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mini location map2017-03-22
49 by photographer avatarchumley
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Royal Arch RouteNorthwest, AZ
Northwest, AZ
Backpack avatar Mar 22 2017
Backpack47.62 Miles 13,933 AEG
Backpack47.62 Miles5 Days         
13,933 ft AEG
1st trip
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This one is a winner! :y:

Royal Arch and Elves Chasm were two of the last "must see" Grand Canyon destinations on my wish list, and I was able to secure permits for the end of March. I tend to like spring trips when there are possible issues finding water because I think there's a reasonable chance that winter moisture will fill in the gaps more than some other times of year.

There were some last minute changes to who was going to come along, but it turned out just right. I really think that this is best done with 4 people or less. A larger group and you will really get bogged down in some of the more challenging terrain.

The weather was a question for us, with a forecast calling for rain, wind, and snow to 6000 feet, possibly complicating our trip to the trailhead. In the end, it turned out exceptionally well for us, with rain only causing us to put on gear one time on the trail, and even then, only for about 15 minutes. Other showers fell overnight or at least after we had set up tents. The cold front brought refreshing weather ... a cloudy day in the 50s on the Tonto is one you should never take for granted!

Day 1:
There were numerous drainages along the Esplanade that had a light flow and small pools, and once we started heading down toward Royal Arch Creek, the drainage through the Supai had near constant pools and flow the whole way. In hindsight we should have camped above the dryfall because once dropping down to the top of the redwall, all surface water was gone. It rained overnight, and the spring at Royal Arch was only an hour or so downstream in the morning, but had we not found a small pool a little bit back upstream, night one would have been less enjoyable than it turned out.

Day 2:
Royal Arch is an impressive feature, and next time I'll make sure to camp here. This would be one of the best camps in the entire canyon. Period.

Heading toward Toltec, I was a little anxious about the rappel, but was relieved to find a handline in place with knots and loops which made the descent an absolute piece of cake. We had rope with us, but didn't need to use it. There was another rope already in place that we used to lower packs, and yet a third rope at the bottom that had been left by previous hikers.

There was water in the Toltec drainage which kept us from having to filter the muddy Colorado River water.

Day 3:
We took three hours to hike over to Elves Chasm and explore the area there. This is in the top 3 of all Grand Canyon gems in my opinion. Back at camp, we witnessed a rafting group pass by before packing up camp and heading out on the Tonto. There's a drainage between Toltec and Garnet that has water, but it's very salty. Garnet had numerous pools of good water. These seem like they would last for a good while into spring or after monsoon rains. Farther east things were much less certain, even with the preceding days of rain. Luckily we found a few tiny potholes of water about 6 miles in and decided to camp there.

Day 4:
On a cool, cloudy morning we headed the final 7 miles to Bass Canyon. I really enjoyed passing by Copper Canyon and the reverse view of Huethewali. The highlight of the day are the views along the Colorado across from Shinumo Creek, which was raging with snowmelt/storm runoff. We set up camp before noon and sat through a brief rain shower before day hiking South Bass to the river to check out the Ross Wheeler and Bass Beach, where we all went swimming in the refreshingly cool water. :)

On the way back we spotted a commercial rafting group and were hoping to see them run Bass Rapid but it was 3pm and they settled into the beach on the north side of the river just above the rapids. Karl and I decided to hike upsteam and see if we could get closer to them, ending up just across the river on the cliffs about 300 feet up. It was mostly disgusting to watch this party of 32+ people infiltrate the beach (so much for GRCA being managed as a wilderness lol) .

Day 5:
Having already summited Huethewali, I opted to sleep in for an extra hour and hike out on my own while the others planned to bag the peak on the way up. I didn't see the sun until I got above the redwall, and after that it was borderline chilly. I reached the top in 3 hours and found entertainment in observing three college students from CU Boulder getting ready to head down for a two night trip. (While they did bring a bag of ice to keep their hot dogs fresh, they decided to sacrifice and not bring the 16oz bottle of ketchup they had! [-( )

Despite the rain and snow, the drive out was dry and uneventful. Except for the rafters and college kids at the trailhead, we didn't see another soul for five days. Pretty much just the way it should be! :D

We could have done this in 4 days, but I'm happy we went with 5. It allowed for some leeway with the weather and assured that the side trips to Elves Chasm and Bass Beach could be made without pushing it too much. I also learned that elves really like to be scratched behind the ears. :-$
Redbud Tree
Natural Bridge
wildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observation
Wildflowers Observation Isolated

water 1 out of 5water less than maxwater less than maxwater less than max Bass Canyon Pools to trickle Pools to trickle
Pools of water 0.3 miles below the Tonto and 1 mile below Tonto.

water 1 out of 5water less than maxwater less than maxwater less than max Copper Canyon Pools to trickle Pools to trickle
Several small pools at the Tonto crossing.

water 1 out of 5water less than maxwater less than maxwater less than max Garnet Canyon Pools to trickle Pools to trickle
Big, deep pools. Light trickle between some of them.

water 1 out of 5water 2 out of 5water 3 out of 5water less than max Royal Arch Creek Medium flow Medium flow
Normal flow from the spring above the arch as well as in Elves Chasm down by the river.

water 1 out of 5water less than maxwater less than maxwater less than max Seep Spring Dripping Dripping
Didn't go to spring, but drainage at trail crossing had light water flow.

water 1 out of 5water 2 out of 5water 3 out of 5water 4 out of 5 Shinumo Creek Heavy flow Heavy flow
Witnessed from Tonto Trail across the river. Heavy flow. Runoff. Adding darker brown water to the Colorado flow.
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