Get comfortable, this one's a Doozy!
Poor Nick, if he had known this Trail, he could have been up and down in 4 hours and missed my series of Train Wrecks!
Personally, if I had to rate this trail, I would rate it more difficult than either Flat Iron or Picketpost, by far...But that's me...It may be "shorter", but it pretty much kicked my Pumpkin, both physically and mentally.
I had driven about 10 miles when Jim called and cancelled because he was sick, but I had copied the Description and the GPS Route, so I had most of the information that I would need to go at it anyway. I don't have a GPS, which probably hurt us later, but I use the topo on the Route Map to help guide me. I give Nick a quick call and tell him I'm going for it anyway and Nick agrees to meet me there a little earlier than our "designated" start time. Starting earlier proved invaluable as we were through the worst part before we had to break out the lights...I had been looking forward to this hike all week, so I was going to make the attempt, do or die. I guess I'm just stubborn...
I met Nick at the TH and we got started. There really is very little "warm up" hiking before you really start getting into the steep stuff. After you start getting steep, the Trail starts to take on the appearance of a drainage of sorts. Lots and Lots of loose rock. It felt like it took twice as much energy for every step, plus the "up". Nick is moving faster and I finally tell him to just keep going and not stop and wait for me. He does, but waits for me at all the difficult spots, thanks Nick! Between the facts that I get winded easily anyway, I'm sliding some and possibly the higher altitude, I really felt like a snail today, but I kept going...
Get to the first difficult pitch that really smacks of exposure, but I just didn't look down and was fine. We got it handled and Nick went up the Trail some to scout it out. We found a cairned "shortcut" that bypasses a saddle and up and over we go. I find Nick a short time later, lounging in the first nice spot of shade. It was a little warm today, even up in Sedona. Big View of the Southeast Drainage from here. Take some pics and off we go. The Trail is either scrambling and traversing Sandstone ledges or walking/scrambling over loose and somewhat loose rock, the entire way. No Sticky Rock here, it's all sandstone and slate, very smooth so traction was poor and if you stepped on a loose plate of it, you immediately started "sledding" downhill. It was hard not to step on it in places.
Caught up with Nick again
and he is unsure of the best route and not finding any cairns here and it appears that we need to do a little climbing through a slot. So with a little effort, we get it done and keep moving. Still plugging along, I catch up to Nick again,
and we are at the "Chimney". I look and think that maybe this would be a good place to try my second ever attempt at "stemming". My first, was at Peak 5024 without success, I ran out of rock before I got high enough. This Gap looked absolutely perfect to try it again. Nick had not heard the term before, so I explained it. He decided to go up first, in the traditional way, and did very well. My turn and I'm just hoping I succeed and don't look too stupid as now I have an interested audience.
I couldn't believe how easy and smooth it went. You'd have thought I'd done it 1000 times.
I actually impressed myself! It must have had some effect on Nick because he jumps right back down in the slot so he can try it.
Now that we are done laughing about that, Nick is getting Summit fever as we are now getting close, so he takes off. I continue my slog and finally get to the top, with Nick there to greet me. There are four other people on the Summit and they are camped at the Summit Log so I find another nice area a little ways away and start snapping pictures. The 360 view of Sedona are amAZing! Worth every slip and slide!
The four people eventually leave and we go over and sign the Summit Log, Nick's first.
The Log is full, so I whip out a small notebook that I carry and contribute it to the jar. Guess what Nick, the pack is now 2 oz lighter!
It is starting to get late and we head back down, hoping that we can at least get the scrambling and climbing out of the way before dark. If the Trail was loose before, now it's much worse going down. Even the "fixed" rocks are flat and smooth and the least bit of sand or dirt on them makes them incredibly slick. And, of course, I'm still wearing my less than favorite boots. One of the reasons I don't like these boots is that I don't feel that the Tread Pattern is as "gripping" and now I'm really regretting not having my other boots. I fell on my pumpkin at least twice before we hit the last climb with the "nice" exposure. And I certainly will not win any "Grace" awards for those falls either!
I feel as much like a snail going down as I did going up, and that's unusual, even for me...
And let's add insult to injury!!!
About halfway down, we are on our butts sliding again and I feel my pants rip. I had worn my older, holier pants for this trip anyway, and was not really worried if they got more holes in them, but unfortunately, they decided to go just below my right "cheek" pocket!
And every time I sat, from then on, the rip got bigger and bigger. I officially designated Nick as the "full time" leader at that point, so I wasn't "mooning" him the rest of the way down the hill!
I think we both found it was better for him to dodge a few rocks from me being uphill of him, than for him to have to look at that
, all the way down.
I finally "slide in" to the last big climb with the exposure issue. I had no problem climbing down the gap area, but suddenly as I'm traversing the ledge, somehow the Exposure hits me and I freeze. Not a good feeling at all.
I'm usually ok, but I think the combination of going downhill, (you can't help but look down), the total loss of footing and boot confidence, the fast fading light and probably fatigue, just caught up to me all at once, in the worst place possible! I literally froze and was afraid to move. Nick became concerned, but wasn't sure what to do except talk to me. I closed my eyes and had a serious talk with myself and got myself moving again, luckily, in the right direction! Whew! I actually had another issue with even less exposure further down, which is so unlike me! But I persevered and got through it again. Ok, now I'm seriously becoming a basket case!
We get to the bottom of the actual mountain and fairly quickly after that, have to break out the lights. Nick is still leading, there is only one moon he really wants to see and I'm not it.
We are following what we believe is still the Trail, even though it again resembles a drainage, trying to keep an eye out for when a slightly more normal trail appears and takes off to the right. As we continue down the loose rock, my right foot looses grip again and down I go! Only this time, my left leg was still back and stuck, so I fall right on my left leg which is stuck in a pretty awkward position. Instant knee pain hits.
I am now unloading a series of expletives not suitable for this site when Nick gets back to me. I'm still in pain with my leg stuck behind me and I'm deathly afraid to move it. Nick is firing questions about what I think I may have done and I'm still trying to work through the pain. After a couple of minutes it eases up a tad, and I decide to try to straighten out my leg. I get it out straight and it starts feeling much better.
After a couple of more minutes, I realize that it's going to be ok and with Nick's help, get to my feet and it's ok. (I think I know what caused the pain, but I won't bore you with the details).
We continue on, still not finding where the trail goes right, towards the parking lot. We know pretty much where the lot is, but can't find a clear path to get there. We finally say, WTH, and get out of the drainage and start bushwacking west. This turned into a little more of a bushwack than we would certainly would have liked and we found plenty of catclaw while we were at it!
After what seemed like an eternity of catclaw and drainage up and downs we finally found a trail that seemed to go the direction we wanted to go and after 200 ft on it, we were back to the cars. Funny how that trail showed up in the parking lot in a different place than the one we left on.
Utter relief on my part that the Train Wreck has finally hit the station. Probably my worst showing on a hike!
I felt like a real wimp. But Nick was fabulous. He was patient and a very good sport about the whole thing.
If someone asked me to hike that again in the next few weeks, I would have to turn them down. My confidence has been shaken up a little. But someday, I'll come back to this Butte and find a way to kick it in the pumpkin! The views at the top are too noteworthy to never do this hike again. It just doesn't get much better than that. Did I have a good time? Although it may be hard to tell reading this Log, yes, I did, and I loved the challenge of it all, especially the climbing. I just had trouble rising up to the occasion on this day. I'll be back....