While the unusually high number of deaths and injuries at Half Dome is receiving national attention, a trail closer to home is also taking its share of negative attention.
Eaton Canyon, which is usually a placid little nature walk for most hikers, has already tragically claimed two lives this season. Both Erwin Molina and John Jutiyasantayanon died after falling from the very unofficial routes to Upper Eaton Canyon. While the deaths have so far been limited to people who take the much more dangerous climbing routes, local officials acknowledge the trail in the Lower Canyon has become more treacherous, too.
Due to the increased levels of rainfall last winter, the water in Eaton Canyon is higher than usual – making the rocks on the winding canyon floor route slippery enough to cause slips, sprains and breaks. The Altadena Rescue Agency, the local volunteer group that responds to emergency calls in the canyon, usually performs between 30 and 40 rescues annually – but has already performed 48 this year alone.
While my heart goes out to the families of the victims, I maintain that Eaton Canyon is a relatively straightforward, easy hike for most hikers as I have described it – that is, the route that sticks to the Lower Canyon and stops at the first waterfall. You’re always going at your own risk when you hike, but when you go off-trail or decide to climb without proper training or equipment, you are taking an entirely avoidable and unnecessary risk.
Please – tread carefully if the lower route is wet. This canyon can often be crowded, and even if you are watching where you’re stepping, those around you may not be.