|SK-BA-Tonto-Hermit Loop, AZ|
|SK-BA-Tonto-Hermit Loop, AZ|| |
SK-BA-Tonto-Hermit Loop, AZ
|9,225 ft AEG|
|Plan A: An easy overnight in the Phantom Ranch Bunkhouse, going down South Kaibab and up Bright Angel.
Plan B: Step it up a notch
I had a reservation in the Phantom Ranch Bunkhouse, and made numerous calls to get a spot for Karl and ending up having to resort to the wait list. We got to the Bright Angel Lodge at 6:15 AM and ended up scoring a cabin. I had a beef stew dinner reservation, but we were told it was all sold out for Karl to get dinner. We did get breakfast reservations.
We were headed down the South Kaibab at 7:30 AM. We took a little break at Cedar Ridge to have some breakfast. We were side lined by two mule trains. We got to Phantom Ranch and first priority was some Lemmy Lemonade. Then we checked in and were able to get Karl a seat at the stew dinner. After a break and fill up on water, it was 11 AM. We needed to be back for 6:30 PM dinner. Could we complete our initial plan of up Utah Flats and down Phantom Creek? I felt I could do it (especially after finding a bypass for that initial rope down climb in Phantom. But, I wasn't sure I could do it in our time window. Karl took pity on me and said we could just go and play in Phantom Canyon.
Once we turned off into Phantom Canyon, we had the place to ourselves. They said it reached 101 degrees, so it was refreshing to swim in the pools and practice climbing up waterfalls like a chimney.
At stew dinner we sat with a family that said they were going to do Utah Flats – Phantom Canyon the next day. Small world since they ran into John and Lee the next day in Phantom Canyon.
On Sunday, we were up early and took full advantage of 5 AM breakfast. We were headed out at 5:45 AM. It was my first time going up Bright Angel. I was anxious about doing Devil's Corkscrew, but we actually passed some hikers, and I just kept thinking it is “only” 1400 feet.
At Indian Gardens we took a nice long break and filled up everything we had with water. Did we go with the plan to take Tonto to Hermit, or just be done in a couple hours. Well, today we weren't taking the Girl Scout Route. It was 8:30AM, I had read the last shuttle at Hermit was 30 minutes after sunset. That would mean getting to Hermit Trailhead by 8 PM. My ego said there was no way I needed almost 12 hours to go 20 miles. Grand Canyon has a way to put that ego in check.
We made it to Horn Creek in no time, and took a brief break. The pace started to slow on the next 4.8 miles to Salt Creek. We took a break at Salt, and I dunked everything in the puddles to cool off. Then it was off to Monument Creek. Coming around the bend and looking into the creek and seeing the Monument was truly a beautiful sight. The Tonto Trail write up, doesn't even mention the monument! I knew it from HAZ pictures tho! We filled up on water and I dunked everything again. This is a popular camp spot and we saw the first hikers since leaving Indian Gardens. The next 2.3 miles to the Hermit Trail intersection felt all up hill, but there was finally a breeze and the views were amazing.
We made it to the Hermit Trail Intersection, we took another break and assessed the situation. We started up Hermit at 4:15 PM, could the next 7 miles be done in under 4 hours? It didn't really matter, I had read the sign that said “Hiking out is Mandatory.”
Only 1200 feet and 1.3 miles up to Breezy Point. The switchbacks weren't too bad, at the top of those, there was a whole back pack just discarded on the side of the trail. I knew I wasn't so tired that I was willing to ditch all my stuff. The Cathedral Stairs were cool to finally see, but yes they did feel endless. Almost to the top of the stairs we ran into a discarded sleeping bag and tons of food, including a full jar of peanut butter and nutella. Karl picked up all the paper stuff and containers of cup o soup. Breezy Point lived up to it's name, but isn't real scenic. We barely stopped knowing that time was getting short. The next 3.3 miles to Santa Maria Spring is only 600 feet of elevation, but there are several spots where you have to climb over rock fall and you must pay attention to where you are going.
It felt good to sit down at the Spring. And finally the sun was letting up. We figured we still had enough water and didn't need to fill up. It was 6:30 PM with 2.5 miles and 1700 feet left. At 7:20 Karl asked if it would be ok to move on ahead and check in about the shuttle. I told him to go on ahead. I got a little nervous when I didn't see any tourists near the top of the trail. I figured if I had seen a few picture takers, then I had time. I got to the trailhead at 7:50 PM. I felt good! I started going down the parking lot towards the shuttle spot. I saw Karl at the end waving and then the lights of the moving shuttle. In my head I was running, but who knows what I looked like!
I got on the shuttle and thanked everyone for waiting. It turns out Karl had stalled the driver babbling about cell service and what not. Thank you, Karl! We were told there is shuttle that purposely does not leave until 8:30 PM. We half joked about how long it would take until we forgot that this hike was painful and tried something even more epic....