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The Big Drop 2, AZ
mini location map2020-09-19
21 by photographer avatarseanpeters
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The Big Drop 2, AZ 
The Big Drop 2, AZ
Hiking avatar Sep 19 2020
Hiking31.00 Miles
Hiking31.00 Miles   21 Hrs   10 Mns   1.46 mph
 no routes
1st trip
Linked none no linked trail guides
Partners none no partners
Most of my adventures begin on the couch. The one described below began in the Grand Canyon five years ago on my 40th birthday. My friend, Andy, and I were sitting on the summit of Clement Powell Butte that frosty December morning and visualized an audacious plan of attempting to climb/scramble five Canyon summits in a single, 24 hour period. We are no strangers to harebrained itineraries having summited over 110 peaks, spires, buttes, castles, named/unnamed places in the Grand Canyon. We have a few first ascents around the Big Ditch and have spent too many miles wandering to care. Andy has also romped the ranges of Alaska and the Himalayas so he definitely has the resume and attitude for some suffering. I'm fairly stubborn and tired of carrying heavy packs so the thought of a "day-hike" with a "day-pack" was pleasing.

Five years ago from that perch on Clement Powell we could see the obvious lineup of summits: Widforss Point, Manu Temple, Buddha Temple, Clement Powell Butte and Hiller's Butte. The starting and ending point would be the Widforss Trailhead. The entire trip would consist of hiking the Widforss Trail, climb the five summits, descend off of Johnson's Point, weave our way down to Bright Angel Creek and hike back to our vehicle via the North Kaibab Trail. On a map, things appear straightforward and simple, in reality the landscape and lack of water reveals a different story.

We named our adventure "The Big Drop". Due to the number of rappels, elevation that is lost, elevation that is regained and then lost even quicker the named seemed appropriate.

And as with all good plans, time and life can get in the way. Five years ago, Andy did not have kids and was a free spirit. I had/have three kids and was just a bandit. Andy got a big job and had big responsibilities. I was just a bandit. Andy and I both got older.

Pandemic crazed, house bound with youngsters, world-ending droughts and fires, an adventure seemed like a nice escape. Andy and I met in Flagstaff and the fun began.

Our alarms sounded at 0300 and we were hiking by 0330 out to the Widforss viewpoint. Five miles of trail in the dark was easy, descending down the locust filled gulley to climb Widforss Point was difficult. Widforss Point is a beautiful Kaibab summit with great limestone features. We opted for the direct but more dangerous spine to reach the summit. Airy drops and some loose blocks kept us on alert. From the summit we thrashed our way through the oak/locust/deadfall to the first of many rappels.

One 150 foot rappel through the Coconino formation placed us on track for an almost "direct" hike to Manu Temple. Manu is a wonderful scramble with many options to reach the summit. Some folks use a rope to safely protect their line-of-attack but we felt confident going rope-less. The hike over to Buddha may be one of my favorites. A giant, red Hermit (formation) hill leads directly to the northern point of Buddha. A hot and tedious traverse south along the eastern base of the formation took us to a shady tree.

Buddha Temple has a 3 to 4 pitch climbing (5.6) route that guards the summit. We had both climbed the formation years ago and sort-of felt confident to almost go without a rope on the ascent. Wisdom prevailed (not really) and we soloed the route and trailed the ropes for a quick descent. Three rappels later and we were back at our shady tree. Back to the grind, we trekked over to the saddle between Buddha Temple and Clement Powell Butte. One long rappel through the Supai (formation) and we were off towards Clement Powell.

Clement Powell has many summit-reaching options. We climbed through a large natural window and bouldered our way to its highpoint. In the right season, this butte holds lots of water due to the numerous Supai pockets that act as catchments. We were able to down climb our route and made speedy progress towards yet another section of rappelling necessary to reach Hiller's Butte.

Hiller's Butte had been baking in the sun all day and the notoriously difficult chimney we climbed was toasty. A series of precariously perched rocks allows entry into the constriction and after some chicken-winging, leg pressing and fist jamming we flopped onto the final summit of the day. We half-heartedly celebrated our accomplishment with a fist bump since hugs are outlawed due to Covid-19. What followed was two more rappels and a long descent off the snake-like Johnson's Point Redwall route.

Johnson's Point is a must-do for any Canyon fanatic that enjoys Redwall scrambles. Insanely sharp and secure limestone that climbs like a ladder will lead to spectacular views.
Drop, drop, drop down to Bright Angle Creek and reaching the chilled water was rewarding, valuable and maybe life-saving (at least life-altering). We had limited ourselves to one gallon of water each and those drops had long been drunk. We pumped water and rehydrated, laughed and cried, moaned and groaned and finally faced the reality of the over-crowded, mule-stained, dusty North Kaibab Trail. Much to our disbelief, we only encountered three people on the trail and that was in the first ten minutes.

After six hours of drudgery on the North Kaibab Trail, five of those in the dark, we quietly smiled at one another in the dim of our headlamps knowing the Big Drop had been completed.

Tidbits of information for those wanting to experience a Big Drop:

I had climbed all the summits prior to our attempt and even attempted the Big Drop (hence, The Big Drop 2) two years prior with another experienced Grand Canyon maniac. I was aware of the rappel locations and route details of each formation and was acutely aware of the lack of water. We brought two ice-climbing ropes (skinny and lightweight), a set of four cams, five quickdraws, one gallon of water/person, GPS unit, food and filtration system. The entire trip was 21 hours and 10 minutes, involved 10 rappels, several pitches of climbing up to 5.6, lots of exposed scrambling and 28-31 miles of hiking.
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