Hellfire Canyon

Well hello everybody, it's Andrew's first post EVER! Can you believe that? This blog has been running since 2006 and I've not written a word yet. For those that know me and how chatty I can be, that's really something.
Anyway, Jennifer had a dinner shift and I got to go out canyoneering with some friends in the south fork of Hellfire canyon. What fitting Death Valley canyon names: Hellfire and Brimstone, both of which I've now descended.
The Hellfire group consisted of Jay and Abby snow, our D.V. ranger friends, and 5 of their friends. Rick, Tom, Angela, and Ron were all new faces for me, but we were out with Luke once before. Turned out to be a great group, and fun was had by all. We started our ascent a little after 6 in the morning, and got to watch a fantastic sunrise as we were gaining the ridge.
As usual, the early morning is quite brisk, and we all started off in jackets and hats, but with the uphill march we all warmed up quickly. It's nice to get an early start and have the uphill out of the way by the time things really warm up, and the sun gets to shining too hot.
Looking back down towards the cars

mt charleston in the distance

The view to the north

Our friend Jay Snow, with Charleston in the distance again.

Beautiful Death Valley and the snow capped Panamints

Finally at the ridge crest!

And now DOWN!

The colorful rocks are always a joy. This canyon comes pretty close to the
east end of the Artists Drive area.

This seemed to me to be the steepest beginning portion we've done yet.
From the very beginning we lost elevation very quickly.

It's very easy to dislodge a rock from the loose stuff all around you, and it has nowhere to go except down towards you partners down canyon. That's why helmets are a must as soon as the descent begins. Sometimes rockfall is bad enough that only one person can negotiate an obstacle at a time, while everyone else stands aside and avoids falling objects.

The first of 17 (I think) rappels for the day

Luke, a.k.a. Bluu Gnome, and canyoneer extraordinaire, who has been present on several of the first descents of the Death Valley canyons. Luke also loves to collect the data on the canyon and maintains an awesome canyoneering website at http://www.bluugnome.com/

More downclimbing

More rappelling

The angle looks a little funny, like that rock might flip over, but it's way better than it looks. One of several common anchor types utilized by the canyoneer.

Tom doing a little playful upclimbing

A "cairn" anchor, where a loop is tied around large rock,
and then other large rocks are stacked on top of said rock.

What do you think, would you trust YOUR LIFE to JUST this rock stack?

Notice the tiny climber just in the sunlight walking down canyon. Once again several of the rappels were approaching 100 feet, with one that was a little over.

Rick standing under a rock that I would love to have seen fall from it's previous home!

Once again, notice the tiny climber at the bottom of the fall

Rick practicing his monkey act

Luke showing him up a notch

Honeycomb style rock formations

One of many challenging downclimbs completed throughout the day. We don't necessarily rappel everything. If possible, downclimbing is a much faster option, but can be rather sketchy with all the loose rock, and care must be taken.

And for the third time we finished in the dark. Now that's my kind of day. All out fun from before sunrise till after dark. It took us thirteen and a half hours to gain almost 3000 feet, and lose 5000 over a total distance of about 10 miles. What a day!!!