Great Big Kanab and a Few of Her Slots

Bob Davis on rappel in Crack Baby

Bob on the third rappel in Crack Baby

The rains and flashing canyons prevented the intended exploration of the Kanab Creek area last Fall. (See Scotty’s Bail.) But if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. (And who wouldn’t jump at the chance to stay at the luxurious Four Seasons Hotel at Kanab Creek!)

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Sunset at Kanab Point

So Bob and I saddled up in Vegas and headed out. First we needed a longer rope, and Bob needed some new shoes (see TX3 review), having blown out his approach shoes climbing in Red Rock Canyon fro several days as a warm-up. After a quick stop at Desert Rock Sports, we were on our way for night camping near the trailhead (I use “trailhead” a bit loosely–it more of a “go that way” route than a trail) out on Kanab Point.  Nice big view of the Kanab drainage and up and down the Colorado including glimpses of some of our favorites canyons, Olo, Matkat, and SOB.

After a windy night on the point, we stuffed the bags too full of rope and webbing and 5 1/2 days of food. Dang, a third person would have been great to share both some weight and volume. But it was time to HTFU and start walking. There was a big weather system to the northwest, dumping snow in Utah, and potentially bringing some rain our way this day. We’d have to keep a watch on things as we went, but after Day 1, the forecast for the rest of the week was good.

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Two-stage rappel in Supai of Kanab Zero

Picking our way down to the Esplanade was pretty straight forward. We made our way to the head of Kanab Zero. And then down we went.

Down, down, down. Kanab Zero is probably about a mile long, but it has about 1200′ of rappels in that mile. After a bit of scrambling, it’s one drop after another, really helping you understand the depth of the GFC. The second set of rappels is a two-stage drop totaling 400′. I went first, admittedly with a few butterflies as I started the big drop without much warm-up to test friction of a new and unfamiliar rope (we had Imlay’s 8.3mm Canyon Fire, rather than the 8mm rope I was used to). As I was about halfway down this drop, the rain started. Not heavy, but it was rain. Bob came down. It was early afternoon. We discussed the next step.

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Concerned about rain, we opted to pull up short for the day and camp at the top of the Redwall rather than head into the slot.

We walked to the top of the Redwall. The light rain continued. The wind stiffened a bit. The now narrow slice of sky that we could see was gray. The latest info we had said the only real potential for rain was that afternoon, and evening, tapering into the early morning. High winds were also expected through the morning. We knew we still had a lot of vertical in a narrow slot, but we didn’t no exactly what it looked like or how long it would take to finish. Being old and wise–or maybe just old–we decided it was best to wait it out on the nice Redwall bench. The rain sputtered off and on. We set up camp.

As it turned out, no heavy rain came. Stopping for the day still seemed like the prudent decision.

It did have one implication, though. Plan A called for visiting Kanab Zero, Whispering Falls, Crack Baby, and Rattlesnake canyons. To fit these in, we expected long days with everything going well. Losing a half day, it now seemed like fitting in Rattlesnake would be too much for our frail constitutions. The good news, however, was that meant we now had a much more leisurely trip on our hands. And plenty of time for Bob’s tasteless jokes. Ask him about the horse… It also meant we were woefully under-supplied with rye. Amateurs!

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210′ 3-stage rappel in Redwall of Kanab Zero

All was not lost, however. Fortunately, given a choice between the hard route and the easy route, on any approach, bypass, or even water run, Bob picks the hard route every time. This meant we’d still be able to get a bit a suffering in to make the whole trip worthwhile.

Day 2. Morning came, with blue sky and and. We continued down the Kanab Zero Redwall, drop after drop, with not much walking between. The slot isn’t as drop-dead gorgeous as others in the Grand Canyon, but it’s still quite nice, and stunning in its pace, one 200-footer after the next right on through the Temple Butte. I’d do it again.

(Side note: there were a couple of new(-ish) and unnecessary bolts at the top of one of the larger Redwall drops when a suitable natural anchor was available. Please don’t do this!)

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With a late morning exit from Kanab Zero, we set up camp right across Kanab Creek, lunched, and headed for Whispering Falls.

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Whispering Falls Rap

The Whispering Falls sneak route was by far my least favorite part of the trip. This wasn’t just because Bob dislodged a bowling ball sized rock (OK, more like a large grapefruit, but the guy on the receiving end of the rock gets to exercise a little poetic license) came crashing down toward my head in yet another failed attempt to do me in. I deflected it with my left hand, way too close for comfort. Even beyond that, clawing up the powdery, crumbly slope just wasn’t fun–it was the one time during the excursion that my adrenaline spiked, and that kept me jittery even as the climb topped out and we walked along the relatively prominent path for the drop into the Whispering Falls slot.

The slot itself was nice, but I didn’t enjoy it as much as the others on the itinerary, even with the lovely falls and grotto. But boy, if this is the worst slot on your trip, you’re in for a good time! Bob did try to hit me with another rock during the rope pull. It landed within 2″ of my right foot. Wear your helmets, people! Especially if Bob is out to get you.

Day 3 was a stroll up the Creek to the mouth of Crack Baby. With our relaxed itinerary, we hardly needed a blistering pace. Kanab is a virtual highway by Grand Canyon standards, fairly level, and not too many boulders to negotiate. Arriving at Crack Baby, and having left the last water in the creek bed almost two hours earlier, we were delighted that the large pothole at the mouth of the slot had lots of water for drinking purposes…and that we’d get to swim through the following day. (Note, this is a potential important source of water located about 30 minutes up from the confluence with Jumpup Canyon.) Bob climbed up, down, and filled a dry bag for us to carry that short walk back to the creek bed where we camped for the night.

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Preparing at the head of Crack Baby

On Day 4, morning found us walking around to Flipoff Canyon, making the short climb to the top of the Redwall, and then the easiest walking of the week on the well-worn path to the head of Crack Baby. Bob added to our growing collection of trash pickup, finding a hat and a neoprene  sock. (We’d cleaned up some webbing and strangely left-behind rope, reusing some of it we were comfortable with for a few anchors. Add to that three balloons, a locking biner, and some tiny rusty rapides, etc.) Hitting the head of CB, we suited up.

What a fun technical canyon! Just five raps over a short distance, through a narrow, dark, and polished corridor. You’ll definitely want some good natural anchor skills here.

Some ado is made of the 4th rap, a 90-footer, off an overhanging ledge with sharp limestone teeth making the start a bit awkward and sporty. (Based on the reports, I’d used a little calming tree pose in anticipation.) The anchor is a knot chock in a depressed crack (pictured above, right). I decided to overcome the awkwardness of the start with a second anchor for a hand line, in the same crack. Not only did this help ensure the primary anchor would stay put, but it allowed us to provide a modicum of control as we eased ourselves into position with one hand on the hand line (using the anchor line would be a problem–your hand could easily get smashed and trapped in the crack as the anchor weighted). A bit of extra webbing, but it made the start pretty smooth. Relatively speaking, anyway.

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Bob on the 90′ Rap #4 in Crack Baby. Watch the awkward start over a sharp, toothy, limestone edge

Exiting Crack Baby, we took an hour to dry out ropes and gear before repacking for the stroll down Kanab Creek. On our new slacker itinerary, we only had to get back to Showerbath Spring for a quaint afternoon watching hummingbirds. Along the way we saw a flock of about 20 white birds that appeared to be cattle egrets. (Bob suggests snowy egrets. Bruce–we needed your ornithological skills here) First time I’d seen anything like them in the Grand Canyon. Alas, didn’t have a long enough lens for a good photo.

Day 5 was the hump through the beautiful Scotty’s Hollow. Damn, those packs were heavy now that we were carrying them uphill. While we could have schlepped all the way out that afternoon, we still had a budgeted half-day the next day, we figured there were worse places on the planet to sleep, so we stopped on the Esplanade, with water just a short 90′ rap away. Bob rapped down and filled up. He could have downclimbed/upclimbed this sans rope but that probably wouldn’t be advisable for mere mortals.

The next morning, with an early start, we ground up the talus slope to exit, found our way to the road, dropped packs, and seemingly flew back to the trailhead, covering the last four miles in just over an hour of walking.

Next up? Maybe back to Marble Canyon. Or a pontoon boat in the Caribbean?

See a bigger set of photos.

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Back to our vehicle and a coolish beer at the Kanab Point trailhead

 

 

 

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5 Responses to Great Big Kanab and a Few of Her Slots

  1. Joey Brink says:

    Thanks for this awesome trip description Mike! We are considering a trip to Kanab creek and nearby slots for early September this year. But we are a bit concerned about heat. What time of year did you take your trip? In Todd Martin’s book, “Grand Canyoneering”, he lists the preferred season for Kanab Creek’s Eastern Tributaries as “spring, summer, fall”. Most of the canyons in his book have only preferred seasons of “spring, fall”, which makes me think that September might be a perfect time of year to visit Kanab Creek. But others have cautioned against visiting the Grand Canyon in September. We’d be very grateful to hear your thoughts and advice! Our draft itinerary right now is hiking down from Indian Hollow to visit Rattlesnake or Kirk’s Chasm, sneak route up to Whispering Falls, then a visit to Crack Baby and maybe Scotty’s Holly before returning to Indian Hollow. We have 6-8 days for the trip.

    • Mike Rogers says:

      Hey Joey,

      Kanab Creek itself would be fine in September–you’re literally walking in the creek for stretches of it, and you’re never more than several feet away. The Esplanade, though, can be brutally hot in early September. Last year, the monsoon season was dry, and the canyon was very dry in the Fall, even potholes where I’d seen deep water in both Spring and Fall. The flip side is that early September can still be in monsoon season, and slots aren’t a good place to be during heavy rain. Kanab has a huge catchment area, and it can flash from rains 10 miles away while it’s sunny overhead. By late September it may cool down, even more likely in early October. Late March and April are good times, too. As the hike around the Esplanade to Rattlesnake and/or Kirk’s can be hot and dry, plan water accordingly. Could be nasty in the summer. Kanab Zero was great, too, and interesting in its relentless elevation drop, one rap after another.

      Scotty’s is a must visit, and it’s fun to go all the way up the Chockstones. Crack Baby is a nice morning loop, easy approach and short, fun slot. The pool at the bottom of Crack Baby was over-my-head deep when I was there, and I’m told it’s a pretty reliable source of water. (Uou have to scramble up into in, and possibly drop down into the water. We used a guy on the bottom filling and passing containers up to the guy at the top, with a webbing hand line to aid getting out.)

      So…I think you’re best served looking at late September or early October.

      Good luck.

      • Joey Brink says:

        Wow this is super helpful, thank you! We’re stuck with the first week of September for our trip. If we could push it back a few weeks we would, but it’s our only vacation week. So we just need to decide where on the Colorado Plateau to go. We love canyoneering in Zion and Escalante but are looking for something new. We’ve done a few backpacking trips through Grand Canyon before, though we’ve always gone in November. Kanab Creek looks amazing though and we’d love to go.

        Sounds like heat won’t be as big of an issue as I feared, with plenty of water around, so that’s great to hear! We will keep a close eye on the weather though. Is there high ground reachable in Kanab Creek, in case we’re in the middle of the trip and it looks like a storm is coming?

        Kanab Zero does look really awesome! Would you advise entering through Kanab Zero over Rattlesnake or Kirk’s Chasm? I hadn’t really considered this option as I didn’t see a route back to the Kanab Point TH. But of course you could just walk back on the rim! I hadn’t thought of that!

        We were also planning to bring our wetsuits, but maybe that’s not necessary?

        Any suggestions for beta on these canyons? I’m going off of Todd Martin’s book, which seems detailed and reliable.

        Any other recommendations or tips you have, we’d love to hear them. Thanks again!!

      • Mike Rogers says:

        I may not have explained it well–heat is an issue! You can expect the GC to be VERY hot the first week of September. Especially while you baking on the Esplanade without water. If it rains in August like it should, you might have more access to water. But last year, it was bone dry up there. BUT if you carry enough water, and push to water, you just might survive.

        I haven’t been to Rattlesnake or Kirk’s. Rain delays caused us to shorten the loops on the two trips where we planned on visiting. So, I can’t compare them to K0–but the reports I’ve seen suggest they’re very nice. You do have a long push from Indian Hollow to either, longer than the line on the map might suggest.

        You can certainly make a loop of of Kanab Zero – Scotty’s. The loop gets closed with a 4 mile rim walk at the end. We did a couple things to make that easier. We cached water at the road junction (there is a T-intersection, Kanab Pt to the right 3 miles, Scotty’s to the left a mile). On exit, then we knew we had some water waiting. We also left our packs at the junction at the end, and simply picked them up when we drove out, so the last few miles where pack free. The beta in Todd’s book should do it for you.

        For Kanab Zero, you could start at first light (before dawn), and clear the Esplanade early. (I’d be concerned about the amount of time on the approach to RS or Kirk’s on the other side.) It may be cooler in the slot. And you should encounter water–because to ping groups for current conditions right before you go to get a sense. (Canyon collective, which you’re part of or the Grand Canyon Hikers and Backpackers group on FacePlant.)

        There is frequently high ground along Kanab Creek that you might bail out to in a flash flood. Not necessarily comfortable campsites, but a scramble to wait out the water.

        Wetsuits: On the early October trip, I had a shorty. Bob just wore a thin neoprene shirt. I think the neoprene shirt, with a shell to slow evaporative cooling if needed, should be plenty. A lot of recent rain will make the slots wetter and colder. Less rain–you can save the wetsuit weight and carry more water!

      • Joey Brink says:

        Thanks again for these very helpful tips Mike! We’re still evaluating if this is the right trip for us in early September, but is certainly on our list as a must-do in the coming years. We’ll let you know if we make it out and how our trip was. Many thanks again!

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