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Over-estimating your experience or under-estimating the terrain in a place like Big Bend can result in serious injury or death. Use the information and advice found here wisely. Climb/Hike/Camp/Drive at your own risk.

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Seeking advice on Devil's Den

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Offline Strider

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Seeking advice on Devil's Den
« on: March 16, 2013, 02:17:50 AM »
Hi everyone!  I'll be making a trip to BBend soon and have always been interested in Devil's Den.  I've heard the "safe" way to do it is walk along the edge of the rim of the canyon as it climbs up until you hit the top of the valley that overlooks Dagger Flat.  From there you can either:

A.  Return the way you came
B.  Drop down into the valley and hike back down the canyon to where you started from but that this involves climbing down various dropoffs of varying height (some reported to be 8') and possibly falling into large pools of icy water. 

I've also heard some say that walking UP through the canyon and climbing UP the dropoffs is easier than coming down them and that once you get to the top of the Dagger Flat you then walk down the side of the canyon rim.

For a single hiker, is it just better to play it safe and avoid going up/down through the Den and just stick to the rim or does anyone know if conditions have changed and if silt deposits have built up over time to make scaling the dropoffs easier or that the pools of water have dried up to allow easier access to the pouroffs?

Thanks in advance for any advice/suggestions/help!!!   :D
If you bump into a bear or mountain lion, you don't have to outrun it....just the person you're with!  ;D

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Offline mule ears

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Re: Seeking advice on Devil's Den
« Reply #1 on: March 16, 2013, 06:45:22 AM »
Strider here are two threads one on Devils Den and one labeled Dog Canyon caves but with a discussion of Devils Den with some good pictures.

Some of the photo links in the Devils Den trip reports in the Backpacking Trip Reports Index have disappeared but there is information there too.

Conditions do change but this one is done often enough that the rangers should be able to give you some decent conditions info.  If you go, make sure to give us a trip report and pictures so we have some current info.
temperatures exceed 100 degrees F
minimum 1 gallon water per person/day
no shade, no water
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Offline Collared Lizard

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Re: Seeking advice on Devil's Den
« Reply #2 on: March 16, 2013, 09:42:03 AM »
I have hiked from Yucca Flats north then downstream through the Devils Den drainage back to the camp site where we had a second car parked.  It is manageable with a short length of rope to get down a couple of the pour offs.  No technical climbing was involved.  Don't do it at all if heavy rain or thunderstorms are predicted.  Steve   

 

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Offline tommyp

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Re: Seeking advice on Devil's Den
« Reply #3 on: March 16, 2013, 08:55:59 PM »
I have hiked Devil's Den often, most recently this past January.   My preferred route is directly through it.  There are a few places which are dicey--notably the first obstacle you'll see, requiring you to lift yourself up and through a small opening to ascend approx. 12 ft.  But it is well worth it.  In January we were stymied by a place where we could not ascend without standing in water--so we gave up.
But I have been all the way through two or three times.  It is fun. I must admit, it is easier with another person to lend a hand here and there.  But solo is doable.
A man is measured by his stride.

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Offline alan in shreveport

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Re: Seeking advice on Devil's Den
« Reply #4 on: March 16, 2013, 10:28:58 PM »
going solo you should probably tell the ranger at Persimmon Gap your plan,what your driving , etc.

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Offline Strider

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Re: Seeking advice on Devil's Den
« Reply #5 on: March 17, 2013, 04:21:38 AM »
Thanks for the tips, and I'm slowly formulating a battle plan.  Yeah, Alan, I was going to make darn sure the rangers at P. Gap knew where I was going (I'm putting a sign on the dashboard of my car saying that if the car is still there on the side of the road at 6p - I'm starting the hike at 7a - then come get me 'cause that means my keester is stuck somewhere in the Den!)

I think if the weather is looking good, I'm going to scout out the first part of the Den from the canyon level, especially that small opening and 12' climb that TommyP is referring to.  If it looks too risky, then I'll just head back and go the "safe" route along the canyon edge.  If I go that route, I'll bring some binocs and check down into the den to see what it's like down there as far as standing water, etc. and make a report when I get back.

So far my planned hikes are: 

Day 1 - Burro Spring & Burro Mesa Pour Off
Day 2 - Slickrock Canyon & Ward Spring
Day 3 - Devil's Den

The only one I've been to before is BM Pour off so it should be a lot of new experiences.  If anyone has been to S'rock canyon and has some tips, feel free to share!  8 miles of open desert....gonna have to break out the shades/sunscreen on that one!   8)
If you bump into a bear or mountain lion, you don't have to outrun it....just the person you're with!  ;D

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Offline benthegrate

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Re: Seeking advice on Devil's Den
« Reply #6 on: March 18, 2013, 10:14:38 PM »
I've hiked Devil's Den many times...one of my favorite places to take first time visitors to the park.  The condition of the potholes changes frequently, so unless someone has a trip report from the last few weeks, you can't count on accurate info from the older trip reports here.

The biggest problem you'll face is the potholes.  The climbs/drops aren't too bad if you're fairly experienced, but you may have to wade to the base of a climb, and then your shoes are wet.  I STRONGLY recommend descending if you're going solo (take a 50'-100' handline if you're going solo).  The pouroffs are slick limestone and can be challenging to climb if you don't have a buddy to give you a boost.  (You'll see precarious piles of rocks at the base of each pouroff that solo hikers have used to get up them...not a very secure way to climb.)

All in all, I prefer ascending the canyon if I have a group, because people can boost from below and haul from above.  The pouroffs aren't extremely high, but they are VERY slick and polished.  I've had many an intrepid friend have a panic attack down there.  It is not a hike to be taken lightly.

But going solo, I think descending is the way to go, provided you have a lengthy handline you can double around a tree or chockstone.  The canyon is not long at all...you can scout the entire thing from above.  If you have a bee allergy, take your Epi-pen, because the large pothole at the very head of the canyon is often swarming with hundreds or thousands of them.  (I've had to wade through in waist-deep icy water, very slowly, while they landed all over me.  Never been stung, but those bees have a lot of Africanized DNA in them and they can be aggressive.)

My favorite way to do Devil's Den is to hike up through Dog Canyon, turn right and make your way up to the obvious saddle south of the head of Dog, down into the valley above the head of DD, and then either down through the Den, or climb the ridge to the left of the Den and rim walk.  Only a bit more hiking than cross-country to the Den from your car, but you see a lot more, and when you're out on the east side of the mountains from Dog Canyon, you feel spectacularly isolated.  Not many folks venture out there.

For a single hiker, is it just better to play it safe and avoid going up/down through the Den and just stick to the rim

The answer to that question is a resounding YES.  Though there's no denying that the Den is equally as cool, if not cooler, from the inside, than from the rim.  But only you understand your skills, and Devil's Den can be a VERY dangerous place, despite the relatively short height of the pouroffs.  And once you start down (or up), you're sorta committed to climbing or descending slickrock pouroffs.  If in doubt, play it safe and enjoy the views from the rim.  You can ALWAYS go back with a group, and there is relative safety in numbers.
Been to 36 countries and all 7 continents.  BiBe is still my favorite place on Earth.

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Offline Strider

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Re: Seeking advice on Devil's Den
« Reply #7 on: March 19, 2013, 01:09:19 AM »
Thanks Ben!  After weighing all the factors and not wanting to end up being a statistic, I think I'll just go into the Den a little ways to the first obstacle for a "look see" and then double back to walk along the rim to the top.  Once I get to the top I think I'll head down the saddle that you mentioned that takes you to the east side of the mountain and then walk north to Dog Canyon b4 heading back to the car (kind of like doing your route in reverse).

I'm taking my video camera, with luck I might be able to get some shots of the bees (hopefully without getting stung)!
If you bump into a bear or mountain lion, you don't have to outrun it....just the person you're with!  ;D

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Offline Geezer

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Re: Seeking advice on Devil's Den
« Reply #8 on: March 19, 2013, 08:35:02 PM »
The only time I've been in Devil's Den we just walked up to the first blockage, then went back a bit to scramble up to the rim, which we followed the whole way. That was plenty entertaining.

One thing, on the way in I had lagged behind my friends, who included a smoker. At one point about two-thirds of the way to the blockage I detected a very strong cat smell. Never saw one, though. Keep your camera handy.

Geezer

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Offline Strider

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Re: Seeking advice on Devil's Den
« Reply #9 on: March 21, 2013, 02:45:46 AM »
Thanks for the tip, Geezer.  I'm about 12 days away from departure.  Hopefully I won't run into anything that wants to turn me into a morning snack in the Den.  The biggest animals I've seen in that part of the park were a family of 5 deer munching on some yucca plants that were flowering on top of the ridgeline on Persimmon Gap Trail.  I think I have some video of it, just gotta find it....
If you bump into a bear or mountain lion, you don't have to outrun it....just the person you're with!  ;D

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Offline Geezer

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Re: Seeking advice on Devil's Den
« Reply #10 on: March 21, 2013, 08:32:19 PM »
Should have mentioned I was there six or seven years ago. That kitty must have gone to his reward by now.

Geez

 


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