Ok kids, I learned about Saline Valley from seeing pics on Supertopo: http://www.supertopo.com/climbers-forum/1937401/The-Saline-Valley
I really enjoyed my first trip to death valley with the kids about a year ago, and I was looking forward to seeing this place. It is such an odd juxtaposition of elements that almost conjures a circus-like atmosphere. But there is so much more- you can make it be anything you want. Here's how it was for my first trip, which was possible when an old friend from Berkeley (who has a truck with better clearance than my Prius and has been there many times) agreed to go.
A little rain in the forecast for Southern Sierra, but it just made for some nice clouds on the drive from LA up 395:
Whitney is up there somewhere:
I HIGHLY recommend the amazing hospitality of Strider out at Mt Williamson Motel in Independence, CA (I borrowed her picture):
I generally sleep in the dirt when I'm out and about, but this will be my go-to place whenever I'm looking for a bed on the east side south of Big Pine. Just the weekend before I met up here with Em Kn0t and a gang of Sierra Clubbers for a last hurrah at attempting to backcountry ski. I've been getting out enough lately I didn't have time to write up that report, and almost forgot about it! I'll circle back.
OK, a little less conversation a little more action:
Driving in from north via Hwy 168:
Creosotes showing beautiful hyperdispersion to protect their limited water supply:
Keep it clean:
First two full days we were busy exploring, but third day hung out here a lot. It was empty when we pulled in because the wind was fairly strong:
Getting camp set up and dinner going before dark:
My daughter stoked to find some water to play in:
And it just keeps getting better:
Oops, had to go rein in my son from a little youthful exuberance taking the more (and maybe too) interesting path:
Rising above it:
But not for long:
Did I mention this place is awesome?
Naw, no climbing here:
This was probably the technical crux of the day without harnesses:
No more pics of it because I was focused on making sure everyone survived:
Who'd a thunk this was in a desert?
I managed to strike a decent balance of exposure for the bright light above and the dark canyon below:
Nice horseshoe bending of the canyon all over the place:
We let this be our high point. It would take some 5.6-5.9 loose soloing for 100 feet to pass this on the right side. There is a fixed climbing rope, but we didn't bring harnesses or gear on this hike:
We just brought our stoke!
And kept it all the way back on the hike out:
This gives a better sense of the exposure of the crux... and the holds are slippery with wet muddy feet. And the fixed rope helps but would still lead to a big pendulum without tension traversing skills. So I was on my kids like a hawk coming down this part:
I loved the reflected light in this little bend of rock:
Back down the cliff and talus that bypasses the first real waterfall:
Washing off some dust:
Delicate little beauties lurking all over if you look for them:
Well, I'll have to do a part 2 later on. That's all I got time for now! This is really the best of it, but still more cool stuff coming.
Did you know that Scorpions show up brightly in an ultraviolet ("black") light?