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Royal Arch via Point Huitzil, AZ

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Guide 22 Triplogs  1 Topic
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Northwest > South Rim
4.7 of 5 by 9
Canyons are inherently risky. Flash floods occur without notice on sunny days. Technical skills & surrounding topography knowledge required yet does not eliminate risk.
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Distance One Way 0 miles
Trailhead Elevation 6,340 feet
Interest Off Trail Hiking & Historic
varies or not certain dogs are allowed
editedit > ops > dogs to adjust
Photos Viewed All Mine Following
58  2019-04-14
Royal Arch Route
50  2017-04-21
Royal Arch Route
8  2015-03-13 nonot
24  2015-02-15
Apache Point
4  2014-04-05
South Bass Trail
53  2013-11-27 BiFrost
92  2013-11-27 GrottoGirl
62  2012-01-27 uphill_junkie
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Author HAZ_Hikebot
author avatar Guides 16,882
Routes 16,052
Photos 24
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Age 22 Male Gender
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Sun  6:17am - 6:27pm
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Most recent Triplog Reviews
Royal Arch via Point Huitzil
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Title: Their Leader Was Named Patches...

I haven't done a proper trip report in a really long time, but since I asked so many folks for info on this route, I figured I'd better share back with the results of my recent trip on the Point Huitzil/Royal Arch Route. I was joined by Roger (Scat Daddy), Holly (Prehensile Toe) and Holly (Raggedy Ann).

We had a great 6-7 days in the canyon. Weather was that typical spring mix: starting with sunny and cold, moving to hot, moving to windy and wet, back to hot. Ran the whole gammut from sleet to blistering, windless summer. The canyon was - as ever - both generous with her grandeur and adventure and stingy with her creature comforts. I'll state for the record that the road was almost bone dry going both ways - but the ruts between Pasture Wash and S. Bass are no joke. I'm really not sure my Subaru would have made it without some dings to the front "bumper". Think more "gully" than "rut".

The trip started cross-country to find the put-in for the Point Huitzil descent. Thanks to the track from Bifrost, we were able to find the route easily enough, though at one point we walked past a turn and had to backtrack up over a low ridge. There's just so little left of that "phone line", and the "abrupt turns" described in many write-ups don't feel abrupt on that flat ground. Because I'd done the route before, it was easy to find the keyhole. Though I had to love the looks from my fellow hikers who were TOTALLY skeptical that there could be a route down from that unassuming ledge. My group, experienced backpackers but not climbers or canyoneers, were totally game and never once balked at what we were doing. There was the moment where we stepped down one of the 5' drops onto a loose pile of rocks when I said "from here, guys, it's a one-way ticket - unless you think you can climb back up this with your pack". They all affirmed that they were in-it-to-win-it and we scampered, slid, scurried and scree'd down to the floor of the creek. We set up our first camp at a nice patio on the sandstone where we could walk barefoot to a nice clean pothole.

Saying for the day "That (fill in blank with a damaged stock price) is falling faster than hikers off the Point Huitzil Route".

Also - my newish Khul pants which were supposed to be "performance designed for durability" were blasted out by the middle of the day. This began a nightly ritual of sewing and taping to prevent my underwear from being the star of the show. So disappointing. Also, my new Gossamer Gear Mariposa earned her trail name: Patches.

The path down Royal Arch creek was much as I remembered it - impossibly slow and filled with fun puzzles to solve. Must've taken our packs of 25 times, which slows things down a lot. However, there were no pools blocking our path and the cairns are even better now then they were before - no confusing misdirects, just small cairns that you still have to look for to solve the maze. We spent night 2 at the arch itself, and even though I've been there twice, I still feel deeply moved by the magic of that spot. It's not just the arch itself but the way the creek creates pools and falls, the moss and monkeyflower, the views down the narrow slot of the canyon. I was worried from tales of how many more people had been venturing to the arch that there would be lots of human impact in the area, but it still feels nearly untouched. Weather was blowing in, so we sheltered in the ledge and spent the night listening to frogs making more frogs.

Saying for the day "Wait - packs off...again?"

Day 3 was the descent to Toltec Beach and while I knew exactly what to expect, it was made even more interesting by off-and-on rain and sleet. This was my first time leading on ropes so I was more than a little tense. One of the members of my party did their first rappel ever on that 20' cliff. It was inspiring that they all trusted me with their lives, and I was so excited when we were all safely at the bottom that I seriously floated the rest of the way to the beach. We decided that the weather dictated that we wait until the next morning for the hike out to Elves' Chasm. We were in the middle of a rainy afternoon nap when a couple hikers appeared from downstream. They'd hiked the Tonto from Hermit and though they were a bit past their planned itinerary, had been hoping to make it to Elves' that day (and back to camp near Garnet). The trip from Garnet had been unexpectedly rough, and I let them know that it would remain so all the way to Elves. We decided to share our camp with them (by chance we had 2 extra spots on our permit) and it was fun to talk about the AZT with these seasoned long-trail hikers. Larry and Cosmo were great camp guests.

Saying for the day: "She's so bad-ass her pant's can't contain it"

The next morning we all went out to Elves', and we had the place to our selves for the first part of our visit. It was still cool from the rainy day before, but the falls were calling and I stripped to my skivvies and swam to the base. I'm not much into jumping off of rocks, but Scat Daddy did and was joined by Cosmo (Just as we were finished filtering a bunch of water, a couple boat parties came up and we were happy to vacate and leave them to their own brand of fun at the falls.

While our camp guests were eager to top out and headed out right away, our group rested the heat of the day in the shade at Toltec (wait - there's shade at Toltec?). Then we packed our camp and started across the rocky route to Garnet. In retrospect, this was brilliant - the late afternoon shade made this portion of the trek much easier, and we climbed the fun scramble out of Garnet over sandstone ledges and steps with just enough daylight left. Our camp on the Tonto was like my favorite Tonto camps always are: wide open and scenic. While not really a "point camp" that Sirena might prefer, we were still suspended mid-canyon with those amazing sunsets and sunrises that make so many nights spent in the canyon pure magic.

Saying for the day: "Who knew we'd love a tamarisk so."

Final days found us hot and sweaty crossing the Tonto Trail. We only found some warm potholes in Copper, which weren't sufficient to sustain our whole group. So we hiked on to Bass, where the potholes I've found in the past just below the Tonto junction were also dry. Surprising given the amount of rain recently, but not surprising given Grand Canyon. We did find 2 holes upon more detailed inspection, between the 2 giving us exactly enough for one more overnight and our hike out. We had a final beautiful night under the stars, then thoroughly enjoyed our hike out on the beautiful Bass trail.

Now that I've done the Arch 3 times, I can say without any doubt that there are places in this world that don't get old with repetition. They just get sweeter.
Royal Arch via Point Huitzil
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The road to S Bass was dried out, and the big snow dump had melted, which were my biggest concerns.

The route down the Coconino is truly a wonder, and was glad I finally had the opportunity to check it out. I can only wonder how much effort it was to haul that tree ladder up there (or perhaps down there).

The rest of the route to the arch was fairly straightforward and water was abundant. The arch was impressive and I can see why many people like to camp out right there at the end.

The rappel is fairly straightforward and soon enough I was at the Colorado River. Elves chasm was nice to visit and I grabbed a bunch of water since I wasn't sure whether any of the water until S Bass would be drinkable. As it turned out I had to make it last all the way to S Bass, as even though Garnet was flowing I wasn't sure if it was drinkable. Copper Canyon was surprisingly dry, though I did observe a small pool as I was on the Tonto above it after leaving the canyon.

There was a small pool in S Bass, and I headed down towards the river. The S Bass trail is in good shape up to the rim and I finally spotted the small ruin in the Coconino

Most days I had to hide in the shade between 1 and 4 because of the heat. But the nights were fairly mild and I can't complain too much
Royal Arch via Point Huitzil
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Apache Point
Parked at Pasture Wash ranger station and walked the rim north-west to Apache Point. Travel is slow through the thick juniper forest and it took me about 4 1/2 hours to get to the point. I tried to follow the Supai phone line but that thing zigzags all over so I gave up. Found a neat fault/cave along the way. Followed the very faint trail down from the rim and around Apache Point, down a ridiculously steep talus slope through the Coconino, and then eventually got down to the Esplanade layer, which in this area is not as nice and flat as the Esplanade over by the Thunder River Trail. It was dark by then so I made camp at the first suitable spot I could find. 28 degrees in the am.

Day 2 I followed the Esplanade in and out of the minor drainages until I arrived at Royal Arch Creek. There's really no defined trail along here but I did see some cairns every so often. I exited from RA creek via the Point Huitzil route.

Heading back to GC Village on 328 I was flagged down buy a Japanese couple in an SUV. They were looking for Lake Powell :-s I got to the BC office right before they closed and picked up a permit for the Yurt in 2 weeks.

Carried 7 liters, drank 3 1/2.
Royal Arch via Point Huitzil
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The Havasupai gate was manned and I got hit for the entry fee. Wouldn't be so bad if they used the money to do some road maint. FR328 through the rez is in the worst shape I've ever seen it. Deep ruts start right where the road turns to the east and continue to the national forest border. High clearance necessary of course. A Subaru, CRV, RAV4, and similar would probably not make it. At one point you have to drive over half of a dead cow.

Started from Pasture Wash ranger station and went down the route south-west of Pt Hootspa. Went down to the Arch and spent the night there. Didn't go down to Toltec. Exited out back up the RA drainage to the Esplanade trail and South Bass trail. Nice weather! Only 53 degrees for the overnight low. Love this route! My 14th trip to the canyon this year :y:
Royal Arch via Point Huitzil
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Wow, what an amazing adventure this weekend was! A group of 6 of us went to do the Royal Arch loop. Despite hearing of treacherous conditions, Laura had it in her head that she wanted to go via Point Huitzil. The weather gods were on our side for this trip! We had amazing weather during the day (low 60s) and the first and 3rd nights were pretty cold, but night 2 was perfect. I think the lowest it got to was the upper 20s. Not bad for January!

Day 1: We decided as a group that if it looked too sketchy, we'd turn around and start from South Bass. Thanks to Slawa's expert route finding skills and all of our spikes, we braved it down the slippery, adrenaline-rushing slope. The rabbit hole we got to go down & play in and all the amazing rock art we got to see were totally worth the fear this route put in all of us at times. At the bottom of the canyon, we were graced with a really cool ice waterfall. You could see the water running underneath the ice, it was wild!

Even though this route took us a really long time due to constantly having to drop our packs to get through or down some obstacle, we decided to push on to camp under the arch. It was a really really long, wearing day. All the boulder hopping down Royal Arch Creek starts to get to you after a few hours! We made camp just after dark, and again, found it was totally worth it!!!! An abundance of water, scenery and stars made the night amazing. I had carried the Scrabble game down in, so I was making Laura play. She forfeited before the game was 1/2 way over to hit the sack early since we had another really long day ahead of us. :roll:

Day 2: Got up at 1st light and headed out to our first destination, Toltec Beach, where we'd drop our packs, have a nice lunch and then walk packless over the Elves Chasm. The major obstacle we had that day was the 20' down climb we decided to do sans canyoneering gear :scared: . We had webbing and luckily there was a very sturdy rope with nicely tied handholds in it for us to use. Mark, our savior, belayed us all with the webbing. This was where I panicked. I don't think I could feel my arms, hands or fingers for about 1/2 hour after that torturous event, but I survived and onward we went. Once again, the reward of the beauty of the Elves seemed to trump my ridiculous fear of a 20 foot drop! :D Anyone who doesn't take the time to do the side trip to the Elves is just out of their mind. It's mind-blowing beautiful back there! We only went up to the second pool, but man those first 3 layers were beauty enough. I imagine it got better higher up, but we weren't going to do anything we couldn't down climb. Once back at the beach, I think we all wanted to just call it a day and camp on the beach, but the one member of our group who decided to turn around 1/2 way into the Elves hike had left us a note in the sand that he went on to Garnet Canyon. So on we went, cursing him along the way. :) Once again, as nice as it would've been camping on the beach, the site we picked at Garnet Canyon left nothing to desire in the way of scenery. We slept under a hanging cliff, and the stars were out in full force! This was a really nice night too, with no wind. We actually got warm in our sleeping bags!

Day 3: The seemingly never-ending Copper Canyon put quite a beating on some of our crew. I felt fine, but admittedly wasn't enjoying the scenery nearly as much as the first 2 days. Not to mention that the trail was full of evil, vicious flora (if you can call it that!) The prickly pear had their winter coats on!!!! :o Everyone but Mark and I ran out of water, and they had no luck finding any along the way, with the exception of a carcass filled small pool :yuck: . We were quite concerned about whether our desired camp area in South Bass Canyon was going to have water 8-[ . We had filled up at the river before leaving Toltec, but we just didn't have the same terrain as we did the previous 2 days. Luckily once we got to South Bass Canyon and did some exploring around downstream, we found a couple good pools of water. Whew! :D I pumped about 11 liters for everyone and we had an early day that day. We actually got to sit around and watch the sunset and drink the rest of our booze we had brought. Of course, mine was the most chocolate with 100 proof peppermint schnapps made for a nice nightcap every night for everyone. And they all wondered why my pack weighed so much....... ;)

Day 4: It was super cold and damp from lots of condensation, and being that we went to bed around 9, we got an early start to our all uphill, 5 or so mile trek out of the canyon. Got to the South Bass TH in about 2 1/2 hours. This was a super cool canyon, but after not sleeping hardly at all for 4 nights, I was a bit on the grumpy side and just wanted to get it over with. I did enjoy the scenery a lot, and luckily the snow wasn't too slippery that I didn't have to stop to put my flight boots on. But man, did that trail seem never ending!!!!! The only motivation I had was a cooler full of beer waiting for me at the truck! :lol: Boy was it good, and boy did I drink them all waiting the 3 hours for the last person from our group to come out. Hee hee! What a way to end an amazing, adventurous trip! :GB:
Royal Arch via Point Huitzil
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Just want to get this posted today. It was a great trip, although I will lose two friends: both big toe nails! ;)

We hiked 20 miles from Toltec Beach to the top of the Redwall, partly in the dark, yesterday, that is a tale to tell...

More later!
Royal Arch via Point Huitzil
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Wednesday night: got to sleep at about 11:30p, woke up at 2am. I met up with Liz, Mike, Paul and Zeke at Pasture Wash RS at about 6:45am, Thursday. It was a chilly morning at PW. They were just waking up and getting their gear together when I arrived. I, on the other hand, was ready to go back to sleep. While waiting, I ate my bbq pork and jasmine rice that my wife prepared for me at 2 in the morning (she is awesome!). We shuttled their trucks to S. Bass TH and then went back to PW. Started off for the Pt. Huitzil route at about 8:15.

This was my first time doing this route with a GPS and it didn't go as well as I thought it would. We never did find the telephone line. We did, however, find a GoLite umbrella leaning against a log! Zeke had the exact same model with him so Liz snatched it up! WooHoo, canyon booty! :y: We made it to the rim ok but just not in a nice straight line. We ended up at the pour-off just to the west of the correct pour-off that is also to the west of Point Huitzil. I should have just used a compass like last time.

Once at the correct spot on the rim, we had no trouble finding the rest of the route. Its well-cairned and the trails are mostly easy to spot. The hard spots were: the big step down onto the pile-o-rocks (not short person friendly), the cave/log ladder (I think a section of the log has broken off, its shorter now. A rope should probably be used to descend this from now on so the ladder can be preserved), the Moqui steps (which somehow I by-passed last time but couldn't find it this time), and another step down onto a pile-o-rocks.

Zeke is a f-in climber! I don't know how he did it but he got ahead of us and bypassed the cave/log ladder part. As we were looking for the cave hole (I knew where it was but wanted the others to have some fun looking for it), up pops Zeke's head! I guess he found a climber's route and then came up from below. He also whipped right down the Moqui steps section. I cautiously butt-scooted down that part with my pack on, the other 3 used a rope and rappelled down.

Once we got to the Supai layer, the shade mostly disappeared and we really started to feel the heat. I'm guessing it was about 90 degrees by now. We took a long break to have lunch and then enjoyed an easy stroll (compared to the Pt. Huitzil section) down to the Royal Arch drainage. Once we got to the junction with the RA drain/Esplanade Trail we said our good byes as this was as far down as I was going. My original plan was to follow the Esplanade west to Apache Point, climb up to the rim, and then follow the rim back to Pasture Wash RS. At that point though it was already 2pm, it was hot, and I was tired and skeptical if I could make the trek with my remaining water. So I ended up just taking the well-defined Esplanade Trail east to South Bass Trail. I cached some water for the group at a pre-determined location, hopefully they can find it on their way out.

FR328 is in good shape until you get to the Rez. At that point it gets rocky and rutted. I was probably traveling too fast and hit some of the ruts pretty hard. Ended up breaking one of the leaf springs on my truck :tt: .. Also the Rez entry was manned and I got hit for the $25 entry.

Fortunately I was able to get my truck out of there by just going very slow, took about 2 hours to get back to HW 64 (took one hour in).

These trip are getting too expensive for me: $90 for gas, $25 Havasupai fee, one day lost pay (no more vacation time left), $477 for new leaf springs and shocks at Napa. If I wasn't going off-road I would have taken my Civic which would have cost less than half that in gas. :?
Royal Arch via Point Huitzil
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Anyone who can locate and complete this rarest of excursions is the most fortunate of hikers.
-from Doug Nering's description of the Point Huitzil Route

To see the pictures in with the text visit my blog, Sirena's Wanderings: ... t-huitzil/

Last October, I backpacked the Royal Arch Loop in the Grand Canyon. It was one of the most challenging, scenic trips I'd done to date. Challenging not only because of the difficult terrain, but also because of the group dynamic and because the trip leader was woefully unprepared. For the whole story, see my triplog from 10/07/10. After getting off that trip, I wanted to go back- this time on my terms as the trip leader, so I put in for a permit and was rewarded five nights starting April 5 on the Royal Arch Loop by the Grand Canyon permit gods. Originally, it was supposed to be five of us- Wendy, who had been on the previous Royal Arch trip, Chris Forsyth and Russell Ownby, who I'd met through my volunteer work with the Grand Canyon Hikers and Backpackers Association, and Russell's wife, Kandi. Russell suggested we up the ante a bit and go for the loop via the Point Huitzil Route, an ancient Anasazi route that uses some pretty ingenious ways including an ancient log ladder to get through the cliffs in the Coconino. I was a little intimidated by the route, which is supposed to have areas of great exposure, but I know that anything that gives me that feeling of butterflies in the pit of my stomach is sure to provide great adventure and satisfaction once the route has been completed. Unfortunately, Russell and Kandi had to cancel and so it was just Wendy and me that arrived at Chris' house in Phoenix on April 4th to begin our adventure.

Chris was a little frazzled getting packed. You see, he had just come back from an 8 day trip in the Grand Canyon the night before! Chris lives a life many of us would envy- making the Grandest of Canyons his home for more nights a year than most spend in a lifetime. He has a wealth of knowledge about the history and geology of the canyon, besides being an enjoyable guy to be around, and I was looking forward to his perspective on the trail. We drove up to Flagstaff and spent a bit of time in the gear shops, picking up food to go at Pato Thai, and stocking up on Peeps. I think Chris realized this was going to be a little different than his usual trip when we stopped to eat our dinner with a view of sunset and the San Francisco Peaks. All we had to do was get to the abandoned Pasture Wash Ranger Station and set up camp for the night, and after a long drive on a dirt road, we arrived at the defunct ranger station amid the sweet-smelling sage and junipers.

Day 1- After some morning Peeps and breakfast amid some pre-hike jitters about the route we packed up and started the first leg of the day at 9:45 am navigating from Pasture Wash to the drop-in point on the rim. We followed a closed road and then a well-beat-in path that followed an old phoneline for a while. I had my GPS along, which helped to navigate toward the rim when the path we'd been following vanished in the pinyons and junipers. We picked up a cairned path at the bottom of the drainage and followed it until we reached a dryfall and reached a point where we got our first views of the Canyon at 11:15. There was a cairn marking the descent and after a small scramble at the top, it was all nasty, loose, steep descent on sliding scree slopes. Wendy was having a hard time, going very slowly down the slope and we took a short break when we reached a level area to refuel with some snacks before the real fun began. Several more sliding slopes led us to a prominent cairn that took us down a system of ledges and past our first ruin and pictograph- an upside-down anthropomorphic figure next to a symbol. There was a circle of elk horns in the ruin and I could see the dark cliffs mentioned in some of the trip reports- I knew from my pre-hike research that we were coming to the log ladder. I looked down the slope and saw a cairn sitting on the edge of a steep sandstone slab that angled off into nowhere and knew in the pit of my stomach that was where we were headed next. About this time we saw two dayhikers on the slope above us who had tried to locate the route and hadn't found it, so they were going back. These were the only hikers we saw for six days.

We took off our packs at the top of the slab and Chris went to scout the route. Chris had done this route about four years ago, and was a little apprehensive about whether or not he could locate it again. This part, however was clearly marked with a large cairn at the edge of the slab. There was a step down from the ledge on some unstable rocks. Chris found the hole in the cliff that gave access to the crack where the log ladder was and called Wendy and me over. He said he'd bring our packs to the hole and I can't say that I wasn't a little relieved. The hole is literally at the edge of the sloping cliff, and I edged over and lowered myself into the hole. Now normally when I'm nervous, I have a tendency to use- let's say- indelicate language. This time, I started laughing and couldn't stop- the route is so unlikely and I couldn't believe that I was here, lowering myself into a hole at the edge of a cliff on the way to the famed log ladder. The lateral crack that the hole accesses is surprisingly spacious, with room for all three of us and our gear. I could see the top of the log ladder in the vertical crack that was to our left as we entered the hole. Chris went first and we passed our packs down. Wendy wanted to go next, and I saw that the log wasn't as stable as I'd thought- it twisted as she shifted her weight. When it was my turn, I told Wendy to take a movie of me going down the ladder. I got on the first step without a problem, but then it took me a bit to figure out where to best put my hands for the next step. Then, as I got toward the end, the entire log shifted downward and as a result the video is too awkward for public consumption.

One thing that Chris had mentioned about the last time he'd done the route was that there was one particular slab that slanted away from the cliff that really freaked him out- he said it was on his top 5 most scared moments. This had worried me ever since the idea of doing the Point Huitzil route came up- if Chris was freaked out, how were Wendy and I going to deal with it? Which slab was it? In the beta that I'd collected before the trip, Doug Nering describes the crux of the route: "The sandstone slopes steeply away toward the cliff and there are no holds, only friction." Well, we'd just left the ladder and were greeted by a slab that met just that description. But the payoff in this area for crossing steep treacherous slopes is numerous petroglyphs, so I decided to trust in the tread of my brand-new shoes. The petroglyphs were incredible. So many layers upon layers of art-it was almost too much to process all at once. The petroglyphs are on one of the slanty slabs and we explored them for a while as Chris went off to scout the next part of the route without his pack.

Chris found the next obstacle- ancient Moqui steps (hand and toe-holds that have been chipped into the rock face) that indicated the route. They led to a part where there is a 5-foot drop from one ledge to another, but there is an unstable stack of rocks- basically a big cairn- to step onto. So many interesting twists and turns. Then there were even more slabs. I used all sorts of calming devices, such as singing "Slab" to the tune of "Spam" from Monty Python, and calling the slab all sorts of variations, like "It's a Slaborama" or "This is Slabalicious". We even called it a "Slabmageddon" and a "Slabpocalypse". So it turned out, that there isn't just one scary slab, there are about 15 on the route that would fit the moniker just fine. We used a handline that Chris had put into place down the second set of Moqui steps. By this time, Chris had realized that his "scary spot" from before had come from not trusting the shoes he had on plus inexperience on that kind of terrain. He had also done a lot of off-trail exploring in the Canyon in the years since he'd done this route last that made all the difference. There was more crossing of slabs and one last awkward move and we took a break at a flat spot in the shade of a tree. It was around this time that Chris taught us a saying he'd learned on the river: "Don't celebrate while the water's white". It would become a theme of the trip.

We finally reached the bottom of the Coconino and the ground changed to a rich reddish-brown. There was still one last steep, loose decent down to the more level ground of the drainage below. We were all relieved to see water right as we entered the drainage at about 4:30 pm. Looking back at the cliffs, it was hard to believe the unlikely way we'd arrived here. Here's a video:

Hiking was much easier in the drainage, and there were a couple of pouroffs to negotiate. We'd hiked down into springtime, and there were blooming Cliff Fendlerbushes and gorgeous redbud trees. We decided at around 5:30 to look for a place to spend the night and found a delightful spot at the top of a pouroff with a clear tinaja filled with amorous frogs. It had been an eventful day and we were all pleased that we'd gotten through the toughest part of the route. I was excited to be able to wander around barefoot and set up camp- the forecast was for a clear evening and I adore sleeping under the stars. Chris and Wendy went to bed soon after sunset and I stayed up for a while, listening to music and wandering up the drainage.

Day 2- I was the last to bed and the first to wake up, so I went exploring the terraces above our campsite so as not to wake my companions. We got hiking at 8:30 and in 15 minutes were at the junction with the Royal Arch route that Wendy and I had done in October. There was a lot more water in this drainage than the previous one. 25 minutes later, we were at The Ledge and the Supai pouroff. Chris had never done the Ledge bypass route on canyon right, so off we went toward the Rabbit Hole. We passed our packs through and took the requisite pictures. In October, our group had spent a lot of time on this part lowering our packs and locating the scramble down. This time, Chris suggested that we go over and see if we could do it with packs on. It turned out not to be a problem at all to scramble down the brushy chute and we saved a lot of time. I just love the colorful inclusions in the rock on this part of the route- it adds a nice touch to an otherwise rough and steep descent back down to the drainage.

Once back to the drainage, we negotiated the obstacles of Royal Arch Creek. It was so much easier this time, knowing what to expect, and we were able to wear our packs for much of it. It had been overcast all day, and it started to sprinkle on and off. A little unnerving in a tight canyon, but I knew we would be at our camp in a couple of hours. When we reached the first of the pools that we'd had to avoid in October, a little scouting revealed that both it and the following pool were dry! This made our lives a lot easier, as we didn't have to wade a cold pool or do the exposed bypass. We passed the cairns that mark the exit route from the drainage at 1:45 on our way to the Royal Arch to camp. As we got into the ledges and a pretty waterfall, I knew we were getting close. It was a relief to see the Royal Arch and get underneath it before the rain started falling. Definitely the most gorgeous umbrella I've ever used. We were able to spend the rest of the afternoon relaxing at the Arch without having to put our rain gear on. Thankfully, the rain would stop from time to time and we were able to go out and look at the pools and the giant drop beyond the Arch. Chris found an alcove camp while Wendy and I camped beneath the Royal Arch.

Day 3- Up before everyone else again, I had one of my favorite moments of the entire trip- early morning yoga and dance as the sun was rising on the ledge next to the dropoff past the Arch. What a way to start the day! Before we left, Chris went and cleaned up webbing left by the group that had rappelled off the big drop since his trip in February. I would totally love to come back to do the route down to Elve's Chasm someday. I also went to check out the path that goes to the right of the drop. It is right on the edge in places but gives an incredible look at the Arch, the drop, and the canyon below. Here's a video:

Sadly, it was eventually time to leave the Royal Arch and head toward the next part of the route- hiking up and out of Royal Arch Creek and toward the rappel. The weather was cooperating as we hiked up the break out of Royal Arch Creek and had a last few interesting spots to negotiate while contouring above the creek. Soon the views opened up toward Stephens Aisle on the Colorado River and the Explorers Monument. There were several types of wildflowers blooming and we soon saw the giant cairn by the edge of the plateau. Chris and I went to check it out- it matches a benchmark from the Matthes-Evans survey of the early 1900's. The views from there are wonderful up and downriver. After a snack break we continued contouring over toward the rappel. There was a short scramble down on sharp rocks to the rappel platform, but this time Wendy and I were able to do it with our packs on. Last year, Wendy and I had spent a good amount of time waiting on the platform because there were so many people on the trip, which only made us nervous. This time, Chris efficiently set up the rappel and Wendy went first. I went next and after having done the long rappels on Weaver's Needle in February, this rappel seemed like it was over before it began. Down came our packs and poles, then Chris. We had one last part where Wendy and I passed our packs down the crack below the rappel, then it was time for the steep, loose slope down to Toltec Beach. We reached the beach with plenty of time to relax before dinner. Only the weather had stopped cooperating and had turned nasty. It was windy and threatening rain and Chris and I got our tents set up and Wendy set up her tarp and bivy. What followed was one of the windiest evenings I've ever had the displeasure of enduring. Wendy and I went exploring up Toltec to a beautiful salt-encrusted seep. We tried to make the best of our camp, but the sandstorm made it tough to relax and even more difficult to eat. I had to take my contact lenses out and put on my glasses for the rest of the trip because my eyes were getting blasted with sand. I spent part of the evening on some rocks next to wet sand by the river before going into my tent. The tent only served to filter out the larger chunks, so when I went to lie down, everything was coated with superfine sand. I had to sleep with a bandanna tucked into my hat and scarf over my face so that I wouldn't be subjected to a fine rain of sand on my face every time the wind blew.

Day 4- The night's sandstorm didn't do anything for anyone's disposition in the morning. Especially Wendy, who hadn't slept all night. The weather looked like it had taken a turn for the worst. Chris said something really glum, like "This is when the fun ends". I had to disagree- it was going to take more than a sandstorm and some bad weather for me not to enjoy the Canyon. The forecast had been for a storm to arrive on the weekend, but it looked as if it was here early. We went back and forth about whether to visit Elves Chasm. Wendy hadn't made it there when we were here last October, and Chris and I had both already seen it, so we left it up to her. Though she hadn't slept last night, she decided that she'd regret it if she skipped it. So we packed up a snack and some water along with our rain gear and hiked the nasty little path over to Elves Chasm. The mile and a half took us an hour and a half and Wendy was cursing every steep up and down, knowing that we'd have to repeat all of them on the way back. It was sprinkling and we all took great care on the slippery-smooth polished rocks as we hiked up the sidecanyon toward the waterfall.

Totally different experience seeing Elves Chasm in the rain- when I got here last October, I was on the verge of overheating and jumped in to cool myself. There would be no jumping in today, but it was still a lovely place to look at. We stood admiring the waterfall for a bit, then retreated to a dry alcove for lunch before hiking back to Toltec and packed up. The original plan had been to take a layover day at Toltec so that we had all day to enjoy Elves Chasm. None of us wanted to even look at Toltec a minute longer than necessary after such a crappy camp the night before and we'd already done the waterfall thing. We wore our raingear as it was sprinkling while we were negotiating the man-eating razor-sharp rocks on the way to Garnet Canyon. That piece of the route is nasty! But the payoff is getting to Garnet and climbing up the Tapeats to the Tonto Trail. It was much colder today, and we had to put extra layers on when taking snack breaks.

It was such a relief to be on the Tonto Trail and be able to stride out for the first time in days and days, even if we were soggy. I'd brought my umbrella for shade on the Tonto, instead I used it for the rain. We cruised along the Tonto for a couple of hours until we reached the sidecanyon before Copper and made camp. I love contouring on the Tonto- I never understand people who get irritated by it. We'd been toying with the idea of hiking out a day early, but realized that it was probably best to stick with our itinerary, which would give us the whole day to hike out from the Bass junction, do our 3.5 mi roadwalk, and drive out on what was probably going to be a really bad road because of the storm. It was a wise choice.

Chris and Wendy shared his two-man tent instead of Wendy having to set up her tarp and bivy in the rain. I am not crazy about sleeping in a tent, (I prefer under the stars) so I was really irritated when the ground had gotten saturated in the middle of the night and the stake holding the fly vestibule was ripped out by a gust of wind, waking me with a cold spray of water. I woke up and went out into the rain to re-stake my tent and find the biggest rock in the area to put on it, swearing up a storm the whole time. Then I realized that the fabric of my tent fly had begun to stretch out and it was touching the mesh in several places, letting drips into my tent. Wendy, after laughing at being woken up by my stream of obscenities, offered me her bivy to use in my tent to protect my sleeping bag and I was able to go back to sleep.

Day 5- All night we'd heard the steady sound of rain on our tents. The ground outside my tent was a mucky mess from my midnight scrambling to restake. We'd left a plastic scoop made from a gallon water jug outside as a rain gauge and we were all thinking that from the sound of last night, that it would be full or overflowing. Surprisingly, there was not even an inch in the jug. The upper layers of the Canyon had been enshrouded in fog which finally lifted to reveal the snow-capped canyon in all its glory. I have never been at the Grand Canyon when it has had snow on it so this was quite a treat! Here's a video:

This day was most notable for the ever-changing weather. We had rain, blue skies, sleet, and sun- sometimes all within a 10-minute period. Chris pointed out different landmarks along the way as we contoured along the Tonto. We filled up water at Copper Canyon, which had a snow-capped Mt. Huethawali sitting atop Evolution Amphitheater. In October, Wendy and I had camped on the point right before the turn into Bass Canyon and Chris and I went out there and watched rafters go through the rapids. We reached the South Bass junction and set up our tents in a dry spell. Wendy had a perfect Wendy-sized alcove for her bivy and we ate dinner up there before retiring for the evening. Right after I got into my tent, there was a barrage of sleet and small hail that came rolling underneath the fly of my tent. Good timing. Tomorrow's hike out was going to depend a lot on what kind of weather we were going to have.

Day 6- It was mercifully clear when we awoke in the morning, but we were guardedly optimistic after going through the changeable weather of yesterday. We had been speculating for a while about what kind of conditions we would encounter on the upper reaches of the trail and our roadwalk and if we were going to be able to drive the 30-mile dirt road. I was hoping that most of the snow had melted, as I am not a fan of the white stuff. We made it on the trail around 8am. I really enjoy the South Bass Trail. It is a beautifully constructed and laid-out trail and I was with two people who also appreciated trail construction, so we were all geeking out about it. The lush area right before the Redwall break is fantastic and after being on the Royal Arch Route, the wide trail felt very fancy and almost luxurious. We were all excited to reach the level part of the traverse in the Supai and get a break from the climb and enjoy the views. We reached a snow-free trail on the Esplanade and stopped short of the Royal Arch junction to refuel for the final push to the rim. The weather was cooperating and couldn't have been more perfect. There was visible snow up ahead and Wendy and I used bread and tortilla bags over our socks to keep our feet dry. As soon as we passed the Royal Arch Route junction, we saw lots of footprints, which made our lives a lot easier. Now we knew that the trail had been broken through the snow. There was just the perfect amount of snow- enough to attractively coat the trees and trail without causing any issues with traction. The last mile and a half went smoothly and we were on the rim by 1 pm. There were several cars at the trailhead, and the road was clear of snow but very wet.

After a break, we started out on our 3.5 mile roadwalk back to the Pasture Wash Ranger Station. At first the slippery mud was kind of funny- we were sliding around and sometimes our feet would get sucked into deep spots. The humor lasted about a half a mile, and then we realized that the mud was going to make it a much more difficult roadwalk than we'd been expecting. In fact, I can say unequivocally that that was the most demoralizing, unpleasant, wet, squishy, unstable, slippery, piece of crap that I've ever had the displeasure of walking. Chris went ahead and Wendy and I plodded on- I was glad we had the bread bags on our feet so that they at least weren't wet and cold. After what seemed like an eternity, we finally saw the Pasture Wash Ranger Station and Wendy's car. Wendy had baked brownies for our trip and we'd saved one apiece for when we returned, plus there were some celebratory Peeps left. It felt so good to take my slimy, mucky shoes off, change my stanky clothes, and take a wet wipe bath. I realized that I had not taken my first aid kit out at all during the trip- not one ibuprofen or piece of moleskin was needed for the whole six days. Somewhat refreshed, we had one last leg of the trip to go- the dreaded drive out on 30 unpaved miles of muck. The water was indeed still quite white. Wendy managed to drive her little AWD Subaru Baja like a champ as we white-knuckled it down the road. There were times when the car would slide sideways down the road as Wendy applied the gas and a couple of spots that required her quite some time to get out of a rut. We all cheered when we saw the blacktop of Hwy 64. Finally, all the obstacles of the trip had been surmounted and now all that was left was an ordinary car drive home.

I am so glad that I decided to do this route again with a small group. The fact that I'd been on much of the route before made the Royal Arch Loop appreciably easier the second time around. The Point Huitzil Route was an incredible way to get through the Coconino and an experience I'll never forget. I am usually a little morose upon leaving the canyon, aching for the next time I'll be able to return, but there was no need on this trip. I knew that in mid-May that I will be back, this time on the river volunteering on an Arizona Game and Fish fish survey. I will be hiking in on the South Kaibab and taking out at Diamond Creek- 12 days of getting to see the Grand Canyon in a completely different way. I can't even describe how excited I am- I have dreamed of rafting the Colorado for years and years and finally the right opportunity came together. I had to laugh when I saw the first three areas we'll be working on the river trip- Upper Bass, Garnet, and Elves- guess I'll be back in the neighborhood before long!
Royal Arch via Point Huitzil
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I've been struggling with this trip report for weeks. I don't know if it's writer's block or just a defensive mechanism, but the words just aren't coming - and for me, that's like, wow, ohmigawd, really?! However, I know better than to poke the muse, so instead I'm doing a photo-trip-report. As many details as I can include will be associated with the images. Everything else just fades from memory just like the bruises, blisters and cat-claw scratches...
Royal Arch via Point Huitzil
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We headed in with some key info from Dave. It took some time to figure out the route. Once you know it your next adventure should move right along. While we were doubting Dave's thoughts on "this isn't as bad as a ML" in hindsight I'd have to agree. The ML is repetitive and mixed routes. Whereas this is three spots of concern. Two drops with the tree ladder in the middle. The difference here is I can't do it without the help of others. Wally helped me in the two six(ish) foot drops and Denny helped me up the ladder.

Most of the time was consumed above the first six foot drop. Since we weren't 100% sure the crack was close. Not to mention we arrived in the area on route I suggested we take. (anyone that's hikes with me knows my route finding deficiencies :D )

We had lunch in the shade shortly after. After which we decided to continue down for 45min. None of us wanted to be coming up the incline after dark. After the second small downclimb we were able to increase the pace to easy off-trail canyon hopscotch.

What took us 4 hours to descend was a quick 2 hours back to the trailhead. I'm glad to know this ancient route now, it's pretty cool. Bob noticed two other "ladders" lying down in the crack. The rock art is cool too if you're into that stuff. We passed three backpackers on the route up. They were using a rope which would make the two down climbs easier. Though I don't think I'd want to be out there with a big pack :scared:

Thanks everyone for a great little adventure!

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