Red Wall Canyon is reported to be one of the most spectacular slot canyons in Death Valley. Digonnet says of the geology, "Walls of dolomite and limestone stained by oxides are the namesake of this canyon." The second narrows are said to have one of the most impressive displays of slickensides. We had been up here before but stopped at the 25 foot pour over topped with a huge chockstone. The Lady had easily climbed to up under the chockstone but the difficult move needed to pass it was on rock, to borrow one of Mitch Jayne's phrases, "Slicker than deer guts on a door knob."
This time we brought along two needed items - climbing equipment and Barking Spider. I remember as a kid my Dad always told me, "Son, if you are interested in any advise, consider this. When you're looking for a woman, find one that would be tickled pink if you got her a climbing rope for christmas." I took my Dad's advise and had the Lady's new 30 meter climbing rope in my pack. Yup, I was even carrying it for her.
From the Death Valley Road it is 2.5 miles with 1000 feet of elevation gain to reach the mouth of Red Wall.
Nearing the canyon's mouth and finally getting a little respite from the wind, we took a break. The Lady pulled out her small thermos of special herbal teas. I call it "rocket fuel".
These canyons just flat out turn me on. I sense that the Lady and the Spiders and others who have joined us feel the same way. There is a mythic feeling of discovery as you round each corner, and then you stand in wonder of it all. These are some of the best cathedrals on earth.
We entered the canyon, those oxides drawing us in.
We could not stop.
We entered the first narrows.
Around the corner was the pour over. The Lady and Barking already were putting equipment together. The rocket fuel was kicking in.
You will notice pieces of webbing - of unknown age, origin, and quality of placement - at the top. One piece runs down to near the chockstone. It appears people have climbed to the chockstone, reached up, grabbed the webbing and hauled themselves up, hand over hand. Reminds me of my Mom warning me not to take candy from strangers.
We were ready to go.
Barking placed a piece of protection under the chockstone, I belayed, and he successfully made it up the slick rock.
He placed a new piece of webbing around a chockstone, anchored in and then belayed the Lady as she climbed.
The next move is harder than it looks. It is a high step out to the good foothold on smooth rock. The moves up lack good solid handholds and the rock is just as Mitch says. The left foot actually holds well but in the airy spot you have to have the confidence to fully weight it to make it stick.
Mom Spider was up next.
The climb is three parts. First is the climb to below the chockstone. Second is the move around and then past the chockstone to a nice comfortable ledge. Next is a seven foot climb up and over a boulder jam. It is not near as easy as it looks. The Lady went up and struggled.
Barking took the lead and worked the moves out. I found it easy but took a tongue lashing because of my long reach and longer legs.
The narrows above the pour over were said to be the highlight of the canyon. "Highlight" hardly comes close to being adequate as a description.
We could not help being helplessly and utterly awestruck.
The canyon opened up between the first and second narrows.
We found evidence of bighorn sheep.
Here's our view back down toward the first narrows.
We entered the second narrows and our prize was ahead..............................
...................an impressive example of slickenside.
The horizontal grooves show the movement along this strike/slip fault. The vertical lines are water marks. The surface is incredibly smooth and polished. I can only imagine the phrase Mitch might have come up with it to describe it.
Now that we knew what to look for, we found many other slickensides.
The second narrows also has many undercuts.
There is a high, but easy to climb pour over. Mom Spider and I were slow in moving up canyon; enjoying the journey. Barking Spider and the Lady were down climbing as we reached it.
We had almost lost track of time, mesmerized by our surroundings, completely taken in. It was time to turn around.
The journey down was just as breathtaking.
There were outcroppings of breccias.
Back at the pour over, Barking belayed the climbers as we down climbed the boulder jam.
The rope was anchored and we each easily rappelled down with our packs. Barking was the last down.
The rope was coiled, equipment stashed in our packs, but as much as we tried, as the day was getting late, we could not move fast through this beauty.
This was a day to live for in Death Valley.
We exited the canyon and watched shafts of light work across the mesquite sand dunes far to the south.
It was still light but around 5 pm when we reached our trucks. The wind was still brutal down the alluvial fan. A short drive to Mesquite Springs and we were back to camp. This was a night for a simple dinner, a quick shower, and a wonderful sleep.
Next up..............................more adventures with Death Valley Scotty.
Continued in the next part, click for Part Three