Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Sidewinder Canyon (Partial) - Death Valley NP - Day Two - 3/12/16

Second Side Slot of Sidewinder Canyon

Slot Art

Climbing Up to the Mouth of Sidewinder Canyon
 Thirteen hikers remained after the tailgate lunch at Badwater Road mile marker 31 trailhead. The earlier hike to Willow Canyon was enough for some. Now, the intrepid thirteen started their climb up through the tough gravel to the mouth of Sidewinder Canyon found south of the parking lot and up to the east. This gravel wash was steeper than the morning wash to Willow Canyon and the legs were tired. However, curiosity pushed us on as the walls began to narrow.

Entering Sidewinder Canyon

Climbing Gravel Wash

Entrance to First Side Slot

Inside First Side Slot
We found the first side slot which has a fork of its own. Be sure to take the left fork here. We took the right fork a short way and had to backtrack. At the end of the left fork, there is a pile of boulders with a bunch of cairns around it. This is the entrance to the first side slot. Most of the hikers clambered past the boulders and entered the slot. It was very dark inside and flashlights are useful. Not much of the slot was explored and we returned to the main wash. A right turn took us up the wash further and the entrance to the second slot was obvious on the right hand side.

Entrance to Second Side Slot

Stepping Up inside Second Slot

Narrow Passageway of Second Slot

Biggest Step Up
 This second side slot was more what we had in mind. It was interesting, colorful, winding and had enough light to take a few photos. We snaked our way up the gentle climb and had to step up a few times. The scrambles were not difficult until the last and largest one. Still, this step up was hikable and the group continued until the slot was almost finished. We enjoyed the second slot very much and returned to the entrance to wait for everyone to gather. Taking a look up at the remaining third side slot and main slot, we saw that the gravel climb was daunting in the afternoon lag. A decision was made to return to the cars and save the last two slots for another day. (Later, we learned that the third side slot is blocked anyway.) Next time, we will start with the main slot then come down to the second side slot and call it a day!

Large Step Up from Bottom

Descending Slot

Arriving Back at the Entrance/Exit

Descending the Gravel Wash
 The descent down the gravel wash was, again, much easier than the ascent. We made quick time going back down to the cars. We saw more other hikers on this hike than the Willow Canyon hike in the morning. The allure of the slot canyons brings them in. Sidewinder Canyon is fun but just make sure you have the energy to climb the main gravel wash!

4 miles; 800 feet elevation gain; 2.75 hours

Returning to Trailhead Parking

Alluvial Fan Flowers near Badwater Road MM 26

Today's Route to Second Side Slot & Back

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