Backpacking in Iceland this summer

Just a quick post that I have confirmed plans and plane tickets to finally accomplish my goal of backpacking the Laugavegur Trail in Iceland this summer.  We plan to hike the entire 48-mile route from Landmannalaugar to Thorsmork including the extension to Skogar.  I’ve been hoping to do this hike for several years now but it never worked out.  I’m mentioning this here because the Landmannalaugar area has colorful rhyolite hills that are somewhat reminiscent of areas within Death Valley.  It certainly will be nice to be back in Iceland for the first time in 10 years.  If the hike is successful (a lot will depend on the weather), I am considering hiking the Arctic Circle Trail in Greenland the following year.

On another note, don’t look for the new Death Valley reports anytime soon.  I’m going to be extremely busy in March and April and it is unlikely that any of the reports will be put together before May.

DV Feb 2017 Hike 4: Pothole Canyon

We wrapped up our short trip to Death Valley with a late afternoon hike out to upper Pothole Canyon.  We were able to fit this hike in since it begins not far from where the Cottonwood Slot hike begins.  This hike was quite fascinating as it started out on Cottonwood Canyon Road near the well-known giant cave.  We had to attain the eastern ridge above Cottonwood Canyon by gaining a quick 500 feet in elevation and then we headed southeast across a plateau with numerous drainages.  Eventually, we dropped into a wash which flowed into the wash of upper Pothole Canyon.  The narrows in the upper canyon were outstanding all the way to the pour-over into the first pothole.  Sadly, we ran out of daylight before we could circle around the ridge to get some nice views of Pothole Dry Fall.  But we did the best we could and were glad to have seen the beautiful upper narrows.  Here are a few teaser images from the full report which will come later (probably in a couple of months when life slows down just a notch).

A picture of me taken in the early part of the upper narrows

Beautiful canyon narrows with great variety on display

I love the smooth surface of this canyon wall

The canyon walls had great height to them despite this being considered a somewhat minor canyon

View at the end looking over the edge into the lower canyon wash far below

DV Feb 2017 Hike 3: Cottonwood Slot

Our third hike was into Cottonwood Slot.  Cottonwood Slot is virtually unknown to those who are not long-time Death Valley hikers.  However, frequent visitors to the park have heard of it and some have even hiked it.  Cottonwood Slot was a 5-hour hike for our group.  We first explored the 1st Narrows by hiking up them while climbing 2 medium chockstone dry falls.  The passable canyon ends at a major dry fall which cannot be climbed.  We then used the advanced high-difficulty bypass found before the 1st Narrows to drop into the middle canyon.  Hiking back down the 1st Narrows, we were able to climb down 4 medium chockstone dry falls.  We were finally stopped by a major chockstone dry fall that cannot be climbed down.  And, in fact, some hikers have gotten stuck in the canyon by attempting this.  A word of caution is in order here in case somebody reading this blog post attempts this hike.  Do not hike through these narrows alone and make sure that someone knows where you are going in case you get stuck and do not return.  Climbing down the 4 chockstone dry falls to get where we did becomes continuously more difficult as you go and there is a possibility that you may become trapped by not being able to climb back up them.  We only accomplished this by giving each other boosts and a helping hand to pull one another up.  This is a very challenging area.  I will expand more upon this in the full report to come later.  We next finished the hike by hiking all the way through the 2nd Narrows until the interesting portion of the canyon ends with rolling dirt hillsides all around.  Here are a few teaser images.

The passable 1st Narrows ends here when heading up canyon

Beautiful polished white marble narrows

Shades of pink on the white marble

Tiffany finding a Bighorn sheep horn in the 2nd Narrows

DV Feb 2017 Hike 2: Grapevines WSA Canyon

For our second hike, we did an epic hike into the northern Grapevines to explore a major canyon that had never before been documented.  This was by far the most isolated area of the entire range that I had ever hiked.  Reaching the starting point for the hike either requires backpacking in from Scotty’s Castle Road or driving up a 4WD road which starts from Hwy 267 outside of the park boundary.  We almost didn’t even get to do the hike because the first dirt road we checked was signed as closed.  But then we found a second dirt road which was open and went through.  Just before reaching the starting point for the hike, the road follows along what I call the “Rim of the World” portion of the drive, where you are 500 feet above a canyon wash looking over in awe the whole time (this is the east fork of the main canyon).  After we hiked down to the canyon floor, we were able to explore an incredible tafoni slot canyon and then move over to the main fork of the canyon.  The hike up the canyon had spectacular colors and scenery as we hiked toward the huge trees at the end of it.  A highlight was being followed up canyon by a huge flock of playful Gray-crowned Rosy Finch birds.  We then crossed over and looped back down via another canyon, which ended a mere 1 mile from where Grey Wall Canyon is generally considered to end.  You can see a sample of the colorful panoramic area in this canyon by checking out the secondary header currently being tested on the site’s main page.  I am informally calling the main canyon we explored Grapevines WSA Canyon for identification purposes because the east fork crosses from Death Valley into the Grapevine Mountains Wilderness Study Area.  Here are a few teaser images in advance of the main report to come later.

This picture shows the east fork of the canyon we hiked into along with the “Rim of the World” drive (top left side)

Grapevines WSA Slot #1 had spectacular narrows

A Gray-crowned Rosy Finch keeping watch on us

Tiffany and I with the northern Grapevines (7932T and P8460 ft area) behind us

Heading into the colorful area of the canyon we looped back in

DV Feb 2017 Hike 1: Borax BM & Corkscrew Canyon

My sister Tiffany and I just returned from several days of hiking in Death Valley this past weekend.  Tiffany had not been to the park in 5 years as she now lives in New Zealand.  We had a great time and carried out some wonderful hikes.  Because I will not be able to get to the full reports right away, I’m going to share some teaser images and basic overviews of the hikes here on the blog.

For our first hike, we did Borax BM.  There are a variety of routes which hikers have used to reach Borax BM, but we tried to use the most efficient.  Upon reaching the ridgeline, there were outstanding views all around including of Telescope Peak and Pyramid Peak.  Beyond Borax BM, we followed the ridge all the way until it terminated at 20-foot impassable cliffs.  Near there, we saw what looked like a previously unknown route from the ridge down into Corkscrew Canyon.  Not being ones to back down from a challenge, we went ahead and attempted it.  The initial slope was incredibly steep, but the soft terrain allowed us to continue down.  We then got through 2 medium difficulty dry falls and made it all the way through the canyon.  It was quite an experience and will make for an interesting report later.

Tiffany on the summit of Borax BM

Telescope Peak as seen from Borax BM (with a powerful zoom)

As we continued along the ridgeline, we had nice views of the legendary blue mountain

This was the slope we found dropping from the ridge into Corkscrew Canyon

Tiffany heading down spectacular upper Corkscrew Canyon

Sliding Sands Trail (Haleakala National Park – Maui, HI) report released

I am happy to report that I was finally able to finish up and publish my long-awaited report for the Sliding Sands Trail and Halemauu Trail loop in Haleakala National Park.  This was quite an amazing hike and is widely regarded as one of the best hikes on Maui.  The new report can be found on the Introduction Page under the Hawaii section.  As a side note, this year may end up being the first time in the last four years that we do not travel to Hawaii for a family vacation.  Currently, I am hoping to return to the South Pacific later this year to carry out some additional hiking and sightseeing.  I also plan to spend a small amount of time in Death Valley in the coming months.  The new Sliding Sands report was the final backlogged report that needed to be released.  So with that, I am going to take a break from the site for the next couple of months.  I hope to return in the Spring with several brand new Death Valley reports.  You can find a quick link to view the new report below.

Sliding Sands Trail (Haleakala National Park) hiking report

Three Pines Pass (French Polynesia) final hiking report released

Our seventh and final hiking report from French Polynesia has now been published.  This final report covers a hike to Three Pines Pass on the island of Moorea.  While not quite as nice as Three Coconuts Pass, this hike still delivered some interesting scenery and outstanding views.  I’m sure you’ll enjoy it.  To see this final report from our trip, click on the link below or use the main link found over on the Introduction Page.

Three Pines Pass (Moorea) hiking report

Three Coconuts Pass (French Polynesia) hiking report released

This evening, we are releasing the next report from our French Polynesia trip last September.  This is the sixth of seven total reports that we are publishing from that trip.  For these last two reports, we are moving on to the island of Moorea for two hikes.  The first Moorea report covers a hike to Three Coconuts Pass and focuses especially on the beautiful island trees.  But at the end of the hike, you will also enjoy seeing some outstanding views.  To see the new report from Moorea, click on the link below or use the main link on the Introduction Page of the site.

Three Coconuts Pass (Moorea) hiking report

The Cauldron DV report released

Our final report from our November 2016 trip has now been released.  It covers an area that we call The Cauldron.  The Cauldron is the circular area of badlands located in between the mouth of Fall Canyon and the mouth of Palmer Canyon.  There is quite a lot to see here, as you will find out within the report.  The new report is currently listed as #108 on the Main Page and you can also view it by clicking on the link below.  We will see you in the Spring for more new Death Valley hiking.

The Cauldron new DV hiking report

Funeral Slot MSC DV report released

By now, most all Death Valley regulars are familiar with and have visited Funeral Slot Canyon.  If you’d like to see a little bit more of the general area then be sure to check out our brand new report on Funeral Slot Main Side Canyon.  Funeral Slot MSC features Crown Bridge and Oriel Tunnel as highlights, but there is more to see as well.  The report is currently listed as #131 on the Main Page and you can also click on the link below.

Funeral Slot Main Side Canyon new DV hiking report