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Undertaker Canyon 2/21/2010

 
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mattmaxon
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Location: Out on the trail.....

PostPosted: Mon Feb 22, 2010 5:41 pm    Post subject: Undertaker Canyon 2/21/2010  Reply with quote

When I'd heard of this several years ago I have wanted to do this trip. The only rappels in Undertaker canyon are centered in the "Widowmaker Falls complex" totaling about 610-630ft.

This is done in 2 stages, the first drop of 30-50ft and the main event of 580ft

Due to work commitments we where not able to leave for Death Valley until Saturday but we stopped at Trona Pinnacles on the way and arrived at to assigned meeting place at Hole in the Wall about 4pm on 2/21

Our fellow canyoneers arrived after completing a first descent of a canyon near Smith Mtn about 10:30pm.

We where awakened about 11:30pm by a youth group from the Marin Academy consisting of about 40 individuals, they where as quite as such a large group could be but it was a din for sure.

Scott has done this canyon before so I'd deferred to him on the route, I'd planned on hiking XC from Inyo Mine, but he said the Red Amphitheater route was the way to go.

I was not aware you could not drive past the Quarry shown on the TOPO map at the old national monument boundary, had I know this a day or 2 before I'd have pushed for the Inyo Mine route as this is about ½ the distance of the red Amphitheater route and the roads are in better condition.

The road from Hole in the Wall is barely passable to my 2wd Toyota Tacoma, some might say it is not but I drove it.

We left the trailhead later than we wished but that's the way of these things... We go moving just after 8am.

The road shown on the map does not exist. In places there where "hints" of this road but in essence it doesn't exist. "Amphitheater Wash" is wide and gravely making for good hiking so we made good time to our side canyon to where we'd intersect with Undertaker Cyn wash, some how I wound up in the lead despite leaving the trailhead well behind Bernd. (1hr 30min 2.7 miles)

There is an outcrop in the middle of the wash here sticking about 10ft out of the wash, this is a good landmark as to where to turn.

As we hiked up the the wash is hits a narrow section with multiple washes converging in a bowl like area. The wash we want twists and turns here and the rock blends into the background making it difficult to see, waypoint 0346 marks the entrance to these narrows

The "highlight" of this part of the hike in are these narrows, at least the views of the surrounding mountains are interesting.

We arrived at the ridge separating this canyon and Undertaker Canyon at 11:00am 5.63 miles 4453ft ( 3hrs) from the trailhead, and started down canyon.

As has been the case all day Undertaker Cyn is a wide gravel filled wash.



.
About 15 min down canyon from the above photo the canyon makes a series of S turns until you arrive at a short drop of 10-15 ft. The top map shows this to be straight... It is not.

The canyon has high walls and a narrow slot here. We geared up here and went down to the first drop, It seems higher than the advertised 30 ft, closer to 40-45 but I didn't measure it. Any way the anchor is canyon left and is two nuts in a crack, very bomber.

We dropped down to the next flat area where the main event is. The anchor is a bomber deadman the main component of which is a 4-5 cubic foot granite boulder with several more large boulders on top and to the front, This is slung low and there are two rappel rings to ease the pull.

The main issue with this drop is the rope tends to get damaged on the last 250-300ft  free-hanging section.

We dealt with this in 3 ways

   * We changed the friction point for each canyoneer
   * we taped clear plastic hardwood floor/carpet protector to the abrasion point
   * Our rope is a special design where the core and sheath are held together with a third component that eliminates sheath slippage (Core Shot)


Also being aware this is a problem our experienced group made every effort to keep our rappel smooth, swing, and bounce free as possible

Scott went first and since he was using an unfamiliar rope and was placing the rope protector he wanted essentially a top rope belay, using our pull rope. But he didn't want to mess around with locking off  , I'd just hold him in position while the task was performed.

Bernd went next, then me and finally Aysel

Aysel had a bit of a scare and dropped quickly about 10-20ft when she first started descending. We can only guess the knot was not against the rap rings but rather was down below the lip... She had lots to keep track of and probably didn't insure it was in place

plenty scary but it all worked out in the end. It proves the anchor is bomber

Scott scrambled up the canyon walls and got some interesting angles of me and Aysel coming down. I hope to see those photos and videos soon

Congrats all around and then the never ending chore of stuffing the rope.

The canyon below is much the same as the upper canyon until you approach the end. It slots up very nicely, though there are no rappels there are a couple downclimbs.

The end of the canyon is a jumble of house sized boulders preventing most people from getting into the canyon. We used a handline/rappel in a couple places and spotted others

After successfully negotiating this final obstacle a short hike to the Hole in the Wall. We arrived here at 6:22pm for a total time of 10hrs 22min, with retrieving the vehicle from the Red Amphitheater trailhead still to do.

My truck barely makes it up here, you really should have more ground clearance. A 2wd Jeep or full sized pickup would do better

Anyway a great day thanks to Bernd, Scott, & Aysel for being great canyoneering parrtners, I hope to have many more adventures soon


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Location: Stuntin in the trap son

PostPosted: Mon Feb 22, 2010 7:40 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Doooood 580ft?????

Got links to pics, or did I miss something?

Sounds awesome. Went with Rick, Tina, etc?
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mattmaxon
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Location: Out on the trail.....

PostPosted: Mon Feb 22, 2010 11:21 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

TacoDelRio wrote:
Doooood 580ft?????

Got links to pics, or did I miss something?

Sounds awesome. Went with Rick, Tina, etc?


http://picasaweb.google.com/mattmaxon2010/2010_02_22UndertakerCanyon#

It's hard to see anything cuz the people on rope are just little specks

No no,  no Rick, no Tina, just me, bernd, asysel and scott & 1200+ft of rope Crying or Very sad  .

it is a known route, I think turtle would know more about the first descenders

Matt

Me chillin on top, with Telescope Peak in the background
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PostPosted: Mon Feb 22, 2010 11:47 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

why is it called undertaker canyon?
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Location: Stuntin in the trap son

PostPosted: Tue Feb 23, 2010 12:10 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Everything in Death Valley has a BAD FUCKING ASS name. Names such as:

-Holy Shit Canyon
-Fuck You Wash
-Devil's Massive Goddamn Ridge
-You're going to die so don't bother doing anything except kissing your ass goodbye Canyon

And many more!

Great pics, Matt. I gotta go try that stuff someday.
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Location: Out on the trail.....

PostPosted: Tue Feb 23, 2010 7:30 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Zach wrote:
why is it called undertaker canyon?


Don't know...

I presume it is because it is in the Funeral Mountains, and you gotta call it something.

Widowmaker Falls you say...

Many dangerous things are referred to as the "widowmaker",  widowmaker tree, widowmaker heart attack, widowmaker curve...

But I didn't name it I just did it.

It sure gives you something to think about   Smile  Very Happy Laughing  Shocked  Cool

I added some photos from Aysel to the online photos

Without any visual cues or contrast, it doesn't look that high...

On google earth I measure the distance from the base of the falls to the ridge in the top of this photo to be 630 feet

~~ 0.64 x Eiffel Tower height (~~ 300 m ) ( according to http://www.wolframalpha.com/input/?i=630ft+in+miles)

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PostPosted: Tue Feb 23, 2010 9:47 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

TacoDelRio wrote:
Everything in Death Valley has a BAD FUCKING ASS name. Names such as:

-Holy Shit Canyon
-Fuck You Wash
-Devil's Massive Goddamn Ridge
-You're going to die so don't bother doing anything except kissing your ass goodbye Canyon

And many more!

Great pics, Matt. I gotta go try that stuff someday.


I havn't heard of those places before.  Maybe I should go check my maps.
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 23, 2010 11:27 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Just looked at the pics.
Holy bettlejuice! That's a big drop!
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Location: Out on the trail.....

PostPosted: Tue Feb 23, 2010 4:35 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Rumpled wrote:
Just looked at the pics.
Holy bettlejuice! That's a big drop!
[

I like this photo, i donna know if this link will work though

http://www.facebook.com/photo.php...;subj=583850470&id=668617929#!/photo.php?pid=4894329&id=668617929&fbid=352087487929
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 23, 2010 5:40 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Regarding the first descenders and the origin of the name...

The first time I heard of the big drop was from Bob Greer.  He sent a photo to Chris Brennen, referring to it as the 'Widowmaker' rappel. He'd scouted the drop from above, and expressed his interest in descending further down canyon. He did not share the location of the drop.

The drop was independently "discovered" a few months later when Randi Poer lead a group down neighboring Split Canyon.  Split is a generally non-technical canyon with a few relatively straightforward downclimbs and ... Shocked  ... a 580' drop.  (Randi had lead the group into the wrong canyon.)  

A few in that group (Ira Lewis, Scott Smith, Jed ??) returned the next day (they just happened to have a 600' spool of rope in the car) to descend the drop. They dubbed the canyon 'Undertaker Canyon'.  

Later, upon learning of Bob's earlier appellation, Ira suggested that we revert to 'Widowmaker Canyon'.  Though Matt's nomenclature of Widowmaker Rappel in Undertaker Canyon is surely reasonable as well.  

We also learned subsequently that Bob may have returned to descend the drop before Ira, Scott, and Jed. Though through the grapevine we hear that Bob may have descended only to the ledge about 200' down the face and downclimbed (by traversing the ledge into an adjacent gully) the remainder of the drop. While Ira, Scott, and Jed reported finding no anchor material above the drop, Bob is meticulously low impact, and may very well have later returned to clean away any webbing.  

So who to credit with the first descent depends on what you count as a descent and is uncertain even at that.
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 23, 2010 5:49 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

mattmaxon wrote:

It's hard to see anything cuz the people on rope are just little specks


Indeed!  

A picture from a trip a few years back, with labels to help locate the canyoneers...


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Location: Stuntin in the trap son

PostPosted: Wed Feb 24, 2010 2:58 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Holy shit!
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PostPosted: Wed Feb 24, 2010 6:32 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

turtle wrote:
Regarding the first descenders and the origin of the name...


Thanks for this Turtle...

The naming of the canyon came from beta I got from the group that included Ken, Suzanne etc...

They came in from as you know from Inyo Mine, though I haven't done it, it seems to me Inyo Mine/Echo Cyn is the way to go.

The road to Red Amphitheater trailhead really really sucks. Lots of rocks sicking up to wake you up, and a couple soft spots requiring lots of momentum to get through +it is twice as far to hike with all that friggn rope
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PostPosted: Wed Feb 24, 2010 10:42 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I like this photo

It gives you a taste of the feeling you get when there

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PostPosted: Thu Feb 25, 2010 8:23 pm    Post subject: Re: Undertaker Canyon 2/21/2010 Reply with quote

mattmaxon wrote:

The main issue with this drop is the rope tends to get damaged on the last 250-300ft  free-hanging section.

By the time Suzanne (labeled in the photo two posts above) finished rapelling, this is what the rope looked like...



Very, very, scary. Shocked

And with two people remaining at the top of the drop, this posed quite a problem for the group to solve.  Definitely on my personal list of "most frightening moments" outdoors.
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PostPosted: Thu Feb 25, 2010 9:20 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Nice core shot. Laughing
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PostPosted: Fri Feb 26, 2010 7:06 am    Post subject: Re: Undertaker Canyon 2/21/2010 Reply with quote

turtle wrote:
mattmaxon wrote:

The main issue with this drop is the rope tends to get damaged on the last 250-300ft  free-hanging section.

By the time Suzanne (labeled in the photo two posts above) finished rapelling, this is what the rope looked like...

 Definitely on my personal list of "most frightening moments" outdoors.


I was well aware of this rope failure and carefully considered how to deal with the possibility of the rope being damaged

Our first line of defense was the rope protector, we had several options on hand but the first one worked very well.

2nd was changing the friction point after each rappel

3rd was admonishing each canyoneer to keep the rappel as smooth as possible

we where all prepared to pass a knot as well.

Further my experience with the Bluewater  Canyon 9.2mm, is it is very prone to core shots. The sheath will cut if you look at it the wrong way.

Since we needed to get a rope for this Bernd and I acquired a semi-static rope from Kordas with the Titan System construction



My biggest concern was the deadman. But Scott, Rick and company had dealt with this about a year ago by placing a large boulder partially embedded in the gravel as the main component of a bomber deadman.

IMO this boulder would be enough on it's own but applying the "Law of more" to a deadman doesn't hurt

A couple things would make future descents a bit smoother and safer...

VOX headsets for each FRS/GMRS radio
Communicating with the person on rope is hit and miss, they have to stop to get the radio out and talk...

Rerig the anchor so the LMD can lower themselves over the edge while extending the anchor over the edge.

This is done on the infamous rope eating drop in employee canyon in Zion NP.

For me this was not done on a lark. I carefully considered it trying to anticipate problems, and prevent them but have something in place to deal with it should it come to pass anyway.
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PostPosted: Fri Feb 26, 2010 11:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

that seems like a shit-ton of rope to carry around... how much does it weigh?
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PostPosted: Sat Feb 27, 2010 7:20 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Zach wrote:
that seems like a shit-ton of rope to carry around... how much does it weigh?


Yeah that it was but it had to be done if it was going to be done. 4 was the minimum roster

Kordas  20lbs (8.5mm x 200m)
Xtreme   7lbs (8mm x 242ft)
CynFire 12lbs (8mm x 300ft)
ProDs     4lbs (8mm x 132ft)
            43 lbs (1230ft)

2 x 2lb for the Rope Silo's

so about 47 lbs for the rope
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PostPosted: Sat Feb 27, 2010 8:44 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

My Flip Video of the top O R1 & R2

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Location: Stuntin in the trap son

PostPosted: Sat Feb 27, 2010 8:58 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Cool vid, Matt.
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PostPosted: Sat Feb 27, 2010 12:33 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Matt,

Questions: what was the size and make of your main rope?  How does that component you mentioned keep the sheath from sliding?

What was the size of your pull rope?  

What technique did you use to change the abrasion point?

Regarding the last person's heart-pounding start--the rappel rope was blocked for single strand rappel and the block worked down away from the rap ring after the previous rappeler was down?  So she didn't notice where the block was and started her rappel?  Up to a 20' foot drop?  That was a bomber anchor.  By the by, did someone have her on fireman's belay?
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PostPosted: Sat Feb 27, 2010 12:59 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Augie wrote:
Matt,

Questions: what was the size and make of your main rope?  How does that component you mentioned keep the sheath from sliding?


8.5mm Kordas Fina (Titan System)

As to the precisely how it works I couldn't tell you

As far as I know this rope is not for sale in the US we bought it in Germany and  imported it into the US

http://www.canyonstore.be/catalog/product_info.php?products_id=436

http://www.sacidkordas.com/



Quote:
What was the size of your pull rope?


8mm

Quote:
What technique did you use to change the abrasion point?


Figure eight block

Quote:
Regarding the last person's heart-pounding start--the rappel rope was blocked for single strand rappel and the block worked down away from the rap ring after the previous rappeler was down?  So she didn't notice where the block was and started her rappel?  Up to a 20' foot drop?  That was a bomber anchor.  By the by, did someone have her on fireman's belay?


We can only guess that is what happened, it has to be. But there was no one up there looking at it to see what happened

Yeah the anchor was shock loaded but Aysel is probably 100lbs soaking wet

Yeah there was a fireman's belay but it really isn't needed until the last 200ft or so. You gotta feed the rope in at the top. The weight of the rope is all the belay you need
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PostPosted: Sat Feb 27, 2010 1:13 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for the detail Matt.
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 01, 2011 8:06 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

A huge thanks to the canyoneers who put together this report.  I did Undertaker Cyn from the mouth to the base of Widowmaker Dry Fall as a hiker and your intel and info was greatly appreciated.

Our report--
http://www.panamintcity.com/funeral/undertaker.html
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PostPosted: Sun Jan 02, 2011 7:23 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

SteveH wrote:
A huge thanks to the canyoneers who put together this report.  I did Undertaker Cyn from the mouth to the base of Widowmaker Dry Fall as a hiker and your intel and info was greatly appreciated.

Our report--
http://www.panamintcity.com/funeral/undertaker.html


Hey Steve!
Very cool! I figured it could be done. Nice TR and photos

Too bad your other friend couldn't get up.

Matt
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PostPosted: Sun Jan 02, 2011 9:39 am    Post subject: Death Valley Reply with quote

If you have any interest in Death Valley, then you must check out Steve Hall's web site www.panamintcity.com.  It's the best hiking resource for Death Valley in existance and more comprehensive than all of the guide books combined.
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PostPosted: Sun Jan 02, 2011 2:14 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Matt- It certainly was a great hike, although the 3 of the 4 climbs were a bit intimidating in the bouldering section.  But certainly worth it to get into those narrows and to the base of the Widowmaker.  When we were at the base of the Widowmaker, there was a potential bypass route up to the top of the polished middle part of the fall.  But we skipped it due to time constraints.  Anyway, it was thanks to your info and the reports of other climbers that we learned about the narrows.  I love studying Death Valley climbers reports and then figuring out what we can sneak our way into as hikers.

Richard- Thank you!
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PostPosted: Mon Jan 03, 2011 9:03 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

SteveH wrote:
Matt- It certainly was a great hike, although the 3 of the 4 climbs were a bit intimidating in the bouldering section. ...  I love studying Death Valley climbers reports and then figuring out what we can sneak our way into as hikers.

Richard- Thank you!


The book "Canyoneering: A Guide to techniques for wet and dry canyons"

David Black ISBN: 978-0-7627-4519-7

Describes some excellent techniques that could be adapted to get up some of this bouldering section

Making it way safer than some of the exposed, sketchy moves that would be needed to get up.

In the Index under Potholes, Article toss for, 121 & 122. Under Human anchors 83-87. These techniques could be used to get the whole group up safely

One thing I like to do is to use prussic's to position hand holds to ease getting up. I've never seen this described anywhere but it works for me

Footwear with sticky rubber would enhance the safety and climbablitiy of the difficult segments.

5.10 has the Desert Enforcer & the Exum Guide

I personally have not used the Desert Enforcer with the "Phantom" rubber. The Exum Guide is essentially the 5.10 Canyoneer with a leather upper. I have several pairs of the 5.10 Canyoneer and it is the "Gold Standard" all other canyoneering footwear are measured against

You'll be amazed how secure you feel on slick rocks, wet or dry

Anywho Have fun! Be safe....
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PostPosted: Mon Jan 17, 2011 11:00 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

SteveH wrote:
When we were at the base of the Widowmaker, there was a potential bypass route up to the top of the polished middle part of the fall.  

I can confirm that it is indeed possible to access the large, sloped, gravel-covered shelf atop the polished middle portion of the drop.  

As mentioned in earlier in the thread, our group had to deal with a core shot when descending the Widowmaker.  The bypass is the only thing that saved us from having to (a) pass a knot on rappel, 250 feet off the deck, and (b) come back the next day to retrieve a fixed (and unretrievable) rope.

We used the ledge exit mostly out of necessity.  I would not recommend going up there if you don't have to, as a simple slip on the gravel could well prove fatal.
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 10, 2013 9:42 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Does anyone know what the upper canyon is like just before the first 30-35 foot drop?  I'm wondering if there are any pretty narrows to see in the upper canyon before any rappelling is required and if anyone who has done this hike remembers or has any photos.
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 10, 2013 10:13 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

As I recall it's pretty wide.

I do have some photos some where

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"Their only motive was a great ideal; this was what linked together mountaineers so widely dissimilar in background and so diverse in character."
Maurice Herzog, Annapurna