Last Sunday was an amazing new adventure for me, Canyoneering… our friend Bjorn from Triple B Adventures hit me and Brady up about doing the Middle Fork Lytle Creek route in the San Gabriel Mountains. I have been wanting to try canyoneering for a while and could not pass this opportunity up especially with the heat I figured a trip down a canyon and some water would be nice.
It was a long day up at 0400 to meet up then a hour and a half drive up to the trail head, lucky for Bray and I Bjorn had done the leg work on research and we loaded into his 4WD since the road was not car friendly, and glad we did it was some amazing washboards getting there. The trail head was nice and had plenty of parking trash cans and vault toilets so that was a plus. The weather in the other hand was probably 90’s close to 100 and had a very warm wind blowing as we started the hike.
The trail up was about 2K worth of gain and had a decent amount of exposure before you got into the tree line. We spent a little bit route finding the trail once we were at the first campground and took the wrong drainage but in about twenty minutes we were back on track. Heading out of the trees and back into the exposed mountain side we crossed a couple scree fields as we looked for our spot to put in.
When we found a decent spot we descended into the canyon and picked up the creek. When we reached the first rappel it was obvious, and it was time to break out the gear. This was some legit rappelling and rope work and lucky for us Bjorn knew what he was doing and had all the gear we needed. This is not a novice trip and requires a lot of planning, gear, and knowledge. This is a “varsity level” trip so definitely good to have experienced people on your team.
Bjorn made quick work of the anchor system and we ran through the gear self-checked, and buddy checked, and we were ready to rappel. This was my first time repelling since boot camp twenty years ago, so it was fun to get back on the rope, but it was also a little nerve racking ha-ha. But wow it was fun and I took my time down the cliff and got used to coming down and then when I was off rappel it was time to chill out and wait for the others.
And by chill out I mean it, ha-ha once we were in the creek a lot of the rappels had us going directly down the water falls and for a few we ended up in the pools below. To be honest it was so hot standing in the water was pretty refreshing and I spent a lot of my day dunking my hat and putting it on to stay chill.
The wind was like a hair dryer even with wetting down you would be dry fast, and it was a reoccurring process of wetting down and drinking water which was nice we had a ready supply at our feet.
This trip was about six and a half miles with half of it hiking up and the other half was pretty much down hill with two major sections for multi pitch rappels. Between Bjorn’s anchors and the bolts placed by other hikers there was a pretty decent system to get down although the time setting up and taking down made for a nice break.
So, with the added time this really fell into why we talk about being prepared for a day hike that could easily turn into an over nightery if something happened. I was glad I had dray bag of warm cloths and my space blankets as an insurance policy against hypothermia. Another thing I don’t leave home without is my head lamp.
I also felt secure in the fact he had multiple Garmin In Reaches and I had an itinerary with Steph which had a midnight drop dead for calling for help. I bring this up because the day took a while and as we came down the second water fall it was around 1930. On top of that the last rappel was a little longer than we the recovery rope to release the main line so Bjorn went to work on trying to rig something up. Because of time we almost had to leave the hundred- and fifty-foot rope but Spool Tool to the rescue as he was able to tie it off get some extra line and after a little elbow grease, we had the rope back on the bag.
While it was nice to be off the canyon, we still had to make our way up to the trail and hike a mile and a half out. It was one of those fun trips where we were racing the sunset and turning our phones back on to let our families know we were good to go and headed down. Finally, around 2100 we made it to the truck and started our drive home.
After getting back to our cars and breaking down gear it was midnight when I got home. Definitely a long but fun day, Monday at work was a long one, ha-ha. But trips like this are a great reminder that even when everything goes well it can still take significantly longer than expected and if anything had slid right, we prob ably would have been camping, so being prepared and having a plan is the first layer in surviving a fun day on the mountain.