Panamint Canyon was a destination that I had never even considered over my first decade of visiting Death Valley.  The obvious reason (for those who are familiar with the area), is that Panamint Canyon has a reputation as a climbers' canyon. And the reputation is well deserved, as many climbers have written reports and shared pictures that showed them rappelling down dry fall after dry fall in the canyon.  As I looked over one climber's report I came across on the internet, I couldn't help but admire the great beauty which was evident in the narrows of Panamint Canyon.  That caused me to feel a bit dismayed, as I have made a personal decision to never get involved with rock climbing which involves ropes, thus meaning I would likely never be able to see that beauty firsthand.  Then came Michel Digonnet's new book "Hiking Western Death Valley", which to my surprise contained a chapter written about Panamint Canyon.  Digonnet had discovered a difficult bypass which allows you to get past the first 80 foot dry fall, and he shared details in his new guidebook on how to use it to get into the upper canyon.  Bringing the book with me, I hiked into Panamint Canyon on my Fall 2009 trip.

At this point, I should point out a couple of things.  First of all, hiking up the fan to Panamint Canyon from the parking spot on the Big Four Mine Road was very rugged and it was agonizing every step.  The terrain is very uncomfortable and rocky to hike on.  Second, when you finally drop into the wash of Panamint Canyon, it is just as difficult.  Not only is it rocky and challenging to navigate through, but it is very steep.  In fact, this is the steepest canyon I have ever hiked up in my life.  To emphasize this point, if you look at either the first picture below or the logo above, you can see how steep Panamint Canyon really is.  What that means is that by the time you reach the base of the first dry fall about 3.2 miles from where you started, you have already used a lot of energy and will power.  Then comes the bypass, which is a total nightmare.  This bypass is a step harder than the Dry Bone Canyon bypass.  After I bypassed the first four dry falls (and found a way to get pictures of each one of them), I was deposited back into the canyon, where I was able to hike up in just a few minutes to the base of the 5th dry fall.  And that's all I am going to say about what I accomplished in this canyon.  All hikers reading this should plan on stopping at the bottom of the 1st dry fall.  Safety is the biggest concern about a hike in Panamint Canyon, and the best way to stay safe is to just enjoy the canyon which leads up to the 1st dry fall.  It is a spectacular place.
SAFETY ALERT-- This hike contains sections of climbing, exposed bypasses and/or high dry falls and requires safety ropes & equipment in order to complete the entire hike.  Those without the proper training, experience, and safety gear should stop at the bottom of the 1st dry fall which is encountered in the canyon.
View of Panamint Canyon from the Big Four Mine Road.  Panamint Canyon cuts directly down the center in this picture:
I parked my truck at the place recommended in the book, and then began hiking directly towards the mouth of Panamint Canyon:
During the hike across, there was a nice view of the Panamint Sand Dunes, which are my favorite dunes in the park:
It was a tiresome journey up the fan, but I finally dropped into the wash of Panamint Canyon.  This picture is taken looking back down towards Panamint Valley:
And now I have entered the mouth of Panamint Canyon.  The wash inside the canyon was wide, steep, rugged, and winding:
I found this orange canyon wall which I wanted to get a picture next to with my orange shirt:
Early on in the canyon, the walls are very high and the canyon is wide:
Passing by a large slickenside in the lower canyon:
The next two pictures show you some of the grand scenery which exists in Panamint Canyon:
The moment I first saw this view... I knew.  I knew that this was going to be the bypass (center of picture).  My first reaction was umm... I don't think so:
Figuring there was no way I would be trying the bypass, I just focused on appreciating the beauty already surrounding me in the lower canyon:
Here is an amazing picture, with the bypass on the left and the 80 foot 1st dry fall on the right:
The 80 foot 1st dry fall is absolutely breathtaking and beautiful at the same time:
Steve looking up at the 1st dry fall and feeling very small in comparison:
Two more views of the 1st dry fall, which is polished across the surface of the rock.  My recommendation for all hikers is to stop at this 1st major dry fall in the canyon and hike back out:
The bypass didn't look quite as intimidating up close, so I decided to go ahead and give it a try.  Here is where it started:
And here is where it turned the corner and got even steeper.  Basically, I tried to hug the wall next to the loose boulders and rocks as much as possible.  But one big issue was that I couldn't hold onto the wall for support because the rock edge was so sharp that it cut my hands:
To my surprise, partway up the bypass, you are granted entry to the top of the 80 foot 1st dry fall and the canyon floor:
This view is taken looking over the edge of the 80 foot 1st dry fall, where I had been standing about 30 minutes earlier:
I was now in the narrows of Panamint Canyon, and was able to hike a short distance further up canyon:
But not for long, because I reached the base of the 2nd dry fall:
The 2nd dry fall had a couple of massive boulders wedged in between the two sides of the walls:
Zooming in on the boulders.  Nope, I wouldn't be trying to climb this dry fall:
Steve standing in front of the 2nd dry fall, which appears to be about 20 feet tall:
After this, I walked back down and returned to the bypass.  About 20 minutes later, I found a way to cross over and get a view into the part of the narrows that I was bypassing.  This is the spot where the 2nd dry fall pours over:
And this is looking straight down into the narrows from the place where I was standing high above:
From this angle, I was able to see a long stretch of narrows ending at the base of the 3rd dry fall:
Zooming in on the 3rd dry fall, which is relatively close to the upper right corner of the picture.  The dry fall is just to the left of the very dark (black) rock:
Once again I returned to the bypass.  The short breaks in between to view the canyon allowed for some helpful rest:
Looking back down the bypass at the lower canyon where I had started:
And this is looking straight across the bypass.  The camera is held level, so you can get a good idea of how steep and challenging the bypass really is:
Final portion of the bypass is the steepest yet, and guarantees that you will spend some time slipping on the loose rocks:
At the top of the bypass, I was finally able to breathe a sigh of relief.  But then a terrible realization came to me... the canyon ahead (middle diagonal cut) looked steep beyond belief.  Surely this would be the end of the hike:
Here I zoomed in on that middle diagonal cut, which is Panamint Canyon:
From the top of the bypass, I could also see down into the canyon.  The top of the 3rd dry fall is just to the right of this picture out of view:
Once I dropped into the canyon, I walked over to the top of the 4th dry fall and looked down it.  The bypass actually takes you past the first 4 dry falls in the canyon:
This is a wider view looking down the 4th dry fall into the narrows and canyon below:
This is the base of the 5th dry fall, quite a remarkable achievement for a mere hiker in the canyon to reach this spot:
Steve at the base of the 5th dry fall, celebrating and fully expecting this to be the end of the hike:
I was also able to zoom in on the two-stage 100 foot 6th dry fall, which was up above the 5th dry fall a short distance.  This is the lower portion of the two-stage 6th dry fall:
And this is the upper potion of the two-stage 6th dry fall:
And with only one nasty cut which resulted in blood on the way back down the 1st bypass (the walls and rocks are very sharp to the touch), Steve gets his picture in between the 1st bypass and 1st dry fall.  Farewell, Panamint Canyon.  Thanks for the memories:
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