Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Death Valley Déjà Vu – December 2013 - Part Four

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We filled up our water tank at Stovepipe Wells after we said goodbye to our friends. It was a beautiful warm winter morning. They were headed home. Where should we go?
“We could do things close by,” I said to the Lady. “We could hit Grotto Canyon and then set up camp at the mouth of Lemoigne Canyon. Tomorrow we could explore Lemoigne Canyon up to the cabin. The camp spot we used up there has a commanding view.”
“Or?”  the Lady asked.
“We could head north to the Corridor Canyon area but I think that’s a bit far for the time we have left. There’s a lot we want to explore out that way. That should be its own trip.” I continued, “Or, you know this déjà vu stuff has been fun. We could head over to Hole in the Wall and camp up high where we like. It was a lot of fun exploring Slit Canyon. We could spend a day up Slit again.”
“I liked the Slit!” the Lady said. “Let’s do that.”

Early afternoon we were above the notch called Hole in the Wall. We had found a good overnight spot we had used before. The top was up and the Lady was busy inside. I was handling outside set up chores. I saw something and said to the Lady, “One of your friends is out here. You ought to quietly come outside and say hello.” The Lady knew immediately what I was talking about.

The pregnant bighorn ewe was alone. I had watched her come down from the ridge. She stopped and grazed in the wash and also kept an eye on us. We set our chairs out on the desert pavement above the wash and enjoyed lunch. We put our feet up, relaxed, and took in the views. A couple minutes later I asked, “Had enough relaxing? Feet been up long enough? Want to hike up past the end of the road and explore the Red Amphitheater?”
“Let’s go!” she answered.

At the end of the road we headed cross country. It is interesting terrain where the dominate rock appears to be layers of mudstone.

It is exciting to see ancient ripple marks preserved in the rock.

We climbed a ridge and came down a wash that joined with the main drainage and intercepted the road.

It looked like, once again, our hot showers would be in shadow.

We enjoyed the rest of the afternoon, each of us with a warm mug of coffee. We walked down to the Hole in the Wall to watch last light.

We were the only people up here. After another deliciously quiet night, we watched another morning unfold before us.

We climbed the alluvial fan and entered Slit Canyon.

Around the first corner are a series of smooth pour overs and an unclimbable grotto.

The bypass is a steep scramble up loose rock.

It is a bit airy up at the crossover.

We made our way back into the canyon. The climbing did not stop. This is one of the reasons we enjoy Slit. It is a lot of fun work!

The canyon narrows and we soon entered the Slit. It is blocked with three chock stones that are larger than you think.

The climbing does not let up.

The Slit ends abruptly at a high pour over.

The route to climb is on the right side. There are many holds but they are small and you have to be sure of your weighting. It’s more fun coming back down. The Lady checked it out, put her pack back on, and up she went.

Up the canyon is one of the most spectacular pour overs in the Park. It is said to be 50 feet in height.

The bypass for this is more demanding than the previous bypass.

The photo above is about ¾ of the way up and the route is straight up from here. It gets airy also.

But, there’s sunshine at the top!

The climb back down into the canyon is similar to the up climb. The Lady wanted to check out the top of the pour over.

 It is breathtaking.

The canyon stays narrow above and the climbing does not stop.

This was a wonderful morning. Nothing is more fulfilling for the Lady and me then to be completely alone, together, in the backcountry. The silence penetrated us. We hardly spoke and when we did it was only in whispers. The canyon floor was littered with fresh bighorn droppings along with still wet urine spots. We knew they were all around us, out of sight.

We exited the long first narrows and continued up. The gradient in this canyon is steep. We passed through the short second narrows and the canyon opened up.. The third narrows hold a series of 9 and 12 foot tall pour overs. On our previous explorations here I had stashed the camera in my pack because of all the climbing. If we could, I wanted some photos today. We watched our turnaround time and it dictated that we stop right below the third narrows. These winter days are short and we had several miles back down to that comfortable new camper.

We relaxed, snacked and hydrated, and headed back down.

Our camp was patiently waiting for us. Slit Canyon is at the top of the fan to the far left. This was an absolutely great place to spend another evening.

The view was just as wonderful behind us.

We had spent many wonderful days in Death Valley National Park. We had experienced the best of both worlds. We had shared special places with good friends with happy conversation and we had experienced the silence and solitude we seek.

There was only one thing that remained for us to do this trip – look for Ted.

Our adventure is continued in Part Five.

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