Smith Mountain & The First Descent of Shoestring Canyon

February 23, 2008

An inscription found in the lower canyon

Driving over Friday night to meet up with the rest of our 8-person group, we (me, DB, Rick Kent, Ram, Tom Jones, Mark Duttweiler, Randi Poer and Ryan Hull) woke early from a few hours' sleep and headed up to the "trailhead" to Smith Mountain in two 4WD vehicles. Setting out, we made good time to the saddle below the peak and above the drop-in to our exploratory canyon, an unnamed and presumably intense slot we were tentatively calling "Forge Canyon."

While the others started down the canyon, I set out alone for Smith Mtn. Rick had already done it and I hadn't. Making good time, despite a full pack of rope, harness, gear, a gallon of water, layers, etc., I attained the summit then dropped down the peak's NW ridge and soon met up with the group just below their first rappel.
Telescope Peak from the summit of Smith Mountain

Continuing down the canyon, we found a few nice drops, an unpleasant talus-strewn middle section, and ultimately, a semi-interesting finish. We reached the cars about 8.5 hours after starting out. A likely first descent of the full canyon.
Efficient rope work in the canyon

Of most note in the canyon was a carving in a lower wall (perhaps above the 2nd- or 3rd-to-last rappel) that said "Shoestring Canyon", a few pieces of rebar used as anchors for an early party that seemed to have ascended a portion of the lower canyon from the mouth, and mostly interestingly, an old ladder of wire and tree branches.
A rusted rebar anchor from early exploration in the lower canyon

*Tom Jones put up a photo trip report for the week he, Ram and the others spent in Death Valley. We were fortunate enough to hook up with those guys for a couple/few days. Good times all around. Here's Tom's link.

**Photos courtesy of Rick Kent