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Butte Fault Route - Nankoweap to Clear Creek, AZ
mini location map2022-03-19
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Butte Fault Route - Nankoweap to Clear Creek, AZ 
Butte Fault Route - Nankoweap to Clear Creek, AZ
Backpack57.98 Miles 19,580 AEG
Backpack57.98 Miles5 Days         
19,580 ft AEG
 no routes
1st trip
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The plan for this hike was to do Butte Fault Route and the high Redwall passes to Clear Creek and then out South Kaibab Trail. There was debate on how long it would take. My vote was 6 days but Dave insisted we could do it in 5….only one way to find out. Thanks to Kathy for dropping us off at Saddle Mountain Nankoweap trailhead on the North side Saturday morning.

Day 1 Nankoweap 9.36 miles 1394 AEG
With a late scratch from the trip Dave and I were off down Nankoweap Trail about 9.5 miles to camp on the creek near the start of Butte Fault route. Easy first day compared to what lay ahead so we enjoyed somewhat early camp around 345. Clouds rolled in making for scenic skies, but we also had rain in the forecast for the next day Sunday.

Day 2 Nankoweap to Sixty Mile Canyon 8.17 miles 3883 AEG
In the morning under cloudy skies we rolled out about 7am and headed off trail over our first pass of several on the trip. Hard to describe the fault geology over to Kwagunt but the pics give some idea…very cool! Around 1400 feet over Nankoweap pass mostly following the main drainage to Kwagunt Creek which was flowing nicely. Arriving about 9am we took a break and anticipating a dry camp that night we filtered about 6 liters of water each for our projected camp at Sixty Mile Canyon. After the break with heavy packs, we ascended the next pass of again around 1400 feet over into the Malgosa drainage. Arriving around lunch time as expected it was dry but we took our break to rest up for the next pass.
Fortunately, the next pass over to Awatubi Canyon only required about 800 feet of climbing up the obvious drainage to the visible pass and then 600 down the other side into Awatubi which was also dry as expected. Another short break and then we started what was the easiest ascent pass of the day over into Sixty Mile Canyon again following the main drainage to visible pass above. The descent into Sixty Mile was a little more interesting with some bypasses to navigate but the canyon though dry was the best one on the day. Very happy to call it camp in such a cool spot! We did some more exploring downstream through short narrows in Sixty Mile about 1/3 of a mile before you can go no further with a huge pour off maybe 300 feet straight down. After that headed back to camp and setup for the night. Surprisingly the rain that was forecast never showed up except for light rain of only 5 minutes!

Day 3 Sixty Mile Canyon to Unkar Creek 12.49 miles 4131 AEG
Next morning, we packed up and headed out about 645am from Sixty Mile up the drainage about 1100 feet to the next pass. It was clear after the rainless front moved through but a cold wind was kicking on the pass so we descended quickly into the drainage east arm of Carbon Creek. This was a really fun and interesting descent. There are some sporty downclimbs and a small bypass that eventually goes through a very rocky chute. Soon after that the canyon flattens out into the wash and the next few miles we had the easiest hiking of the whole trip. Nice flat hard packed sandy creek bottom that was better than walking on a sidewalk. Along the way there were a couple of spots with water in the main Carbon drainage that would work but not needed if you can make Lava Creek which was relatively close.

The cross over to Lava Creek really doesn’t count as a pass since it’s barely 200 feet climb. Once over the top we checked out a spring which was flowing nicely but so was Lava Creek. Plenty of water here after not seeing any since Kwagunt. We continued up canyon enjoying the scenery of cottonwoods beginning to leaf out and the constant creek flow. We stopped to filter water farther up Lava Creek because we were not sure if tonight’s camp would be dry again. Also stopped by to check some ruins in the area before hiking up the first Redwall break of the trip.

The Juno Redwall break was over 1600 feet up with some challenges along the way. First, we had to get around 400 foot pour off ascending a steep brushy drainage canyon right to get above the Tapeats. Above that we dropped back into the main canyon and then began another steep ascent through loose talus scree and more thick brush. It took about 2 and half hours on the ascent which put us behind our camp goal for the day. Dropping over the other side at 4pm we quickly descended boulder hopping about 2.5 miles to another pour off above the Tapeats layer. It was now about 530 so we decided to call it camp since we were unsure of the camp sites below the pour off and wanning daylight. It was a very nice camp spot and actually had one pot hole of clear water so it was not completely dry camp.

Day 4 Unkar Creek to Clear Creek 12.85 miles 4514 AEG
In the morning, we had to navigate the bypass first thing on creek left. Somewhat sporty downclimb into east arm of Unkar Creek. Once below the pour off it was easy hiking across to the approach of the next Redwall break at Freya Saddle. We also had some really cool views of Vishnu Temple on the approach as that is just left side of the saddle. Again, another Tapeats pour off to navigate drainage left but nothing major before continuing up the drainage for about 1600 foot ascent. Near the top the crux Redwall break has a ledge on the left and right. I went left and Dave went right but they both work. Dave had done both and mentioned that ledge left was probably the better route. After that it’s relatively short steep scramble to the saddle.

Other side was steep rocky scramble as well to another large Tapeats pour off drainage right. On the bypass we didn’t recall from a previous ascent and we traversed too far ending up on a nasty scree slope that took 30 minutes more than it should have. Once done we headed down Vishnu Creek to some good water below a spring. Had lunch and filtered some water. Continued downstream into the Vishnu Narrows which are very cool. Then found our exit drainage right for the next Redwall approach.
To our surprise the side drainage had good water part way up. Eventually it runs dry, and we ascended towards Hall Butte break and the last one of the trip. No pour offs or bypasses on this one but still steep and rocky on the ascent. Finally reaching the top we took a break. I headed out to Hall Butte which was only 30 minutes round trip from the break spot. Took a few pics but didn’t stay long because we still had some miles to cover to reach camp. We had 2 mile traverse on top the Redwall over to Angel’s Gate saddle.

That traverse went relatively quick and that put us above the down climb on Angel’s Gate which was by far the most sketchy of the entire trip. There are 3 down climbs that get your attention with some exposure and crappy Redwall limestone rock as hand and foot holds. We made it through those down climbs and the rest of the descent which was steep but no more exposure. Eventually it levels out into the drainage to another pour off bypass creek left that we navigated to access east arm of Clear Creek. There was water where we hit the creek but we proceeded to the main Clear Creek canyon. Camping at the confluence it was now about 615 our longest day of the trip. Very happy to be in camp we settled in the for night.

Day 5 Clear Creek Trail and South Kaibab Out 15.1 miles 5658 AEG
Next day we got going about 645 and passed through Clear Creek campground and onto the first trail we had seen since leaving Nankoweap. It was strange and nice to be on real trail for a change. Followed Clear Creek Trail to Phantom then over Black Bridge and up South Kaibab. No real stops accept to filter some water upstream of Phantom and arrived on the South Rim at 315. Physically demanding trip but a lot of fun with Dave pushing our limits every day. As it turns out Dave was correct and it took 5 days!!
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