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Sheep Ridge and Canyon Solo (DVNP) (2010-12-11)

 
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turtle



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Location: Sherman Oaks, CA

PostPosted: Mon Dec 13, 2010 2:59 pm    Post subject: Sheep Ridge and Canyon Solo (DVNP) (2010-12-11)  Reply with quote

Each year I make an effort to undertake a solo overnight outing.  Death Valley is my preferred destination, as it's so impossibly vast and empty that complete solitude is attained within minutes of leaving the road.

This year's trip did not disappoint.  The route* was rather grueling (17mi, ~7500ft gain/loss, trailless), especially with a water-laden pack. But it was incredibly desolate and beautiful.  I saw scarcely any signs of prior human passage, merely a cairn or two low on the route.  Easily disturbed earth higher on the route showed no footprints -- remarkable since prints seem to endure for years in Death Valley. Sheep tracks and "beds", however, were abundant.

A few photos are below.  The rest of the photos are on Flickr.

* The route enters a small drainage south of the mouth of Copper Canyon, then picks its way up to the ridgeline beginning at Pt. 4690.  It then yo-yo's east then northeast along a ridge to camp at Pt. 5985.  From there it descends into Sheep Canyon from the saddle immediately northeast of camp and follows the canyon back to the road. I can provide more info if anyone is interested in doing the route.

Ascending to the Ridge

Sunrise from Camp
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PostPosted: Mon Dec 13, 2010 3:09 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

how close did that coyote come to you?! that's crazy cool!
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Elwood
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PostPosted: Mon Dec 13, 2010 4:30 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Beautiful pictures, Dances with Coyotes.
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PostPosted: Mon Dec 13, 2010 4:55 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Two thumbs WAY up! Awesome.
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PostPosted: Mon Dec 13, 2010 6:34 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Nice, turtle!
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PostPosted: Mon Dec 13, 2010 7:47 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Amazing pictures, the coyote pics and the self timed shots are awesome. How much water did you carry?
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Location: Now I have a quote under my name, Taco.

PostPosted: Mon Dec 13, 2010 8:25 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Really great photos!!  I've never been too attracted to Death Valley, but you make it look nice!

On the topic of solo backpacking - is it 'comfortable' for you?  Do you sleep well, or are you nervous at night?  Did it take a few times out to get used to it?  I'm asking because I have always wanted to do it, but ironically (or perhaps not) I'm afraid of getting attacked by animals at night.   Very Happy  Or rather, afraid of jumping at every noise....
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turtle



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Location: Sherman Oaks, CA

PostPosted: Mon Dec 13, 2010 8:37 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

wrote:
how close did that coyote come to you?

He was not more then 4m away.  Perhaps as close as 2m!

My mind was very conflicted! "He's smaller than you, you've just had your rabies pre-exposure vaccine...", then, "But he's still a wild animal.", then "He's so cute! I wonder if he'd let me pet him?", then "Where there's one there are many...".

We probably spent a few minutes at that close distance. Eventually it was me that left the scene, to get back in the car to go home.  Perhaps he would have hung out with me indefinitely.

Looking around on the web it appears that encounters with fearless coyotes is becoming quite common in DVNP.
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turtle



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PostPosted: Mon Dec 13, 2010 8:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

hvydrt wrote:
Amazing pictures, the coyote pics and the self timed shots are awesome. How much water did you carry?

I started with 6 liters.  

My total planned time away from the car was about 30 hours.  6L would seem like plenty, but I wanted to make sure I'd have at least a liter should I get hurt and need to sit tight awaiting rescue.  Accordingly I drank lightly on the first day, taking in only 2.25L on Saturday.  That was too little, as I was quite dehydrated Saturday evening, and I didn't need nearly as much water descending in the cool of Sunday morning as I did climbing on Saturday.  I wound up returning to the car with close to 2L.
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turtle



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PostPosted: Mon Dec 13, 2010 8:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

cougarmagic wrote:
On the topic of solo backpacking - is it 'comfortable' for you?

Comfortable is probably too strong a word.  I do find it very enjoyable, though.  I'm anxious on most any outdoor trip, it's unfortunately my nature.  Somewhat paradoxically, going solo seems to calm my nerves.  Or perhaps its just that my usual fretting seems more justified, more directed.  The stakes really are a bit higher, so the worrying isn't aimless and pointless.  The fact that there are no group dynamics also makes things very simple -- think, rethink, act, reassess, act...  

cougarmagic wrote:
Do you sleep well, or are you nervous at night?  Did it take a few times out to get used to it?  I'm asking because I have always wanted to do it, but ironically (or perhaps not) I'm afraid of getting attacked by animals at night.

I've not had too much difficulty in that regard.  This time in particular I slept unusually well, if only because I'd had only 4 hours of sleep Friday night and Saturday was a big effort.  Any reason why you think the animal and creepy crawly issues would be more acute when you are alone?

I don't always sleep well, though. Two years ago I was also in DVNP on a solo backpack, very nearly on the winter solstice.  Perhaps like most, when sleeping out I typically wake up every so often, check my watch ("2am, 4 hours to go!"), go back to sleep, wake up, check my watch ("4:30am, 1.5 hours to go!").  That year the first time I woke up it was 5:45pm!  Ugh... it was going to be a long night.
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PostPosted: Mon Dec 13, 2010 9:47 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Awesome trek and pictures -- it's amazing how close that coyote came to you and it looked very relaxed too.
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cougarmagic
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Location: Now I have a quote under my name, Taco.

PostPosted: Tue Dec 14, 2010 12:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

[quote="turtle:30392"]
cougarmagic wrote:
 The fact that there are no group dynamics also makes things very simple -- think, rethink, act, reassess, act...  


I totally get this. In fact that's the main reason the idea appeals to me.

cougarmagic wrote:
Any reason why you think the animal and creepy crawly issues would be more acute when you are alone?


No - not any logical reason.  Having another person there is more like the sense of security you get being inside a tent (yeah, because a thin sheet of nylon is gonna protect you!)

What were the temps like on your trip?
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turtle



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PostPosted: Tue Dec 14, 2010 1:57 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

cougarmagic wrote:
What were the temps like on your trip?

Very mild. Daytime highs were probably around 60 once I got up high.  Overnight I'd guess it dropped just a bit below 40.

A good weather forecast was a prerequisite as I did not want to haul a tent up that much elevation.
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Phil B



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PostPosted: Wed Dec 15, 2010 9:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Great TR Turtle, you really captured the atmosphere of high desert hiking in those photos, what kind of a time delay do you have on your camera to capture some of those self portrait shots, they came off real good, or did you use a remote.

I totally get the solo hiking thing as many of my longer trips are solo, it just seems to give your a closer connection with nature.   Good job.

Cheers

Phil
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turtle



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PostPosted: Thu Dec 16, 2010 11:55 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Phil B wrote:
Great TR Turtle, you really captured the atmosphere of high desert hiking in those photos, what kind of a time delay do you have on your camera to capture some of those self portrait shots, they came off real good, or did you use a remote.

Thanks for the kinds words Phil.  

I used the built in timer on my camera.  It is adjustable up to 30 seconds.  I've found that 30 seconds is sufficient to let me get far enough from the camera (at a brisk walk) to all but disappear into the landscape.

I always pick a marker in the picture as I compose so I know exactly where to go as the timer is running.  I try to pick high ground (even if only on local scale), as cropped off lower legs and feet always seem to look very strange to me.

For pictures where I'll be standing still, I just "hit my mark" as quickly as possible and remain there until I'm sure the timer has fired. (I'm often too far away to hear the tones the camera makes as the timer winds down and the "shutter" opens and closes.)  

For shots where I'm walking, it's a bit trickier. Posing in a position that looks like I'm walking never seems to work -- you really need to be walking if it's going to look natural.  Upon starting the timer, I also start my stop watch, and I make sure I'm walking past the mark as the timer fires.  I also set the camera to take a burst of three pictures.  Often times a single photo will (merely by misfortune) catch you in a phase of your gait that looks rather awkward.  Typically at least one out of three photos will be acceptable.
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PostPosted: Sun Dec 19, 2010 12:05 am    Post subject: DVNP Reply with quote

Hi Turtle,

Really enjoyed your trip report, particularly the photos.  You've got me interested in taking a trip out there myself!  Since you've offered, I'd love to see your waypoints or kmx file!  Thanks for the terrific TR.

Best Regards,

Wes
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Rick Kent
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PostPosted: Sun Dec 19, 2010 10:23 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Great photos Mark!

I sure miss Death Valley.  I went a few weeks ago but since I was immobile I couldn't really leave the car and could only drive around.  That just didn't do the trick.  It's so much different when you can get out and away from everything else.  Surprisingly I haven't done a solo overnight backpack in DV yet.  Your photos remind me that I really need to do that.

-Rick
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PostPosted: Sun Dec 19, 2010 11:08 am    Post subject: Sheep Canyon Reply with quote

Great trip report turtle!  We love Death Valley and make an annual trip there every March.  Thanks for the post.
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turtle



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PostPosted: Sun Dec 19, 2010 9:54 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Rick Kent wrote:
Great photos Mark!I sure miss Death Valley.  I went a few weeks ago but since I was immobile I couldn't really leave the car and could only drive around.  That just didn't do the trick.
It's just not right to hear you describe being confined to a car, Rick.  Sad

I hope that all is still on track for a good recovery.  I'm betting that you'll be back out there soon enough exploring more uncharted DV canyons.
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PostPosted: Sun Dec 19, 2010 10:19 pm    Post subject: Re: DVNP Reply with quote

wb wrote:
Since you've offered, I'd love to see your waypoints or kmx file!

Wes, I've attached a KML file that shows the route I took. (This is my first attempt at attaching a file, hopefully all will work okay.)

Sheep Ridge and Canyon Loop
[EDIT: Note that this file contains approximate (not GPS tagged) waypoints.]

I made this file after a scouting run a few years back; I wanted to confirm that I could access the ridge that defines much of the route. Indeed there are some routefinding difficulties low on the route (between "Dryfall Bypass" and "Conjunction"), but it does go with nothing over Class 3.  I'd assumed that from there the climb would be straightforward. And it is, from a routefinding perspective.  It's just a pretty stout aerobic effort.

Somewhat unexpectedly, the drop-in to Sheep Canyon proved non-trivial.  I did not descend directly from "Descent Saddle" as the KML file would imply.  Instead I contoured across the west slopes of the canyon to reach a ridge that dropped gently towards the canyon bottom.  The drainage immediately below "Descent Saddle" appeared much more "chunky" than I'd  expected -- I'd be very surprised if there are not several rappels in there.

If you do intend to go, PM me and I can send you some photos of the dryfall bypass and a more precise description of the drop-in.  These might be helpful, especially if you are not familiar with the terrain in DV.


Last edited by turtle on Tue Dec 21, 2010 9:00 pm; edited 1 time in total
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PostPosted: Mon Dec 20, 2010 12:28 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

turtle wrote:
I don't always sleep well, though. Two years ago I was also in DVNP on a solo backpack, very nearly on the winter solstice.  Perhaps like most, when sleeping out I typically wake up every so often, check my watch ("2am, 4 hours to go!"), go back to sleep, wake up, check my watch ("4:30am, 1.5 hours to go!").  That year the first time I woke up it was 5:45pm!  Ugh... it was going to be a long night.


LOL! Been there. Done that.
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PostPosted: Mon Dec 20, 2010 8:57 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Nice TR! Death Valley is a special place for sure and I'm with you on the unique pleasures of soloing.
I try and get at least Telescope and Corkscrew done every year.  Last year I was also able to hike Towne Peak and visit the Albatross wreckage--very cool!
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PostPosted: Mon Dec 20, 2010 9:56 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Dave G wrote:
I try and get ... Corkscrew done every year.  Last year I was also able to hike Towne Peak and visit the Albatross wreckage--very cool!

Funny you'd mention those two places...

Turns out the last time I did a solo overnight in DV it was atop Corkscrew Peak.  And I've already decided that next year will be Panamint Butte and Towne Peak.  Smile
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