Canyon: Turtle Tears
Party: Felix (author), Klaus, David, Lauren, Lori, Xiang & Charlie, Chris, and Ken
Canyon: Ladder of Doom
Party: Felix, Klaus, David, Lauren, Xiang & Charlie, Chris, and Ken
Party: Fleix, Klaus, David, Lauren, Charlie, Chris, and Ken
Photos: Felix + whoever used my camera.
Sat 11th: Turtle Tears and Ladder of Doom
I woke just before my 6am alarm and got up for some banana yogurt and a pistachio muffin (courtesy of Klaus). We were off around 7am, I got a lift with Dave and we met the others at the Goldstrike Casio. We met up with 5 others making 9. Pooling into 3 high clearance vehicles we headed parallel to the freeway – perhaps on the old road. Passing a “Road Closed” sign in the middle of the two lanes we soon passed under the freeway onto an unsealed/unpaved and soon paralleled the Fwy again on what ended up being not the best rd. Even with the high clearance vehicles there were some rough sections – I was glad that I wasn’t driving my car!
Past some cattle grids and over a buried gas line and we were at the TH and soon off to do Turtle Tears.
Lori was the only one who had visited this canyon, and instead of taking the traditional (published) route, knew of a neat way were we headed up an adjacent canyon instead of the ridge. This proved to be an excellent way to reach the drop-in point. On the way up I checked out some overhangs which would make convenient places to hide in a storm. Part of this was to check how strict the group rules where, but as it turned out to be a great group of people and everyone was free to explore as they wished!
As we continued up the canyon there some really cool striations in the limestone. Lauren, the geologist of the group later told me that they were layers of dolomite(?), but as to why they made the interesting patterns, I think that part is a mystery!
After some easy climbs we took a short brake at the ramp that would lead us up to the ridge and our drop-in point for Turtle Tears. Whilst waiting I was pleased to find a number of fossils in the rock!
Walking up past some interesting blue/grey lichen, we soon found our target drainage and quickly the walls sprung up around us containing many fun down climbs. The autonomy of the group soon became evident and it was interesting to watch everyone in action. Everyone spotted each other without being asked, everyone rigged and checked anchor integrity belaying each other after abseiling/rappelling. Part of this was due to everyone in the group taking Klaus’s canyoning course (Uber Adventures).
Some short abseils/rappels followed as well as some fun chimneying. Occasionally it was easier to pass packs down through the narrow slots.
We soon reached the final pitch – a 70 foot drop through a pretty limestone chute.
Walking down the wash, we were all surprised at how quickly and smoothly the canyon had gone. Instead of the 6-8hrs it had taken us only around 3.5hrs! We had planned for this, and instead of going back to the cars, we crossed over the wash we would be exiting and headed up the next ridge – canyon number two: Ladder of Doom!
The ridge proved to be quite steep and we ran into a number of small bluffs before locating a small gulley that broke them. Turning around you could see the casino, a large black area covered in small black scales that must have been some kind of solar plant, and a large sandy area at the base of the valley. All the sand must wash down there creating the interesting cobbled-like surface we sometimes got to walk over.
Some big horn remnants provided entertainment at the first pitch. As we proceeded down the canyon I was surprised at the number of cairn anchors! I think that the only canyon in Australia that I have used a cairn anchor is Looking Glass. By the end of the day I think I had abseiled from at least ten!
The canyon ended in a series of about three pitches. I wasn’t too impressed by this canyon, it was nowhere near as narrow as Turtle Tears.
At the bottom of the last abseil/rap the ladder of the canyons namesake could be seen up a different branch. After belaying I scurried up the ladder (watch out for the rung second from the top!) and then up a scree slope. A ledge traverse then popped me out above the second last drop. The others had just pulled down the rope – luckily I spied a line down on the opposite side and soon joined them to do the last rap again 🙂
Walking back down the wash to the cars I was a little disappointed at not locating a tortoise shell over which to shed a tear. Maybe people had picked them up? but I thought it unlikely, since only canyoners would be walking around in these mountains.
Most of us drove back to Klaus’s, but some had a hotel, and others headed home. The Klaus group enjoyed pizza, drinks and conversation before hitting the sack, resting for an early rise for another day of canyoning/canyoneering.
Sun 12th: Desperado
I was reluctant to rise when my alarm sounded, but I soon got up and went through the routine of brushing teeth, making banana yoghurt and packing. I organised a lift with Dave making sure Klaus was happing for me to return with him (since most people would be heading back to California). We again met with the others at the casino, car pooled and after following a faulty map, got back on track and found ourselves ready to go before 9am.
Tramping across the desert, I let out a yell of excitement! There it was! A sun bleached tortoise shell! Poor fella. (“For some reason this was the relocation site for desert tortoise removed from construction sites. The area became overpopulated… [leading] to a low survival rate”)
Apart from the turtle, I don’t remember much of the approach except for some small Joshua Trees – apparently they split above a certain elevations. This is not to say that the approach was boring, the views were good, it was a cool day and we were happy that the rain that fell overnight had not persisted.
Two and a half hours later we reached the top of the first abseil/rappel. I had taken a small shortcut down an easy gully so got to rig the first pitch. Cairn anchors were used for the next four rappels down cliffs that led to more open gorge. This changed once we reached the junction with the other drainage…
The canyon soon began to narrow; non-existent water cleaving a slot into the limestone. Abseils, down-climbs, hand-over-hands, and even some slides followed creating a super fun canyon.
The cairn anchors sometimes complicated the starts, as you wanted to avoid loading them too much (and in the wrong direction).
After an interesting drop into an escapable pothole we reached the last pitch which was also down climbable.
We hiked back to the cars, taking the wash for a while before taking individual routes that wove in and out of the various cacti. We forgot to take a group photo before we said our farewells. Maybe we will run into each other again?
I returned with Klaus, making some burritos before working on photos with those vampire/warewolf movies with the constant blue colouring playing on the television.
(Total time ~6hrs)