|SK-BA Loop Old BA Battleship, AZ|| |
SK-BA Loop Old BA Battleship, AZ
|Hiking||20.07 Miles|| 9 Hrs 30 Mns ||2.25 mph|
|11,028 ft AEG|| 35 Mns Break|
|Former work colleague planned a SK-BA loop trip for Veterans Day and invited me to join. I told him it was a deal if I could bring my son along.
We arrived in the park on Friday around 4 pm and headed straight to Shoshone Point for a quick stretch of the legs and a little solitude on the rim.
As the sun was setting, we returned to the Shoshone Pt. TH and over to check in at Maswick Lodge for the night. The dining area was surprisingly full for dinner. Went with the pulled pork and mashed potatoes. Helpings were generous. I normally like the mashed potatoes, but they were a bit on the runny side this time around.
At 5:15 a.m., called the taxi/shuttle, which took us to the SK trailhead. The bus schedule suggested no bus service till 7 a.m., so we were a bit surprised to find a couple dozen hikers milling around the TH and a bus leaving the TH at about 5:45(?)
In any event, we jumped right on the trail and began our descent in the dark. It was a bit crowded at the start, but folks spread out within the first mile or so.
The wind (and blowing dust) was crazy at the top and continued to be a pain until we dropped below Cedar Ridge. From then on, the weather was fantastic! Shorts were the order of the day, with the temps in the bottom and up through Indian Garden and up top in the low 60s.
Some guy had set up his tent and camped at the Tip Off. Not sure whether he cleaned up camp before the ranger arrived ...
Saw a few bighorn sheep on the SK below Tip Off.
As we neared the Black Bridge and the River Trail junction, I was thinking of the news story earlier this summer of a ER doctor from Texas who "made a wrong turn" and ended up passing away from heat-related issues. I'm always saddened by such stories and left with many more questions than answers. :-(
On this day, however, heat was not an issue.
After crossing the Black Bridge, my son and I veered upstream to check out the gauging station, and the hand-powered tramline. It was worth a look.
Stopped for "second breakfast" (9:30 a.m.) at the picnic table past the restroom/water spigot on the way to the Silver Bridge. Read the sign indicating that water had been turned of at the resthouses on BA, so the only other water was at IG.
Hit the trail for the climb up. The Colorado was running a deep, beautiful green color.
At the bottom of Devil's Corkscrew, my son wanted to take Old BA, so up we went and then continued up the drainage to its intersection with the Tonto, before dropping in to Indian Garden. The Old BA is still fairly distinct in many stretches, but about 1/4 mi. short of the Tonto intersection, we lost track of the old trail, and just continued up the wash, knowing we'd hit the Tonto eventually.
At IG, we were feeling great and decided to follow through on a side-trip out to the Battleship on the way out. Neither of us had been out there. We had the HAZ route downloaded on Route Scout, which was helpful, but even so, we often found ourselves bouncing around above and below various ledges. Seems like we were consistently hovering around 5380 ft., but always seem to be tempted to go up, rather than down when given the choice. There are cairns here, there, and in various places that are moderately helpful, but it was difficult to string more than two or three of them together at any stretch. At some point, we just plodded through as best we could navigate. As expected, the going was a bit slow. Along the way, my son was attacked by a yucca and ended up with a 1/2" spine in his finger. Leatherman pliers came in handy ....
Once we hit the "bridge," the route was more clear until the turn up to the final climb up Battleship. Here, Route Scout was very helpful.
My son chimney-ed up the crack; I was able to climb up with out chimney-ing. I didn't think the exposure at this spot was concerning at all.
The views from the point of the Battleship were awesome. We signed the log book, rested a bit and then headed back. Hoped for a condor siting, but no dice this time. We made quicker time on the return trip, and it seemed that cairns were more helpful heading that direction.
By the time we got back to the 2 mi. switchback on BA, we were so happy to be done bushwhacking/route-finding that we happily tackled the remaining 1,400 ft. climb with gusto, knocking out the last two miles in a little over 20 minutes, each.
As we motored through the final tunnel about 1/4 mi. from the top, caked with 20 miles of grime, bobbing and weaving around those content to just dip their toe below the rim, and clearly on a mission to finish the trip, we still somehow managed to win the lottery and were selected by a couple of rim-hugging tourist to take their photo. My son graciously obliged, but I secretly held a little grudge, since our exit time was 9 hours, 30 min., rather than "sub-9:30." Ok, just joking. It was not that big a deal, but I really was surprised that of all the normal tourists, this gal asked the grimy, sweaty, hikers streaking to the top to stop and take their photo ...
After hot showers at Mather Campground, we packed up and headed back to the valley, another great GC adventure in the books.