|Backpack||37.76 Miles||4 Days |
|12,491 ft AEG|
|Pano view from the top of Isis!
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I know you all already read Karl's triplog which was great, but I promise if you like details you should continue reading. I will tell you about the trials and tribulations and I hope to make you laugh a couple times.
Karl invited us on a Grand Canyon backpack to climb Isis Temple which he had been obsessing over for a while. Over several months of discussions we decided to try the technical route described in Grand Canyon Summits Select. I invited a climber friend from Flagstaff, who has GC technical climbing experience, to help us out. Nick agreed quickly.
After reading everything we could on the route we decided on bringing a 120 dynamic rope and a 60 foot static rope. Nick packed a small trad rack that included a #3 Cam. We also brought about 40 feet of webbing.
On the drive up, Joel and I collected Karl and then proceed to Flagstaff for the night. When we drove into Flag, Karl (funny he didn't mention it in his triplog) realized he forgot his food bag which he had left out of his pack so the dogs would rip up his pack. We dumped Joel to get a table and then Karl and I made a quick run the REI so he could stock up.
At the Lumberyard in Flagstaff, we decided that we would stay at the Hippy Camp at the Outlet Canyon junction with Phantom Creek. This way we could day-hike the route without the heavy packs that we read so much about from other trips.
In the morning, Nick met us and we all piled in our Outback and headed up to the Canyon.
We got down the SK in 3 hours. On the way down I took my turn at carrying the big rope. I was so happy to pass it off to Joel at BACG! I felt like I was floating! Even so the trek up to Utah Flats via Piano Alley about killed me due to the heat. I kept thinking how in the heck did Joe and Karl do this in the middle of the summer?? After a shade break I got some of my pep back and we continued along.
We stopped again once we got to Phantom Creek. It was heavenly cool in the shade next to the clear, flowing water. We dumped out the water we had gotten from the BACG since it tasted like chemicals and got some fresh creek water which some of us drank untreated. Yum!
Last Christmas, Joel and I had taken a leisurely trip in the area and had camped near where the Utah Flats route drops into Phantom. No such luck this trip, onward we went. There was nothing leisurely about this project.
We finally stopped at the Hippy camp. I, personally, was ready to drop. It's hard to imagine how other parties continued after this point. I did remind myself that we had technical gear and food for 4 days. Besides, I'm a girl (more on this later)...
We arose early and started around 6 AM. As we started, Nick asked if we had read the Epilogue in Grand Canyon Summits. We had not so he have us a summary: Know when to turn back. Reasons include: 'it's too far, too scary, too hot, too cold, too dry, too wet, too windy, not enough sun block, not enough pro, too much pro, too many ropes....there's cold beer at the ranch, there's cold beer at the rim, there are women in Flagstaff...' So of course we had to laugh about how only men and lesbians must climb GC temples. Wha??? What am I?!?!?! Maybe the next addition of the book should mention wine and men in Flagstaff!
We had camped in the Muav and so it wasn't long before we hit the Redwall. Anyone who spends time in the Grand Canyon learns that you navigate by layers. And to those in the know, the Redwall is an obstacle, a major one. The climb through the Redwall was scary. But let's face it, if you climb you can focus and control your fear. The fear is still there you just don't let it out of the bag. I certainly wasn't going to.
There were two sections going up that were memorable and I was happy to note that there were anchors to use for rappelling on the way down. One of the sections even had an old hemp rope that I used a little bit as a handline. Finally, we were at the top of the Redwall and it was time to traverse over to the saddle. Nick and I chatted about being slow. He told me I wasn't slow. And that I should consider the general population and the fact that I am faster than ~90% of them especially in this terrain. Sometimes it's hard to remember that when there is no sign of the rest of your party - damn those boys are fast...
We took a nice break on the saddle. That would be our last break together until the peak. With climbing you learn to snack when you are waiting your turn.
We continued into the Supai group to the crux of the climb. We found the old ski pole which the Tomasi group left during their first ascent (and mentioned in the book). We suited up in our harnesses and got ready to climb. After examining the pitch, Nick choose not to put on his climbing shoes for leading it. Instead he took off in his approach shoes. He looked like he was having a lot of fun. He did a hand jam and a number of other techniques. He even placed the #3 cam as described in the book. He got to the top and belayed Joel (who cleaned the route) and Karl as they simu-climbed. Joel tailed the static line for me. Soon it was out of reach so I scrambled up 8 feet to grab it. Joel was yelling down to me and asked if I had the rope. I said no but I was going up to get it. By the time I got there it was gone. He thought I had said I was holding it and he had pulled it over to to anchor. Finally. I was able to communicate that I didn't have the rope any more. Since they learned it was short they tied it to the dynamic rope, anchored it, and tossed it down. I had hoped to climb the same route and then switch to mechanical ascenders when things got too difficult for my shoulder. Well, where the rope ended up I needed my ascending gear out of the gate. I had to start ascending a free hang using a dynamic rope at the anchor. I was happy that I brought my caving gear and I hooked in and started up. My first 10 moves got me nowhere due to the stretch of the rope. Finally, I was off the ground! I had about 30 feet to ascend to get to the boys. Let's just say, jugging up rope isn't fast.
Once I arrived on top, we packed up and headed on. Both Karl and I had the waypoints from HAZ routes so we knew next up was the climb between a wall and a boulder the size of a room. However, due to the deviation of accuracy levels it wasn't right at the waypoint. Who can miss a boulder the size of a room - not us! I climbed up the crumbly start using a belay to the narrow passageway. After that the belay really wasn't needed since it's pretty easy to chimney one's way up.
We were still in the Supai group, we had to climb up a fin and then traverse by crawling along a ledge. Nick led and placed the #3 cam to protect the initial climb and move off the fin to the ledge. Joel and Karl choose to go without ropes. I figured, if I fall I will ruin it for EVERYONE. Nick built and anchor with his pro and then I climbed.
From there we went up another narrow passage in which we chimneyed and stemmed. We had a bit more scrambling then we were out of the Supai and on to Hermit shale layer. You see Hermit as the slant right below the Coconino cliff. Anyway, this slant was extremely steep. Perhaps one of the steepest slopes I've ever traversed. And to top it off you have to cross an even steeper gully. The book called it spooky. I agree and up the ante to nightmarish as Karl said. We angled to a tree and then grabbed on for dear life.
From there we were at the base of the Coconino! Everyone who hikes GC knows that Coconino means you are almost at the top!!! We had one more climbing pitch to go. Nick led it easily and set a belay. We all decided to tie in since we were almost to the top and there was no reason to not to be careful. Up we went. From there, we just had a slabby climb to the top. In a way it was like traveling across huge serving dishes or skate boards that at any point could dislodge and take you down quickly. Soon, we were at the top! Karl's dream was realized! We all had a good laugh about how we were Karl's support team to the top of Isis! Haha! We were all elated with the success of realizing our goal yet we knew this really wasn't the time to celebrate.
After a nice break on top it was time to descend. We wanted to try to make it down the Redwall before dark. For safety sake (and for the fun of it) we decided to rappel whenever we could however we realized that we didn't come fully prepared (shame on us!). We had failed to bring quicklinks/rappel rings. We did bring webbing but we failed to grab a knife from our camp. So we improvised as we found others had done in the past.
Our first rappel anchor was already in place. Someone's nice locking biner made me extremely happy. I'm sure the person who left it had been slightly disappointed. The rock chock used as an anchor was also solid.
From there we repeated the spooky gully and traverse through the Supai, which left me feeling relieved to be past it without sliding down the steep slope.
Then we skipped the ledge crawl by doing another rappel. We rigged the rope around a tree but found that we couldn't pull it due to a slight bend in the rope. We didn't have any rappel rings and didn't want to leave a biner behind so we decided that we could improvise and the last person could rappel down with webbing directly on rope (a big no-no). As long as the rope didn't move it *hopefully* wouldn't slice the webbing. Also the pull was short so by pulling slowly we wouldn't have to worry about the webbing heating up and melting. Joel cut webbing using the sharp edges of the rocks and set up an anchor. Anyway, it all worked as Joel arrived safely at the bottom. However, I'm not sure I'd want to try that again.
Whenever we could, we scavenged gear where there were two anchors in the same area. We then used some if it on other anchors.
One of the more interesting anchors we used was where there was a single hollow rappel ring in which someone paired with a non-locking biner that was taped shut! Does the tape make it a locking biner? I am glad someone realized that a single rap ring isn't designed for multiple uses (pet peeve).
We made it down to the Redwall as darkness approached. Luckily we knew we wouldn't have to downclimb as there had been anchors spotted on the way up. We completed the first rappel and I went to set up the second. In this area there were two anchors so I scavenged a non-locking biner from one to pair with another. I didn't like the crunch and abrasion on the existing cordellete so I got webbing from Karl. Again, no knife so I started to try to cut the webbing using rocks available. I had a lot of time, Joel had to reclimb the last rappel as he realized he has forgotten something. However, it wasn't enough time and I was still sawing when they came with the ropes. Nick had a trick he wanted to try. He whipped off his paracord belt and then sliced through the webbing in mere seconds. Moral of that story is you really don't need a knife to cut webbing!
Nick then proceeded to rappel in the dark, trying to avoid laying the rope in any if the prickly pear land minds that covered the cliff. In the end, we all discovered that the cactus was impossible to avoid and ended up with spines in our hands from were the rope had managed to touch the cactus.
After the rope was pulled, we made our way down the slope to the canyon bottom. Feelings of success welled within us! We had successfully completed the day's objective! We were one group of 'badpumpkins'!
The next morning we waited until sunrise to get up and then we retraced our steps to the Utah Flats Route. We loaded our packs up with water for a dry camp and started the climb. Miserable! Nothing like being tired, hot, and loaded down... We found some shade to break in for a few minutes and then we managed to traverse over to where one can access Cheops Plataeu. I wasn't committed to climbing since I already had done it last year so I put my notebook in my daypack just in case. The shade and leaving the heavy pack behind buoyed my spirits giving me the energy to climb! Up we went! The climb was as exposed and scary as I remembered. We walked the length of the plateau to see the Pyramid at the other end. The views all around are outstanding! I was pretty jazzed to spot a section of the river that we plan to packraft over Thanksgiving. Soon, it was time to go. The climb down was as breathtaking and then some. Nothing like looking down at your feet and seeing nothing but air below you. There were some gusts of wind but thankfully we were tucked out of it when climbing down the exposed sections.
After the climb, we found a nice spot on top of Utah Flats for a camp. It was absolutely stunning. Possibly the best spot for viewing sunrises, sunsets, the Milky Way, and shooting stars! It was a great place to camp even though we shared it with at least two black widows.
In the morning, we braced ourselves for seeing humans for the first time in days. We had to remind ourselves what they looked like and what they would smell like (compared to us) so we wouldn't be shocked. Then we dropped down to BACG and then climbed out of the canyon.
Nick got from River to rim in two hours and 15 minutes. While Joel and I topped last in 4 hours which included a delay by a mule jam. I found myself hitting the wall towards the top of the Supai but I was able to reach into my stores and keep moving upwards. I was probably powered by the fact that I could pass tourists even with my pack filled with climbing gear!
We celebrated being part of the small group of people who have climbed Isis Temple. We rejoiced that we had successfully climbed Cheops after a demanding day on Isis. We will always remember our awesome night on the Flats. And most importantly, we all made it back to the car without injury!
Now, I can consider myself a 'temple steeple jack' (phrase coined by Harvey Butchart in his 1972 hiking log)!!!!