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mini location map2013-12-21
56 by photographer avatarGrottoGirl
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Utah Flats RouteNorthwest, AZ
Northwest, AZ
Backpack avatar Dec 21 2013
Backpack37.62 Miles 14,198 AEG
Backpack37.62 Miles5 Days         
14,198 ft AEG
 no routes
1st trip
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Our Grand Obsession continues with our fourth backpack in the Canyon for 2013. Four of us did a 5-day backpack over Christmas starting on December 21. We started down the South Kaibab trail. I've only been on a corridor trail for a little bit my first trip to the canyon several years ago so I wasn't prepared for the wide well graded trail!

I couldn't manage such a fine, maintained trail so at the Tonto we veered off to take the Miner's Route down to the River. Since I had the tracklog off HAZ, we found the start of it really easily. I did find descending down some of the chutes difficult while carrying my 47 lb backpack (really should have pitted the dates and left the electronics at home). However, persistence prevails and I made it! I really like off trail stuff in the GC.

We got to Phantom with plenty of time to write post cards and enjoy a drink in the canteen. Then we hungout in camp and waited for Hippy and John9L. Finally they arrived, however, Hippy had taken a spill and was nursing a sprained ankle. We had fun hanging in camp even though we didn't get to hike with them.

In the morning, the four of us headed up the Utah Flats Route. Out of camp the route digs into the earth and goes straight up. I figured with the erosion it might be kind of scary on the way down. Piano Alley is cool with all the big blocks of Tapeats about the size of Pianos.

We stopped for a break on the slick rocks. To be actually on top of the Tepeats and not on Bright Angel is pretty special!

We headed over to a good spot to drop packs and then headed up Cheops Plateau. We headed to the saddle using the same take off point that Joe had posted. We took a quick break on the saddle and then started the climb. I was thankful for all the rock climbing and caving we've done over the last year and found that I was able to do it all without a problem. If exposure is not your thing this probably wouldn't be a good place for you to test it. We signed in on the summit log and then headed for the view of the River and the Pyramid for lunch.

The way down I had Joel talk me down the first couple of spots and then after that I was in the rhythm and able to navigate the scary down climbs on my own. We celebrated our success in a slick rock camp in Phantom Creek!

That night we discussed our options for the next day. We all decided that we could not possibly do Isis under our time frame so Joel picked a Butte we could do in a day, Schellbach Butte. Thankfully, I had a scanned copy of Grand Canyon Summits on my Nooks (so I guess I shouldn't have left the electronics at home!) so we had some beta as well as our maps.

In the morning we got a later start the planned. We climbed up the slope by our camp to a saddle below Schellbach close to the drainage which has been called Sturdevent wash. We traversed over to the wash and started our ascent up the canyon. There was a lot of boulder hopping along the way. We worked our way around a large pour off using a bypass on the right side. Then we scrambled up a few pour offs. We reached the Redwall and got out our GPSs to find North. Neither of the two GPSs would calibrate the compasses - there is something to be said about carry some old school magic but I had left mine in my cave sketching pile at home, so we guessed based on the sun and it seems we were right! We scrambled up the wreckage that was once a Redwall cliff to the Supai Group which continued to be a fractured mess. At one point we found an old rope hand line that had been used to scramble up a particularly stiff section. After that we had only one last challenging section to get through the Supai - a class four climb according to our beta. Joel picked one spot which he used his arms extensively to get up. Based on descriptions that may have been the appropriate route. That's not an option for me so we searched for an alternative which may have ended up being class 5, but anyway it worked. We did use webbing to haul daypacks. I was last on the climb and I remember thinking that I should turn around however I was the only one not up so I gritted my teeth and climbed. My impression was that the climb was stiffer than what we did the day before.

We traversed over to the saddle at the end of Schellbach. It was obvious someone had camped there. We then proceeded with the last short bit of scrambling and the nice walk over to the Butte. The views were incredible! I especially liked seeing Cheops Plateau that we had climbed the day before. On the top, we found a HEAVY granite sign saying "Schellbach Butte" which had transparently been carried up to the Butte by the grandkids of Schellbach, a Grand Canyon Naturalist.

On the way down we all followed Joel's route. I had a long pause midway trying to get in the right position so I didn't feel like I'd just shoot off the cliff! After that the rest of the trip seemed pretty doable if not fun!

On the way back I saw two cairns beaconing me. They were early than the spot I had planned to use for exiting the wash but we decided to check them out. In hind site it would have been better to have followed our tracks out. Nonetheless we made it to the saddle. From there we decided to try another way out down what seemed to be a less steep slope. However, we had to work our way around a couple pour offs.

Back in camp we again celebrated our success! We also were excited about a late start the next day!

We awoke in the morning to 25 degree temps. It was a little cooler than one of the other nights. I looked over and saw Joel completely cinched into his sleeping bag. The layers of frost on top were intimidating. It did remind me of why most people use tents or bivvies! Once it was light enough I started moving about.

We hit trail late and immediately dropped packs to see the waterfall. Looks like an interesting rappel! Then we headed up the steep climb up to the Tonto plateau and the Utah. We retraced our step and soon I found myself going down the steep, eroded path into camp. I was happy to be treated to Phantom Ranch and the luxuries that help ease you back into civilization!
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