Death Pit & Ringpin Canyons (Nevada, USA)

Day 1 Party: Felix, Jimmy, Julie, Nick, Sayda, Mira, Whit, Mikki and Joe
Day 2 Party: Felix, Jimmy, Nick, Sayda, Joe, Whit, Mira, Mikki, David, Nish, Doug, Rebecca and Vania

I felt a little bad/selfish leaving Danny and Nikki, but I headed to Vegas to meet up with Jimmy as had been planned. Jimmy also welcomed me into his home – I am so lucky meeting these amazing people! I met his partner Julie, and we talked into the night about trip plans, previous adventures, van modifications… before we knew it, it was late, and we soon retired to bed.

Day 1: Death Pit

An early start. I followed Julie to our meeting spot witnessing a brilliant sunrise as we drove down the freeway. I stopped at McDonalds to update my topo maps before meeting the rest of the team at the rendezvous.

We pooled into vehicles, mostly high clearance – my van being the exception, but I was assured I would make it despite some doubtful expressions.

We crossed the bridge into Arizona and soon turned down Crane Nest Rd. I was last in the convoy and soon gave up trying to keep pace. The Rd wasn’t extremely rough – the main issue was the gravel since the road followed a wash. To make it worse, since my clearance wasn’t great I had to drive just off the main wheel ruts where it was even more loose. In one section the gravel was particularly deep and my wheels started spinning. After a couple of attempts to escape, I angled the wheels, reversing a little and then popped it back into Drive, just managing to escape with the extra momentum. I wonder hoe heading back out (uphill) would work?!

I soon ran into Jimmy coming the other way to check up on me. He shadowed me for a bit as I stopped to remove some particularly large rocks from my path. At a narrow section just before the end I decided to reverse and park the car a little way back.

Rejoining the others, we left a car (packed with gear and other goody goodies) and headed back into Nevada passing a shooting range and crossing the future highway before arriving at a fantastic LO which also served as our starting point.

Jimmy led the party of nine along the cliff edge, before taking a pass that led down into the wash. Before we reached the bottom, the abundance of wild flowers was staggering. There where a thousand times more than what I had seen in DV. Some red bus on a barrel cactus proved to be a rarity whilst the large vibrant purple flowers on the prickly pears proved a little more frequent, though they were patchy, and when doing other canyons I hardly saw any at all.

We soon picked up a trail running parallel to the wash that led down into Weeping Springs. This’d be the second canyon we’d try and do today. Just before dropping into it we took a side wash that led up past a big horn spine and down into Death Pit – our first canyon.

At the top of the first (optional) rap you could already see the Colorado down below. Surprisingly it wasn’t as far down as I had expected – we had lost a lot of altitude on the approach.

Seeing as I scrambled the first rap, I got honours on the next. And I was sure glad I did, because it turned out that this rap dropped you right down into the Death Pit pothole that must have given the canyon its name. Before descending, I locked of so Jimmy could toss me a short length of rope, in case it would be needed to pull people across.

As I descended down towards the hole, I tried climbing over, but no dice. Repelling a little further I managed to find a good hand hold. Pushing off/flagging with my left foot so I wouldn’t swing I managed to get another hold and soon had my right foot up onto a small ledge. I pushed over onto it, and then fed out some rope so I could down climb the last little bit. What a fun problem! Looking down into the pot hole, I think it was the first true keeper I had set my eyes on – it belled out below the lip and the water surface, black with a layer of broken green, was a long way down – without a rope, I couldn’t see a way to escape.

Another rap followed almost immediately followed by a shorter one and then the longest rap of the day. I was fairly certain that the 100″ rope Sayda and I had at hand wouldn’t quite reach, but the group was moving slowly… I had a short length of rope I could add onto the end so I decided to drop down and check it out. Part way down I confirmed that it was definitely short, but nearly at the end, I managed to find some holds and climb down the last 10-20″.

I had some lunch whilst waiting for the ropes to move forward. I didn’t realise that it was the first time abseiling for a few people, which was understandably why we were moving a little slower. Luckily the weather was great as was the company and there was never a dull moment.

The ‘canyon’ had remained quite open and we had initially planed to exit somewhere here and hike back up to do Weeping Springs, but the hour was late so we decided to continue down instead – we still had a long pack raft ahead of us once we reached the river.

I think there were a couple of other raps before we reached the final one that dropped us into the first proper narrows. These were very short and when I rounded the final corner there was the river. By the time I arrived most of the rafts were already inflated. I went for a very short swim to freshen up – wow was it cold!

After some snacks, one by one we pushed off for the float down to our camp. This was arguably the most enjoyable part of the day. The wind the only annoyance as it proved to be about as strong as the current, but it the opposite direction so everyone’s arms got a work out!

Towards the end of the float, Nick caught up with me… Julie had gotten sea sick and when trying to land had rubbed a rock the wrong way and punctured her raft. She was a couple of miles back! My heart sank. It would take hours to reach her… would it be faster to hike in another way? Paddling upstream would be a chore. I took Nicks pack in the hope he wold move a little faster so someone/bodies could make preparations. By the time I was docking, Jimmy was already paddling up river (cafe racer style) with a second raft tied behind him. I offered to help, but to be honest I was too tired to be of use.
As we were deflating rafts David arrived and seemed a little surprised to see us already on the beach. He would be joining us tomorrow but didn’t want to miss out on the night festivities. I think the rafts were pretty much deflated, when someone yelled out that Jimmy and Julie were returning! Realising how long it would take for anyone to reach her, Julie had cautiously floated down topping up with air along the way.

By the time they had landed and we were making our way up the wash, it was dark. But, the sky was clear so only a couple of people resorted to using headlamps.

I did a trip up to the van to get some gear and by the time I was back Nick had already started on making dinner! There was salmon for the omnivores. I enjoyed the angel hair spagetti. Lying down around the fire, a couple of shooting stars were spotted – one particularly bright!
Joe and I slept under the stars (called cowboy style here). The night was super warm and a sleeping bag wasn’t really a necessity.
Day 2: Ringpin

I was still dozing when some new comers arrived and strolled past me into camp. By the time I rose, the fire was burning and Mikki was already working on breakfast – I could get used to these catered meals! Blueberry pancakes and maple syrup. Yum!

I headed up to my van and started packing for the next few days joining the others when they hiked past.

We soon left the Rd and dropped down into a wash with some amazing yellow flowers. It was a very short approach and before we knew it we were at the start of the canyon. The first drop could be chimneyed but some people felt more comfortable rappelling and a convenient horn served as an anchor backed up with a meat anchor.

[youtube]The next(?) rap landed in a pool, and the first couple to descend got wet, but could then pull people across the waist deep pool. I decided to pioneer a alternate approach which involved crawling down a steep ramp. Circling a hand around I found  a pocket… Youch! Canyon nettle! There was another hold just below it and I was soon down. Sayda and Joe followed suit, whilst the others took the more traditional for of abseiling.

In the narrows that followed there was another frog/toad (smaller than yesterday’s) and soon we emerged onto the shrub covered beach by the river. This time we would be travelling upstream.
Taking advantage of the wind, I saw a T-shirt sail appear… then another. How could I not follow suit!? Using my oars to hold my sail aloft, after some trial and error I settled on the final method of holding one mast with my feet, and the other with my hands allowing me to angle the sail and have some control over direction. It worked better than I had expected and I might have sailed about half way back.

We took a group photo (minus Nish our photographer) and this time walked up to the cars in the daylight.

I was the last to drive out and was surprised to catch the some cars (I found out later that David had shredded his side wall). I gunned it like a bat out of hell and managed to slide my way up the wash. I was relieved to pass the deep gravel section and figured I was all but out. But… when my eyes dropped to take another visual reading of the temperature gauge I immediately stopped and turned the engine off. It was way too high. Was the oil light on? I popped the bonnet/hood, a combination of water and steam squeezing its way out from the radiator cap; and there was a lot of gurgling… oh no… Jimmy and Joe came out from the car behind me to have a look. Oil was good. There wasn’t much to do but wait for the car to cool… we decided they would pass me to sort things out with the others (looking for a phone lost the day before) and return to check up on me and help me out with a car shuffle.
I read the manual whilst waiting trying to diagnose the problem. Hole in the radiator? No, the water seemed contained… maybe the car had just been working too hard in the gravel?
I topped up the overflow and once the overflow had dropped, drove out to the road. Good timing, as car car reverse out of the last little bit to let me past! To my dismay the temperature was back up. I read about the CMU? and once the engine had again cooled popped the radiator cap: the water was low. I figured there was a hole in the overflow and instead of replenishing the radiator, it was sucking air. There also seemed to be a second problem in that the radiator fan didn’t seem to be kicking in (maybe the guy we bought the car from had pulled a sly one?)
I didn’t have enough water left to top everything up but figured I would be okay once I had topped everything up. After reading some Jack London, Jimmy arrived and with the water full we headed to Willow Beach without another incident. I was then dropped off at the Secret Canyon TH. Jimmy pointed out the first rap which was only a couple of minutes from the car. I thanked him and soon embarked on the next adventure.

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