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Grand Canyon April 2013
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Dean F.
(acrosome) - MLife

Locale: Back in the Front Range
Grand Canyon April 2013 on 09/22/2013 11:17:36 MDT Print View

Well, as promised I did return to the Grand Canyon to do more of that hike. Sorry it took so long to post this- I left on my deployment almost immediately after getting back from this trip.

The previous effort is here:

Just like the last time I took along my usual designated victim- Sam, my old roommate from college. A friend of his named Mark also came along. Oddly they are both engineers who no longer work in their fields. We planned to go down Tanner Trail, and basically see how far we could get heading west on the Escalante Route, Tonto Trail, etc. Our permit cleared us to ascend Bright Angel Trail, but we didn't go that whole way.

Here I am at Lipan Point, pointing out the west end of Tanner Beach to the others (see arrow)- the actual Tanner Beach campsite is a bit more to screen-right:

looking down at Tanner Beach

In the interest of full disclosure- almost all of these photos are Mark's. He just takes more and better pictures than do I, and was kind enough to send them to me.

This is either from Lipan point or very soon on Tanner Trail, looking down the Seventy-Five Mile Creek drainage:


Here's a quick view back up Tanner Trail from just below the rim:


The arrow on screen-left is the trailhead, and the one on screen-right is where the first photo was taken.

Here is Sam, on Cardenas Butte:


I think I've said this before, but it's worth noting that there are many good campsites all along Escalante and Cardenas Buttes. The maps tend to only show one little spot. No water to speak of, though- they are dry camps.

This is the view down the pitch descending from Cardenas butte:


It's a bit steep- hard on the knees.

Here's Sam on the flat bit of trail below Cardenas Butte (I think):


Tanner beach is "just over the ridge" in front of him. You can see a bit of the Colorado River with a beach on screen-left.

Heres the view toward the Palisades, looking east from Tanner Trail:


Finally, 9 miles from the start, Sam rests under the rock overhang at Tanner Beach:


Note his use of knee-braces; his knees didn't bother him one bit on this trip.

The other two cowboy-camped under the overhang but I didn't like the look of some of the loose rocks among the conglomerate making up the roof (not visible in the photo) so I sacked out in the nearby sand. Besides- I'm the medical support, so what would we do if I'm the one the rock landed on?

There is no reliable water on Tanner Trail, until the Colorado River is accessible at the bottom at Tanner Beach.

Edited by acrosome on 08/01/2014 12:18:07 MDT.

Dean F.
(acrosome) - MLife

Locale: Back in the Front Range
Day 2 (April 4th) we start the Escalante Route on 09/22/2013 11:18:06 MDT Print View

So after a quick breakfast the next morning we headed off on the Escalante Route. I had mild worries about routefinding, since the route is not maintained, but these were utterly unfounded- the Park Service should just name it the "Escalante Trail" and get it over with.

Here are Sam and I shortly after kicking off, with the long bench to last night's camp at Tanner Beach in the background:


You can't actually see Tanner beach- it is over the dune.

After a couple of miles of beach walking we climbed the first rise to overlook Unkar Rapids. A bit further along the ridge and we could look thusly:


Once you hike up the hill off the beach it is five miles to the next reliable water, by accessing the Colorado River at Escalante Creek.

Here's another Mark-photo, looking back at me on the ridge west of Cardenas Canyon:


Cardenas Canyon is over the ridge to screen-right; the canyon that you can see on screen-left is unnamed, and enters the Colorado just below river mile 73.

It quickly became clear that despite hauling by far the most weight, Mark was also by far the fittest of us and tended to lead by quite a bit. Sam tended to walk sweep, leaving me in the middle.

Here's a look back at that ridge:


Another nice shot down-canyon:


Further along, here's a look back at Sam, trailing:


We got to Seventy-Five Mile Creek, and made a bit of a wrong turn. Instead of descending in the canyon to the Colorado River we continued on the bench on the far side of the creek. After a mile or so it became clear that this wasn't the standard route. There IS a way down off the bench directly to the mouth of Papago Creek (which was our goal for that day), but it looked hairy and poorly-marked. So instead we backtracked to do what we should have done- we descended Seventy-Five Mile Creek.

Here's the upper reaches of Seventy-Five Mile Creek:


We should have descended the creek bed, in the canyon. Instead, as you can see, we crossed onto a social trail on the western side of the canyon and kept on trucking. At about the time that we turned back Sam clued Mark and I in to the fact that he had been vomiting and having multiple episodes of diarrhea all day. He thinks he had managed to keep a whole liter down, once, thus explaining his lagging.

Hmm. He did look a bit pale and dry. Bad juju. We couldn't even blame it on the water, since that was the first day we drank treated water- the entire previous day we were drinking and cooking with the tap water we had loaded before heading out. So it must have been something he ate pre-hike or something.

Walking down Seventy-Five Mile Creek looks like this:


The creek was dry. There were a few puddles in shaded spots, but nothing to rely upon.

And here is our camp at Neville Rapids, at the mouth of Seventy-Five Mile Creek, after that frustrating backtrack:


Water is available from the Colorado River.

There was a party of rafters camped just below the rapids so Mark walked down to them and asked if they could take Sam down to the rangers at Bright Angel Campground if he hadn't perked up by morning. They were quite happy to. Sam got some recently-expired Immonium, some Pepto Bismol tablets, and worked on keeping something down. He managed to eat some dinner.

Edited by acrosome on 08/01/2014 12:20:00 MDT.

Dean F.
(acrosome) - MLife

Locale: Back in the Front Range
Day 3 (April 5th) New Hance Trail and Horseshoe Mesa on 09/22/2013 11:18:39 MDT Print View

Well, Sam did keep dinner down, along with a couple of liters of water. But he was still clearly not up to the next day's hike, which was anticipated to be the toughest. He bit the bullet and bummed a ride to Bright Angel with the rafters, planning to get better there then hike out Bright Angel. Mark and I set off, planning to ascend via the Grandview Trail since it seemed kind of low to desert Sam and keep on hiking through.

Since everyone wonders about the Papago Wall and Papago Slide, I'll include a few photos. Here's a view of the wall:


Papago Wall is the wall in the middle-distance with the small cairn on the top, not the taller wall in the background and on screen-left. The cleft between them is the canyon of Papago Creek (dry).

Here's me at the top:


Clearly, it is nothing to fear for anyone who once climbed a tree as a child. It's scrambling, not mountaineering.

And the view from the top in the morning is worth it:


And here is Mark at the top of Papago Slide:


I had seen similar pictures posted elsewhere before the hike, and they do look intimidating. But the ground truth is much less severe- there is a clear and well used route down. Since it's hard to make out the scale in that last shot, here's one looking back up at me as I descend:


We had beautiful weather for the hike to the mouth of Hance Creek to meet New Hance Trail:




Here we are starting up New Hance Trail:


A couple of views up New Hance Trail:



Looking back down New Hance Trail from partway up:


Further up one can look down in the canyon and see signs of water- cottonwoods:


Hance Creek had relatively immense flows. It is reportedly very reliable- I never came across a report of it being dry in the upper reaches where the trail crosses. This was our first water since leaving the Colorado.


Mark and I took a break after crossing Hance Creek- there is a lovely rock bench to lay out on that had been warmed by the sun all day. We refilled a couple of liters of water each but left mostly empty because we planned to tank up at Page Spring (aka Miners Spring) before the last pitch up to Horseshoe Mesa.

Here are a couple of shots of Page Spring. The first through some trees with attractive purple flowers:


Another a bit closer:


It is also reportedly very reliable, and I never came across a report of it being dry. It does contain some heavy metals, but everyone uses it anyway, figuring that one small exposure can't hurt. We used it.

Here's one last view of the spring- it is just visible as the cave tucked in the cleft at the center of the frame:


The hike up to the top of Horseshoe Mesa from Page Spring is vigorous. In fact it is damned near mountaineering. Well, I'm exaggerating, but it IS vigorous:




FInally, here is Mark eating dinner at another cowboy-camp atop Horseshoe Mesa:


(We had brought my SuperMid but the weather was so fine that we never used it.)

The mesa is fun to explore- there are interesting artifacts scattered about. But we didn't do much because we had run out of daylight.

Edited by acrosome on 09/24/2013 10:30:31 MDT.

Dean F.
(acrosome) - MLife

Locale: Back in the Front Range
Day 4 (April 6th) out via Grandview Trail on 09/22/2013 11:19:24 MDT Print View

The next morning, after another brief bit of exploring Horseshoe Mesa (there is a sign warning you to stay away from some radioactive mine tailings), we headed up and out Grandview Trail:




Here's a view looking back down at Horseshoe Mesa:


Horseshoe Mesa includes the reddish promontory just above the deeply shaded portion of the ravine in the foreground. The flat bit between it and the rest of the ridge to the right is where we camped. At the trailhead we encountered a lovely older couple with three dogs and an RV who were kind enough to drive us back to my truck at Lipan Point.

Luckily one of the lodges in the park had vacancies, so we got some real food and explored the touristy stuff a bit, and checked in with the BIC to be sure that Sam had made it to Bright Angel Campground before going to sleep in real beds.

Edited by acrosome on 09/22/2013 13:48:54 MDT.

Dean F.
(acrosome) - MLife

Locale: Back in the Front Range
Day 5 (April 7th), we reclaim Sam on 09/22/2013 13:44:47 MDT Print View

The next day Sam had enough cell reception to send a few texts back and forth. He was feeling better enough that he didn't ask for any help or an IV or whatnot. He just checked in with the rangers and bedded down, and kept sipping his water. As I mentioned, we knew that he had gotten there safely. The next morning he hiked out up Bright Angel Trail. When we collected him he still looked a bit peckish, but was clearly improved. As is his standard practice he had socialized with damned near everyone else on Bright Angel trail that morning. I'm sure that he'll be getting Christmas cards from most of them, and marriage proposals from the rest- that's just the kind of guy he is. As we were talking with him at the top at least a dozen of the people that he had passed waved and said goodbye, and not a few expressed distress that someone who was so clearly ill had passed them when they were carrying nothing but water bottles.

We got some real food and drink in Sam, and proceeded to do some more touristy stuff for a couple of days, including hitting Desert View tower.

Mark and I:


Handsome guy with a great smile, eh? (Mark, clearly- not me.) He's single and owns his own business, ladies!

Sam and I:


He looks MUCH better, does't he?

We stopped at Lipan Point again, and equilibrated our karma by giving a NOLS group leader a ride back to his van.

Sam and Mark headed back to Flagstaff in their rental car, and I started my road-trip back to Colorado.

Having nearly killed Sam twice, we collectively decided that we'd had enough of desert hiking for a bit. I have been forbidden from choosing hikes- in the future I must present a selection of options to Sam and Mark who will then choose from among them. Apparently the plan for next summer is the Wind River Range...

Edited by acrosome on 09/22/2013 14:33:52 MDT.

Ian B.

Locale: PNW
Re: Grand Canyon April 2013 on 09/22/2013 19:08:03 MDT Print View

Outstanding trip report and great pictures.

"The hike up to the top of Horseshoe Mesa from Page Spring is vigorous."

By the looks of the picture, my guess is this is an understatement. I'm sure that hike up helped you reach your target heart rate in pretty short order.

Slaton Whatley

Locale: Catalinas, Saguaro, Grand Canyon
Love this place! on 09/23/2013 11:21:52 MDT Print View

Great write up and photos! I've still never done this loop but have spent a ton of time wandering around Hance Creek, Cottonwood Creek and Horseshoe Mesa. Really love this part of the Canyon! Get's me excited about it again reading this. Thanks!