First Descent of Abysmal Canyon

Where: Death Valley National Park
When: February 17, 2008
Partners: DB, Mike Schasch, Rick Kent, Tom Jones, Ram, Scott Smith & Mark Duttweiler

A beautiful approach

With Death Valley-burnout setting in, it was time to start wrapping up a big season in the park with a long weekend of canyon explorations. Me and/or my various partners had eyeballed a few canyons that looked to be promising technical adventures with possibilities of no previous descents.
Rigging for one of the 28 rappels in the canyon

This was the weekend's showpiece. Rick Kent and Mark Duttweiler, unbeknownst to each other, had been looking at a particular canyon and drooling over what appeared to be a steep 600-ft drop midway through. A strong team assembled to give it a look.
Natural anchor fun!

We (me, DB, Rick, Mike Schasch, Mark, Scott Smith, Ram and Tom Jones) started at 5:30 AM in anticipation of a long day. Reaching the drop-in after 3.5 hours, we quickly began a long series of rappels and enjoyable downclimbs. In total, our party negotiated 28 rappels, including a two-stage affair at the "Big Drop" which included a 150-ft rappel to a ledge followed by a 270-ft rappel to the canyon bottom. Below that, a bunch more rappels and downclimbs.
CP beginning the first of a 2-rappel, 430-foot drop at the "Big Drop" midway through Absymal

With great teamwork and efficiency, we worked quickly through this big canyon. 11.5 hours car-to-car.
Plenty of anchor work on this one

With no signs of prior passage, we collectively dubbed the new canyon "Abysmal Canyon" (Mark's idea), a desert canyoneering classic.
The Team (Mike, Rick, CP, DB, Mark, Scott, Ram and Tom, L-to-R; Note the absurd Rock Star posturing at center)

(Rick's pics & Tom's write-up and pics)

*Photos courtesy of Rick Kent