My partner had to leave the next day so I decided to go hike up to Piute Pass. There had been a couple of early storms but other than the pass itself the trail was almost completely dry.
I wanted to go up to Cottonwood Pass, south of Whitney, but when I got there the road was blocked and gated. Despite the fact that I'm sure it was entirely snow free and all the passes were still open, the Forest Service felt the need to shut off access lest someone drive up and get stuck. Undeterred I decided to just head straight up a side valley. As I headed up a dog from a nearby ranch decided to follow me and refused to turn around for several hours.
With the weather looking not so great I turned east, out through Death Valley. Following my typical style I decided to go check out a little side canyon. Now my map showed a decent paved road going the whole length, eventually looping back to the main highway. Of course after getting far enough in that I didn't want to have to backtrack, pavement gave way to gravel, gave way to just a sandy wash. Now I drive a beat up old minivan that has about two inches of clearance (and the dents in to undercarriage to prove it) so I probably shouldn't be doing this stuff but somehow I always seem to end up on it. Eventually the road runs out entirely, the canyon blocked by trees. Since I didn't have anything better to do, I decided to get out and go poke around. Turns out there was a spring that bubbled up, ran about 100 yards, then tumbled over a series of spectacular waterfalls. It's called Darwin Falls, just west of Panamint springs, worth checking out if you're driving through the area.
Driving out I found a side road that led me around the falls but required some sketchy bits, including going down a steep, rocky hill that I wasn't sure if I could get back up if this road didn't work out. Luckily it did and I continued on to Red Rock outside Las Vegas.
One of the guys was psyched to get on Epinephrine so we decided to give it a go. Short days meant we started predawn, were getting on the route as the sun came up, but there still managed to be a party ahead of us. They were moving a little slow but since you're in a chimney for the first few pitches we couldn't easily pass so we settled in to be social. After a few pitches though they ended up rapping off, leaving us alone on the route. Right then, tragedy struck, my partner's shoe, clipped to his harness, ripped free as he chimneyed, plummeting earthward. It bounced a few times, landed on a ledge just above me, almost stopped, then slowly, slowly rolled off again. The other guys ended up finding it later way down the gully and brought it back but it meant my partner got to do the whole descent in his climbing shoes. Despite the delay and slow hike out, we managed to do the route car to car in about 9 hours.