Sunday, January 25, 2015

Dances with Bighorns at El Capitan Canyon

Happy to post a new trip report rather than raking over historical trips this week!

After many weeks at home due to family obligations and various injuries I had a serious case of canyon fever.  I was invited to Parker Canyon, but had to be on-call Saturday morning.  By 10 am I was off the hook, but my regular canyoneering partners were all out at Parker already, so I needed something I could do solo.  I contemplated some of the shorter trips in the Supes like Headdress, but given that I was still recovering from a back injury also, I wanted to do one I had done before.  So El Capitan it was.  Paying $1.67 a gallon also made it much easier to decide to do something farther out.

On the approach, I was huffing and puffing up the hill to get to the entrance gully, when I looked over my shoulder to see a huge group of bighorn sheep!

I've seen bighorn before, but never such a big group, and never so up close.  They were maybe less that 20 feet away and perfectly silouetted against the far off mountains.  Unlike the bighorns I'd seen before, these ones also didn't take off right away.  Instead, they carefully trotted past me and up the mountain.  My path continue to cross theirs, and they'd eye me carefully, moving to accommodate, and continued to "dance" with me up the mountain until I finally pulled ahead and left them behind.  One of the best wildlife encounters I've had in awhile!

The canyon itself was as great as it was the first time around.  This time I had a helmet mount for my camera, though its placed a little high so not as easy to capture good footage as a gopro.  But it seemed to work.

El Capitan is an underrated canyon in my opinion.  Easy entrance and exit and really first rate narrows.  The rappels are not too exciting - five, and only two of them over 10 feet - but that's just the ticket for a solo trip.  It was just nice to be back out in some good scenery, and to have it all to myself.

As some friends like to say, a great day to be in the canyons!

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