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Cardenas Escalante Loop, AZ
mini location map2013-04-26
45 by photographer avatarchumley
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Cardenas Escalante Loop, AZ 
Cardenas Escalante Loop, AZ
Hiking avatar Apr 26 2013
Hiking7.02 Miles 3,649 AEG
Hiking7.02 Miles   7 Hrs   37 Mns   1.25 mph
3,649 ft AEG   2 Hrs    Break15 LBS Pack
1st trip
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These two off-trail summits were on Hippy's to-do list without me even knowing it, and when I suggested that I thought they would make for a nice day-hike, she got all excited and ready to go!

I had read a little bit about the two buttes online, but not too much. Just enough to know that they could be summited without technical climbing, which is all I really needed to know for this trip.

We had a ridiculously good breakfast at El Tovar before heading out to Lipan Point. Having never been down Tanner before, I was really enjoying the geology and the hike was ok, but Hippy was taking it very slow on the loose terrain, making sure not to aggravate her tender ankle. Once at the bottom of the steeps, we cruised Tanner around the bottom of Escalante and out to the ridge that would serve as the climb up Cardenas.

From here it was all off-trail and fun. Cardenas was a relatively easy trip, with some easy short climbs. There's a small saddle with a narrow throat with some good exposure to the west before making the final push to the summit. Once there I was surprised not to find a summit register but was happy I had come prepared to place one! We took a lengthy break before heading toward Escalante.

The ridge between Cardenas and Escalante was the highlight of the day for me! Just a great experience on the downclimb, though we had to backtrack a short distance a few times after we ended up on little drop-offs that were too high to descend. If you do this route, know that staying on the true ridge will get you caught up. The doable descents are on the east/left as you head toward the saddle.

There's another small butte in the middle of the saddle, which I named Escaldenas Butte since it isn't marked on the maps. We decided to bag that too just cause it was there, and is only about 120 feet higher than the saddle.

From there we headed up Escalante, which increasingly has very different geology and terrain than Cardenas had. There was a fairly easy route, and I think there was even a small cairn or two along the way, though we made no attempt to follow them since it wasn't necessary to do so.

Near the summit, the signature white rocks that make up this peak became the predominant feature. Huge boulders of Coconino sandstone were fun to climb over, under, and around. The best route to the summit involves going through a little "cave" formed by the sandstone boulders at the top. Once there, it is apparent that the peak consists of two very large slabs, separated by a 3-foot crevasse. The true summit is the top of the east slab, but climbing that without gear would be very difficult, if not impossible. The west slab was a relatively easy climb and it is only about a foot lower than the true summit.

If you weren't where you were, the jump from the west to the east would be the easiest thing you've ever done. It's a step on the sidewalk, a step from one boulder to another while crossing a stream, etc. EASY!!! Except for one thing. It's waaaaaaayyyy up there, and all you see is straight down.

In reality, Hippy managed to get around the base, and it's only 20-30 feet straight down, but that is to a 50-degree slope that just keeps going. So if you fell, you wouldn't actually fall that far ... but you also might not stop after that first bounce! You see what I'm doing here? Yeah, I'm typing the things that were going through my head while up there. The internal struggle between common sense and LOGIC (it's a simple step, you could probably have a foot on both sides and straddle it safely) and EMOTION (it's a billion feet straight down and you will die a slow and painful death while bouncing and rolling all the way to the river like a rag doll).

I got sick to my stomach and had to descend the west slab and regain my composure. A few minutes later I climbed back up and walked out to the north end where the jump features the easiest, shortest distance (and most exposure). I concentrated on just the jump in front of me, ignoring the rest. I carefully considered which foot to plant, and picked out the exact spot I would land. Then I went for it. Cake. Why was that such a big deal!!?

So, photos, snack, another summit register, etc. and we headed down toward Tanner. The best route is to stay on the ridgeline heading east to the intersection with Tanner, but we decided to cut the corner and headed south. This probably took more time than it would have if we took the longer route. There are a handful of "steps" that require downclimbs, and finding a good spot to downclimb each required some traverses on each level. It was really fun, but certainly didn't save any time.

Back at Tanner, we were happy to have a defined trail. It's nice that Tanner is in the shade in the afternoon, so we were able to power back up to the rim where we got back in my truck and headed back to the village to meet up with Larry and Bob before heading west to Pasture Wash for a little car camping adventure.

Start 10:00am
1.3 miles at switchback above 95-mile saddle, 11:05
15 min snack break along the way
3.0 miles at Tanner exit at Cardenas ridge, 12:10
3.4 miles at Cardenas Peak, 12:45
30 min break up top
4.0 miles at Escaldenas, 1:45
4.6 miles at Escalante Summit, 2:40
35 min up top
5.4 miles back at Tanner, 4:10
several short breaks on the ascent
7.0 miles back at TH, 5:37
33s over 45s
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