Talus is the mantle of debris below cliff or outcrop, the sloping skirt of boulders and rock broken off by weathering and erosion, then carried downward by gravity, as described by Zane Grey in Wanderer of the Wasteland: “A broad belt of huge bowlders [sic] lay beyond the shack, the edge of the talus, the beginning of the base of a mountain-side, wearing down, weathering away, cracking into millions of pieces, every one of which had both smooth and sharp surfaces.” Rock falling from the cliff, on its way to the talus, is a debris fall. The slow movement of rock debris down the angular slope is called talus creep. John C. Van Dyke, who on foot and horseback explored the Mojave and Colorado Deserts in the early twentieth century, often without the vaguest notion of where he was, describes the traversing of talus as a scramble “over splintered rock, stepping from stone to stone, creeping along the backbone of bowlders [sic], and worrying over rows of granite blocks.”

Ellen Meloy