canyoneering starts up again

It was the end of April 2009 and it was time to get into the canyons again:

This weekend I finally had the opportunity to get back out into the San Gabriels to do a local canyon. Early Sunday morning I met with Dennis Webb, Susan Osborne and Chris Yee to go do the middle fork of Lytle Creek ( I haven’t been out to do a canyon in the San Gabriels for 7 months or so and I was really looking forward to it. This was Chris’ first technical canyon, but Dennis and Susan have been out with me many times. Lytle Creek is a gorgeous granite canyon located at the east end of the San Gabriel mountains. It is the bottom part of the trail which leads to Cucamonga Peak. When we arrived at the trail head we could see snow still up on the peaks and in the north facing areas, this meant much very cold water to rappel in which was exactly what we had planned for. This early in the season the temperature is great for hiking and there are no insects to bother you on the way up, which makes for ideal hiking. We loaded up our packs with wetsuits and harnesses and set off. After 3.5 miles and 2000 feet of elevation gain we dropped into the creek and headed downstream. There are a couple of ways to do this canyon. One way is to rappel down the sides of the falls, keeping dry. We planned to go right down the middle of the falls this time though, so at the first rappel we stopped to have a little lunch and change into our wetsuits. Changed and fed we put Chris down his first rappel. The first one is a dry one which gave him a chance to get acquainted with his gear before getting cold and wet. After this its a short (20 feet or so) hike to the second rappel and first wet one. Rappeling through barely above freezing water down a slippery granite face is an experience you don’t soon forget, and we made the most of it. After this rappel its a reasonable hike down canyon to the next set of rappels. On the way we clambered over the remains of an avalanche which had occurred during the winter of 2007-2008. Its a wasteland of trees and boulders which show the incredible power of an avalanche. Dennis and I had climbed on the snow of it last year and I took a few pictures ( This year it was a dry bed of twisted tree trunks, a pain to go over and nowhere near as pretty, but just as impressive. We were moving a little more slowly then I had hoped so by the time we reached the final set of rappels the were mostly in shade. This made the next three wet rappels colder then I would have liked, but still spectacular. The first one follows the waterfall to a suspended granite bowl about halfway down the cliff, you then rappel from there to a large shelf just above the final rap of the day. Almost everyone was shivering by then, despite the wetsuits, so we rigged the final rap as quickly as possible and headed on down. After stowing the ropes we followed the creek to where it joins with the main drainage, found a warm sunny place to change and dug out our dry clothes. Another 2.5 miles of hiking back downhill to the car and the day was done.

Anyhow, the water level was reasonably high, the flow was good and cold, and the day was beautiful …. and here are the pictures of it:

I hope you enjoy them,

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