Lower Eaton (Canyoneering). 5/10/14
A 5AM alarm and eggs with coffee. I stand out front of the house and look to the mountains to find a heavy cloud layer and cool temps, prompting me to take a blade to an old wetsuit and turn it into a farmer john, rolling and stuffing it for the trip. Eaton has been in my sights for a while, a local classic that has somehow escaped my attention thus far. As Adan is starting to get on the rope with me, more options are beginning to open up, though I’m not sure how I waited this long as the trailhead is only a few miles from my house. The lower stretches before the first fall are likely some of the most traveled miles in the foothills of Los Angeles. Steep, broken country, however, keeps the masses out of deeper reaches of the canyons. Roughly an eight mile loop, the upper 75% is surprisingly pristine feeling given its proximity to a few million people. Fifty foot rappels apparently do wonders for thinning the herd.
Adan and I found the canyon harder than Keyhole or Orderville in Zion. Longer rappels, trickier ledges, and an equal amount of swimming, jumping, and sliding into pools. The anchors are straightforward enough- slings on boulders, around trees, the occasional bolt, but more thought was required than simply clipping bolts on our Zion trip. The most difficult aspect, by far, is rappelling slick, wet granite, covered in moss and algae, providing comparable footing to being on ice. The slightest attempt to support weight on the feet will result in a fall. Adan took a few good ones while on the rope and I managed a sprained finger and bruised a palm from the heroics of simply slipping while walking the stream. My back is still feeling a nice 10+ foot jump into a 3′ deep pool.
More technical trouble; the Gopro stopped working somewhere about 60% through the day, missing one of the last, biggest waterfalls. It took a hit on the rocks while being thrown down from a 40 foot fall and had some trouble reading the SD card ever since. What we also failed to capture was our exposed class 3/4 ridge fiasco while getting out (not that I would’ve had a camera out anyway). The rock of the San Gabriels is completely unnerving to climb on; so much of it rotten, fractured, and ready to give way at any moment. As I’m downclimbing a very exposed section of ridge with literally 200+ feet of air to the right and under me, I discover a volleyball sized hold moving under my weight; It’s been a while since I’ve climbed anything with a “you slip- you die” penalty. We were both certainly firing on 100% and reached solid ground with some adrenaline pumping.
Scrapes and cuts and bruises, poison oak, soaked gear, and tired legs. Seven hours out and we both seemed to forget to eat or drink…A full spectrum day.