead The Trough (and follow Angel’s Fright) in approach shoes. He does not recommend it. Climbing two multi-pitch routes (even easy ones) in a single day is exhausting, but good practice for my longer term goal to ascend El Cap’s 3000 foot Nose.

A week later brought me to the fabled Jump Trip. It wouldn’t be a true Scott Merrill trip if weather didn’t threaten to interfere. Thankfully, despite the forecast, skies were clear during the day and we were able to descend the upper Section on a Saturday, followed by the more intense lower section the next morning. The two-part Jump Trip is beloved in the canyoneering community for many reasons: gorgeous scenery, interesting wet rappels, copious jumps of varying heights, ample swimming, easy approaches and exits, and the occasional waterslide. Two features I particularly enjoyed in the upper canyon were a stemming section and a twisting, dark, and wet boulder tunnel. Jump is notorious for injuries. There are several down-climbs and traverses that can end in tragedy if the canyoneer doesn’t have the experience to navigate them or makes a mistake. Also, some of the jumps, slides, and rappells can be tricky. After my shake-up last year from my egregious error leading to a 50 foot fall, I was a little intimidated. It was odd seeing myself approaching many of the jumps without my trademark zeal, but with a little trepidation. It was a great prescription for rebuilding my courage and confidence. One in our group twisted his ankle a bit, but we otherwise descended without incident.

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Spring is nearing its close. Temperatures are rising. Summer is beckoning.

Ben Pelletier carried a camera through Jump Trip with us and got many quality photos. A few are featured in the second half of the gallery below.


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