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Carbon Butte
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mini location map2021-05-08
13 by photographer avatarfriendofThundergod
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Carbon ButteNorthwest, AZ
Northwest, AZ
Backpack avatar May 08 2021
Backpack34.00 Miles 7,628 AEG
Backpack34.00 Miles2 Days         
7,628 ft AEG
1st trip
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Partners none no partners
After a slow start, its shaping up to be a Grand spring after all. Carbon Butte came up on my radar when I did Chuar Butte in the fall. From Carbon Canyon, Carbon Butte is nearly indistinguishable and rather unremarkable when compared to its counterparts in the area like Chuar and Temple Buttes. However, its more eye catching from the saddle of Chuar where I first spotted it and I have been intrigued by the off the beaten path butte since the last time I passed through the area, so I decided to give it a go. I thought I had scouted the line to the summit on my last visit and was told it was pretty straight forward, so I felt confident in reaching the summit, but not as easy with the long approach.

We stepped off on Tanner Trail around 4:30 a.m and then it was a pretty standard hike to the Palisades area and our crossing above Lava Rapids. The crossing there always gets my attention, but it seems to be getting easier each time. It was my partners first time in a packraft and his first time on the Colorado River obviously, but he did great, although, he left the crossing with some adrenaline. We cached our overnight supplies before we crossed the river and therefore committed ourselves to reaching the summit of Carbon and making it back down and across the Colorado before nightfall. After filtering five liters of water, we set off towards Carbon Butte. We cruised along the Butte Fault Route and over to Carbon, where we then headed up canyon after leaving behind our rafts.

The hike up Carbon Canyon was warm at times, but the geology was terrific and mindboggling as usual. We left Carbon Canyon proper for a small side drainage below Carbon Butte. Some light scrambling in this drainage brought us to the first steep ridgeline that appeared to gain Carbon´s north saddle and class three approach to its summit. The ridgeline was steep and we ended up scrambling a little near the top, but it "went" and we were on the summit in short time with minimal effort by Canyon standards. We signed the register quickly and headed right back down, as we wanted to ensure we would be reunited with our overnight supplies before nightfall. We found a better descent than the our ascent route and cruised back down to our side drainage with little effort. I would recommend the "painted" and semi obvious steep ridgeline for any future ascents and descents of Carbon Butte.

We generally made good time in getting back to our rafts and lucked out with a shaded descent of the Carbon Narrows. Five liters of water for the two of us proved to be just enough and we found ourselves pretty parched by the time we reached the river. We crossed far more down stream than my last crossing here and it paid off, as we avoided the powerful eddy that was seemingly trying to push us up into the rapids created by Carbon Creek last time. The float back to our crossing above Lava Rapids was pleasant as usual. We cowboy camped near the river and spent the night envious of the boaters celebrating and cooking tasty meals on the other side.

We woke up at 3:15 on Sunday and were headed back to the rim shortly after 4 a.m. We did not break any speed records on the way out, but we had a solid rest and eating plan in place that we followed, which prevented major energy collapses or hitting of the proverbial wall on the hike out.

Final Notes:

I would basically sum this trip up as a five star adventure for a two star summit. Carbon Butte proved to be a summit only a mother could love, but its location and setting can't be beat and we enjoyed the process. Carbon's first recorded ascent was in June of 1963 by Buchart and Springorum. Its on adventures like these that I feel closest to the spirit of Buchart and his feats. I like to think that we were drawn to this summit for many of the same reasons that he was and it satisfies me on a personal level. At 17.5 miles to the summit, I think this may be my new longest single day push to a summit to date. I am already excited for a return to this area and an attempt at Temple Butte. This was my 41st Grand Canyon. It was my partners third Grand Canyon summit. He has now done Zoraster, Hayden and Carbon with me, I can't think of a better first three summits.
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