Review: La Sportiva TX3

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La Sportiva TX3 after being pushed hard for several days in the Grand Canyon

Very impressed! Awesome shoe! Sticky. Comfortable. Protective. Durable. Breathable. Did I say awesome?

Over the past few years, I’ve primarily hiked, backpacked, and done canyoneering in various Five Ten models. First, I love the grippiness of their Stealth soles. And second, they tend to run on the wide side and fit my paddle feet. Unfortunately, I’ve been very underwhelmed with their durability, and that seems to be getting worse rather than better with newer models.

Several people had suggested La Sportiva as a worthy replacement, and I’m always admired their shoes. Unfortunately, La Sportivas just haven’t fit my wide feet. Until now. Enter the TX3.

The combination of TX3’s wider forefoot and the very adjustable lacing scheme means these shoes fit me very well. Initially, they didn’t seem quite as “comfortable” as say the Five Ten Camp Fours or Savants right out of the box, but they felt good. And the fit seemed much more secure than the Five Tens. In fact as I actually started walking with them, the TX3 seemed more comfortable than just about anything I’ve every worn–I love them!–and they’re quite comfortable on the trail. (I think part of the Five Ten initial comfort comes from them often being a bit too cushy and sloppy-loose on my foot, a huge downside once the terrain gets rough.)

I opted for the TX3 over the TX4 because of the synthetic uppers. Spending time in the water in canyons, I wanted something that dried a bit faster, and I didn’t want to worry about leather shrinkage. I also expected the synthetic would be more breathable than the leather.

Impressions from the Field

I’d worn these around town for a few weeks to verify the fit was good and that they felt comfortable lugging a huge pack around. Last week, I had the chance to test them out in a more challenging environment on a several-day trip canyoneering in slots of the Grand Canyon (a great test for any shoe!).

Stickiness/Traction. The Vibram Mega-Grip sole did not seem quite as sticky as the Five Ten Stealth soles on either wet or dry rock, from sandstone to polished limestone, to wet river rocks…but it was very close, and I found it worked well. In addition, the tread and heel design on the TX3 worked much better than something like the Camp Four on other terrain, and this was particularly notable on loose rock or mud. For example, on the exit from Scotty’s Hollow, my feet slid all over on the talus slope in Five Tens last Fall, but fared much better last week with the TX3s. A small smooth area by the big toe worked also well smearing. The overall net result is I felt generally I got better traction with the TX3.

Support and Lateral Stability. The TX3 provides great lateral stability compared to the Camp Fours or Savant. The sole seemed more rigid without sacrificing comfort. The shoe edged better than any Five Ten approach shoe I’ve worn. Overall the support was great. There was just enough sole stiffness to help with the ridiculously heavy packs (hard to be ultralight with a lot of rope, webbing, wetsuit, and other canyoneering gear) and yet flexible enough for both comfortable walking or busting a move. The sole provided a great balance between being able to feel the ground and, well, not being able to feel the ground! That is, I felt I always knew where my foot was, but every sharp edge and pebble didn’t telegraph through.

Durability. After a good pounding, these shoes still look great. The rubber rand around the entire shoe covers the most common failure points I’ve had with Five Tens, and there is little exposed stitching in the critical areas. The synthetic mesh looks and feels a lot more durable, and the time in the field proves this out. One trade off is that the rubber rand and tight weave of the mesh make it a bit less breathable than something like the Savant, but that’s a trade off I’m absolutely willing to make to avoid having the shoe disintegrate off my foot as the Savants have. The sole’s rubber also seems a bit harder than the Stealth, and it seems to be wearing better–I should get a lot more miles out of these shoes than anything from Five Ten.

My friend Bob, whose Savants blew out on approaches in Red Rock Canyon right before our trip, at the last minute grabbed a pair of the TX4s (leather upper, rather than synthetic, because there were no TX3s available in stock) for the Grand Canyon trip. While I don’t want to speak for him, he liked them straight out of the box and onto the trail. Previously, he’d found that La Sportivas didn’t fit his feet well, either. (Update from Bob: “Good review. Real leather is my only complaint with these shoes, but that’s a minor issue.”)

Conclusion

The TX3 may not be for everyone, but I found it to be a great shoe, and it will now be my go-to choice for a wide variety of activities. With its wider forefoot and adaptable lacing, it’s worth checking out even if you haven’t found La Sportivas fit well in the past. Two enthusiastic thumbs up!

Update, September 2016

About about 250 canyon and trail miles on these, some quite rugged, and the uppers are still in great shape. The stitching has help up, the rands show some minor scuffing from the abuse heaped on them, and the sole is still tightly laminated. Concerns about the mesh upper holding up don’t seem warranted–they are solid.

The tread on the sole is wearing rapidly, as I’d expect on rubber this soft and sticky, and I expect to get less than 100 miles more until these are relegated to street/packed trail use. I still love these. I wouldn’t wear them for everyday use because the soles would wear too quickly, but for off-roading, the TX3s are awesome!

 

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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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Scotty’s Bail

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October 2105.

Alex and I had a great idea to loop through a bunch of the Kanab Creek slots, starting and exiting via Scotty’s Hollow.

A great idea. But it didn’t work well. The biggest challenge was the late season thunderstorms rolling through. We kept are eyes on the forecast and the sky, and opted to delay a bit, probe a bit, and bail a bit.

The first day was a late start because we decide it was too risky to hit the slot in the afternoon as the expected storms rolled in. Good call. They came. As it turned out, it didn’t matter, because we blew the entry! Not having been the way, we relied on some good beta, 2 or three cairns, and some footprints. We should have ignored the footprints! They led us in the wrong direction, and we spent a few hours looking for the break…getting further and further from the real way down. A long afternoon side hilling on loose crap. Quite sporty!

(The correct route is laughingly obvious from the bottom, less so from the top.)

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As we called it and headed back, we saw the storms come in and the washes feeding the Scotty’s slot flashing. With the rain and wind and looming dark, we bailed, pitched the tarp, and spent the night sliding out and crawling back in!

With the forecast calling for more storms the next day, we decided to abort, and retry two days later when things were supposed to be clear.  Good call.

Hot shower, cold beer, and a restart. But now we knew the trip would be shorter, and we’d have to cut out a few slots. Having restudied the beta, we quickly found the right break, the only break really, and headed down.

We opted to descend the North Fork of Scotty’s knowing we’d come back up the other side. The North Fork is nice, but not spectacular. Below that, though, Scotty’s is gorgeous and fun. No ropes needed, but fun scrambling, wading, and a bit of swimming in the recently replenished pools.

Kanab Creek was supposed to be the highway for this trip, allowing us the loop among the slots. By the time we got there, a good 24+ hours after the rain, the creek was still swollen. You’ll sometimes see photos of people walking in the less than ankle deep clear creek. We saw bubbling chocolate milk that ranged from just below the knee to the collarbones at one point. We were able to navigate and made it laboriously upstream to Showerbath Spring, but it was clear the going was too slow and sketchy for us to really make the distance needed.

Spending the night at Showerbath, we decided just to leave it for another day. We turned and took a leisurely time up Scotty’s and actually met two groups coming down. One group was Keith Peterson and Co., on their way down to what would be a successful climb of Scotty’s Castle–awesome! It was nice having Monkey Boy Alex for the climb up the chockstone’s in Scotty’s. The wet mud at the bottom of each chockstone made for some slippy feet. But we perfected sending the climby boy up the large man’s back, and then using a hand line to get to big guy up.

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It seems the other group we passed was a couple of guys who apparently cairned the heck out of the trail down. Big cairns, and tightly grouped. While that would have made our first probe easier, I confess to returning a few of them to their natural state (when you can see five cairns from one spot in the wilderness, I consider that overkill).

Didn’t come close to the trip as planned. But not a bad way to spend a few days in the Hole.

And we’ll be back to tackle the original Plan soon.

(Here’s a bigger set of photos and a set of bigger photos.)

 

 

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Mike Rogers’s Draft Comments on Proposed Backcountry Management Plan

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See the GCNP Backcountry Management Plan and Draft Environmental Impact Statement

Mike’s Draft Comments, 19-Feb-2016. Note to Myself and Others: Comment period extended through April 4, 2016

As an avid hiker and backpacker, and frequent visitor to the Grand Canyon National Park, and U.S. citizen, I have reviewed the November 2015 Backcountry Management Plan and Draft Environmental Impact Statement (Plan/EIS), and I am respectfully submitted comments.

I support the goals and objectives delineated in the Plan/EIS. There are several worthwhile elements listed in the Alternative Plans. However, none of Alternatives as listed are acceptable. Each contains serious problems, as spelled out below. Because of the significant reworking that would need to be done, the National Park Service (NPS) should discard the proposed Alternatives and substantially redraft the Plan. With the revisions needed, the redrafted Plan should be submitted to another round of public review and comment.

Following are some of the major issues with the proposed Plan/EIS along with alternative recommendations.

RABT (Packrafting)

NPS Plan/EIS Proposal:

Under all proposed Alternatives, “portable, personal watercraft used on the river for RABT would be carried in and out by the user on the itinerary where RABT takes place” would be permitted. A limited number of permits would be issued for day hikes involving river travel, excluding certain closure areas. Across all proposals, maximum group size would be six. Maximum trip length varies by individual Alternatives B, C, and D.

Comments:

The zone-based approach, taking into account realist routes for backcountry travellers is certainly preferably to the arbitrary current limit of 5 miles. The zones in alternative B are smaller and may prevent reasonable crossings on very reasonable itineraries. While I’m not in favor of the 11-mile limit on Alternative D, some hybrid approach with a total river travel limit may be needed to balance reasonable use by backcountry hikers using RABT on genuine backcountry hiking routes with those on traditional river trips.

Proposed Revision:

The final Plan should use the Zones in Alternative B, but modifying the last four zones to allow exit on the north side of the river rather than via tribal land.

Great Thumb Access

NPS Plan/EIS Proposal:

Under Alternatives B, C, &D, the Plan/EIS proposes to permit ten groups of no more than 1-6 hikers per group to access hiking routes off of Great Thumb each year.  These permits would be limited to the months of March through May. Groups would be limited to two vehicles, and would have to be accompanied by a tribal escort from the Havasupai tribe.

Comment:

This proposal does not conform to the Act of Congress, signed into law by President Ford, which expanded the Havasupai lands to include Great Thumb, but maintained a park boundary and imperative to maintain public recreational use and access. Per the Act, the rim of the canyon around Great Thumb (the one-quarter mile from the rim) is within the Park and not within the tribal lands, and should be open to backcountry visitors. NPS has presented no information or analysis in the Plan/EIS to support either the seasonal limitation or the group size limitation as proposal.  Further, the requirement for a tribal escort does not fit within any objective for protecting park resources, since the escort is across tribal, rather than the Grand Canyon National Park.

Proposed Revision:

The rim of the canyon around Great Thumb (the one-quarter mile from the rim) is within the Park and not within the tribal lands, and should be open to backcountry visitors.  Areas below the rim fall within existing Use Area definitions and no change to visitation or permit limits is needed.

Boundary Road

NPS Plan/EIS Proposal:

Under Alternatives B and D, the Boundary Road would remain closed.  Under Alternative C, the road would be reopened.

Comment:

The Boundary Road should be reopened. The proposed Plan/EIS states that this road could be used occasionally for emergency vehicle access, and this is true. Opening the Boundary Road, however, would also allow access to more trailheads between Hermit’s Rest and the Grand Scenic Divide. This could potentially reduce traffic on Hermit Trail, spreading use over a wider area. In addition, opening the road would allow access to areas of the GCNP such as the South Bass trailhead, and by allowing hikers to travel to and from South Bass without encroaching on Havasupai tribal lands, would alleviate impact of these tribal land.

Proposed Revision:

Open the Boundary Road to provide access within the GCNP boundary all the way to the South Bass trailhead. You can consider keyed/gated access as a way to help monitor and control traffic.

Commercial Guided Hiking

NPS Plan/EIS Proposal:

The Plan/EIS offers many possible changes to the way hiking guide companies (“Commercial Overnight Backpacking Services”) are regulated.  One of the most significant changes would grant concessions to selected guide companies. Concessioners would be reserved a specified number of user-nights and will no longer be required to apply for permits on an equal footing with hikers who are not using guide services.  A number of other changes include:

  • Commercial use not allowed in Wild zone
  • Caps on groups per night
  • Concessioners allowed to reserve trips one year in advance
  • Limitations on CUA holders (as distinct from concessioners)

Comment:

This change seems to hurt both self-guided hikers and those who prefer guided hikes alike by dividing the potential user nights into bifurcated commercial and private categories. Commercial guided hiking, whether under the CUA or with selected concessionaires, should compete fairly for the limited pool of permits with hikers who prefer to go on their own.

The Plan/EIS uses the phrase “visitors that prefer to travel independent of commercial services” to self-guided independent hikers.  In Alternatives B and C, independent hikers would lose availability for user-nights of backcountry camping in some areas as these would be reserved for commercial concessionaires.  The user-nights thus transferred fall primarily within the high-demand Corridor management zone.  A smaller number of user-nights are removed from commercial use (in other zones) and freed up for independent hikers.  Not only is the number of nights unbalanced, with more nights taken away than freed up, but the nights taken are in use areas with high demand, in which independent hikers already have difficulty obtaining permits. These areas, including the Corridor are areas where many independent hikers would like to gain the experience and confidence to hike own their own. Limiting the user-nights here risks potentially shutting independent hikers out of these popular areas not only denying them the opportunity but also potentially pushing first-time hikers into more remote areas. This potentially increases the impact in Wild areas, and also may raise safety concerns as more inexperienced hikers are in effect encouraged to go where traffic, ranger patrols and park services are far less prevalent by definition.

Proposed Revision:

All hikers should have equal opportunity to get permits for Corridor and other high use areas, including during the popular Spring and Fall hiking seasons.

Day Hike Permits

NPS Plan/EIS Proposal:

Under all action alternatives (B, C, and D) day use permits would be required seasonally for hiking beyond three defined locations:

  • Bright Angel Trail: East Tonto Trail junction.
  • South Kaibab Trail: Tip-Off
  • North Kaibab Trail: Manzanita Resthouse

The expected cost of the day use permit is at least $5 per person per day.

The Plan/EIS indicated that will be subject to Adaptive Management with future changes to include possible limitations to group size, daily total use limits, designated days for groups, year-round permit requirements, and expanding the policy to include additional trails.

Comments:

From available data it appears that during busy Spring and Fall weekends an estimated 400 to 600 people hike or run Corridor Zone trails rim-to-rim or rim-to-river. The highest impact from extended day hiking and running is concentrated l the Corridor trails and Phantom Ranch during Spring and Fall weekends. Any mitigation strategy should thus be focus on these areas and times.

As proposed, only Corridor trails are affected, and I agree with this recommendation. However, it seems many people hike only a couple miles down the major trails. Subjecting all of these hikers to a paid day-hiking permit would likely push them to use other trails not subject to the permit fee. These could very predictably adversely impact to soils, vegetation, wildlife and visitor experience in those areas, and potentially create safety issues as less experienced hikers increasingly venture into more wilderness areas.

As the worded in the Plan/EIS, through the Adaptive Management process the NPS could than significantly and continuously increase affected areas and costs with little or no public input. This is addressed more below.

Proposed Revision:

Because the stated objective of the day hike permit is to reduce impact on Phantom Ranch facilities, the permit should be required for day hikers crossing the river (from the south) or passing the Clear Creek trail junction from the north rim.

River Zone/Human Waste Management

NPS Plan/EIS Proposal:

The NPS proposes to adopt a River Zone consisting in essence of the shoreline along the Colorado River up to the historical high water line.  Under Alternatives B, C, and D the Plan/EIS would require human waste to be carried out from River Zone backcountry sites.  Commercially guided backpacking trips will be required to carry out human waste from all use areas without toilets.

The Human Waste policy will be subject to Adaptive Management, with possible future actions to include replacing or removing existing toilets, installing toilets at additional sites, or a year-round waste carry-out requirement at all, or specified, use areas or zones.

Comment:

The intent to mitigate the impact of proper human waste in the river zone, and in beach camps like Hance Rapids in particular, is much appreciated and necessary. However, the carryout provision is fraught will challenging management and enforcement problems, especially in “at-large” camping areas. I’d prefer to see some of the more accessible, high-use, high-impact areas have designated hiker campsites with composting toilets rather than pack out rules, which I feel serve both the public and the resource better (given the enforcement and compliance issues).

Hance Rapids is a site at which a composting toilet could be justified, as is already the case at Tanner Beach. Hance Rapid might benefit even further from designated campsites within something like ¼ mile of the river to prevent social trailing to creative camping just to avoid pooping in the River Zone. Some additional mitigation might also be warranted outside of the River Zone. For example, Hance Creek has seen a big increase in obvious toilet paper blossoms, from too much pooping, and too little packing out toilet paper. (Evidence of why pushing more hikers out of the Corridor and further into the backcountry might not be a good idea.)

Proposed Revision:

A new composting toilet at Hance Rapids should be incorporated. A proposal for designated campsites within ¼ mile of Hance Rapids should be considered. A composting toilet for Hance Creek should also be considered.

Deer Creek Narrows Closure

NPS Plan/EIS Proposal:

The draft Plan/EIS proposed different treatments of the Deer Creek Narrows. Under Alternatives B and D, the existing closure of Deer Creek Narrows will be made permanent, while under Alternative C, the Narrows will be open and unrestricted.

Comment:

The 2012 Superintendent’s Compendium effectively closed the Deer Creek Narrows. “Deer Creek Drainage, river mile 136.9, right bank of the Colorado River… Rappelling or ascending and descending on ropes, webbing, or other climbing and rappelling devices, whether natural or man-made, within Deer Creek is prohibited. This restriction extends from within the watercourse of the creek beginning at the Patio (northeastem-most part of the Deer Creek Narrows) and extending to the base of Deer Creek Falls. (This restriction is a necessity for the protection of a significant cultural resource).”

This was a contentious decision, as was acknowledged by the Superintendent. And yet the Plan/EIS does not explain the basis for the present recommendations to either close or open the Narrows. Further, the Plan/EIS mistakenly indicates that “Ethnographic resources located in the narrows are disturbed by trailing and vandalism, crowding, inappropriate behaviors on-site and altered access to traditional use locations”. Certainly as “The Patio” is a stop for as many as 100 river runners frequent daily in the summer months, it is almost just as certainly incorrect in the lower Narrows, accessible only be technical canyoneering techniques. Closing the Narrows does not provide significant additional protection to the area.

Proposed Revision:

A revised Plan should mirror a an effective solution the National Park Service has used elsewhere with regards to the cultural collisions between First Nations, and the general public that finds significant spiritual appreciation for nature and wilderness in places like the Deer Creek Narrows. For example, the NPS allows climbing on Devil’s Tower in Devil’s Tower National Monument part of the year, and promotes a climb-free season as well. See http://www.nps.gov/deto/planyourvisit/climbing.htm for details. Devils Tower National Monument has incorporated a seasonal permit system, combined with a strong climbing education component, to sensitize climbers to First Nation concerns. We encourage NPS to explore an approach involving voluntary seasonal limitations on canyoneering in Deer Creek Narrows.

Canyoneering

NPS Plan/EIS Proposal:

Definition of fixed anchors not given.
Webbing color requirements not given.

Proposed Revisions:

To avoid confusion, NPS should define a fixed anchor as an anchor that is left in place after use. NPS should also make a distinction between removable fixed anchors that do not alter rock surfaces (for example, webbing around a rock) and permanent fixed anchors that require alteration of the rock where the placement is to occur (for example, a bolt).

With regard to authorization for placement of new permanent fixed anchors, we propose that Grand Canyon NPS take a programmatic approach, as provided in Director’s Order #41, p. 15-16: Authorization may be issued programmatically within the Wilderness Stewardship Plan or other activity-level plan, or specifically on a case-by-case basis, such as through a permit system.

An example of a programmatic approach is the anchor policy in use at ZION NP, which has been in place since 2007 and is working well. NPS should programmatically authorize canyoneers to place and remove permanent and removable fixed anchors, with a strong emphasis on clean canyoneering techniques and practices. Likewise, the Plan/DEIS should define a process for making park-level decisions regarding the placement or removal of fixed anchors. (See further comments in the Adaptive Management section, below.)

A black webbing rule should be included in the canyoneering anchor policy. Black always works due to the universal presence of shadows, cracks, mineral streaks and other black features, independent of rock color, and avoid the mismatched color issue. This simpler, more specific approach has a greater chance of success than the traditional color-matching plan, and thus greatly limiting the visibility and impact on other users. 

Dividing Boysag Use Area (LB9)

NPS Plan/EIS Proposal:

This has not been addressed in the plan/EIS, although it was requested in the public scoping prior to the plans release.

Comment: 
Use area LB9 in the western Grand Canyon is needlessly large under current use limits, and even moreso under proposal that would limit the area to two small groups of 6 within the area. For example, as defined, hikers in 150-Mile (SOB) Canyon can be blocked from access by hikers in Tuckup Canyon 14 river miles away. The chance of overlapping in the current use area is practically zero. This can also create a safety issue in that canyoneers descending 150 Canyon may try to get through the entire canyon and across the river in one day to avoid needing a permit to camp in LB9 when it would be safer to allow more time and camp within the canyon.

Proposed Revision:
LB9 should be split into two use areas with a new boundary between the two at Cork Spring Canyon. Both of these use should be designated Wild.

Adaptive Management

NPS Plan/EIS Proposal:

Develop and implement an adaptive management process that includes monitoring natural, cultural, and experiential resource conditions and responding when resource degradation has resulted from use levels.  This process allows the park to address increasing demand for access and uncertainty of how different recreational uses impact park resources.

The adaptive management process would be applied to

  • Climbing
  • Canyoneering
  • Extended day hiking and running
  • Tuweep day use
  • Use area management
  • Human waste management

Comment:

I understand and agree with the need for the Superintendent of GCNP to adapt to both new information and changing use patterns in the park to best meet the goals and objectives outlined in laws, regulations, and the Plan/EIS. In some cases, it will be necessary for the Superintendent to make quick reactive decisions to this end.

However, such decisions should wherever possible include an opportunity for public input and user group dialog for any Adaptive Management changes as the default rule.

The 2012 closure of the Deer Creek Narrows provides one good illustration of why this is necessary. The Deer Creek closure was very controversial, and a variety of users would have been able to flag relevant issues very quickly. And yet the Superintendent noted in a letter discussing the issue “When I made the decision to put the restrictions in the Superintendent’s Compendium, neither I nor park staff believed the restriction would be controversial in nature. However, based on the number of letters and emails we have received since implementing the restriction, the number of participants on the conference call last week, and the content of the conversation on the conference call, it is clear that the decision to restrict access to Deer Creek is more contentious than we initially understood.” Exactly. There was no imminent threat or emergency situation. And yet the Superintendent issued a ruling that was very controversial and well beyond the understanding of the Superintendent or park staff.

The public deserves an opportunity to provide input wherever possible.

Proposed Revision:

Any future management actions involving the implementation of the elements of Table ES.1b “Implement as Needed Through Adaptive Management” should go through a public comment period of no less than 30 days, with due notice given.

Further, included more generally in the plan any additional measures should be subject to the same level of public comment, with all final decisions made in full consideration of these comments. The Superintendent may from time to time need to put in place immediate measures to fulfill the duties of the NPS to comply with laws, regulations and meet the goals of the management plan when time is of the essence. However, even these emergency decisions should be in effect for a short time only, three to six months, during which, the decisions can be offered for a public comment period as described above before long-term adaptive management policies are established.

 

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New Grand Canyon Resort Opens!

Four Season Kanab Creek

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Tanner to Grandview: A Fresh Perspective on the GFC

Having had my ankle rebuilt in December, I was looking for a shakedown cruise to test the surgeon’s work. I did the PT, waited exactly the recommended four months, and decided that it made sense to stick to trails (mostly) with this foray. That provided a great way to introduce some people to a taste of the backcountry of the beautiful Grand Canyon. The route was an open loop from the Tanner trail to Grandview. This is no doubt a difficult introduction—heck, it’s a strenuous route for experienced Grand Canyon hikers. But it was a tough crew, they prepared for the trip, and all eight of us made it through. Rather than a more conventional trip report, I thought it would be more interesting to share reflections on the journey through the eyes of the new-comers. Here’s what some had to say. (And here is an assortment of pictures from Beth, Joe, and Mike.)

20150419_193406Pre-trip preparation

Julie: I am excited and anxious. This is a bucket list trip for me as I like camping and have always wanted to experience the canyon. However, I have also read blogs about the trails we are taking, and I am fairly nervous. I am feeling pretty good about my physical fitness for the trip. Our dinner together provided a nice opportunity to meet the group.

Beth: What the fuck am I doing?

DSC_0712Day 1

Monday, April 20th. Breakfast at El Tovar, a hitched ride from some friendly Canadians from Grandview to Lipan Pt., and a long stroll from the Tanner Trailhead to the River. (9 miles and 4,700 feet.)


GC 2015 - Tanner to Grandview MRDSC_0725Sydney:  
“So pretty!”  The GFC is so immense, it is hard to conceive that we are going to hike all the way down and across and out.  Good thing we trained for this…. It sure doesn’t seem like we trained for this.  Stayed up late pumping water for the next day’s big haul.

Beth: Are we there yet? Slept next to the mighty Colorado.

Grand Canyon - Tanner Beach - 2015

Julie: I am loving this – at least for the first 5 miles. At some point, I just was worn out and wanted to get to the camp site. We left at 9:30, and it is looking like we won’t arrive at camp until 5:30. Not much time to rest, eat dinner, pump water and set up camp. The downhill is taking a serious toll on my feet and quads. Already thinking about how I can call a helicopter for a rescue.

20150421_084450Day 2

Tuesday, April 21st.  With tired legs, we hiked the Escalante Route downriver for 10 miles, up 1,000 feet, and down a bit more than that back to the river at the mouth of Escalante Creek.

Grand Canyon - Escalante RouteJulie: Leaving quite early today (7:30). I feel like I ran a marathon the day before and my feet have blisters everywhere. I lace off and off we go. The views are superb. Today’s trail has some extremely scary ledges that we have to maneuver around and some other sketchy climbing. It is amazing how long it can take to walk 10 miles. It is also amazing how far up 1,000 feet seems, and every downhill step is killing my quads and toes. We enjoyed a lot of different flowers today and stopped to take a lot of pictures. The last mile or so is in a riverbed, and I am feeling pretty good. The sound of racing rapids is wonderful and I am just excited that I can soak my toes. We arrive at 4:30. Another long Marathon day. Camp is great and food too. Mike’s margaritas are the bomb! (Editor’s note: Yes, those were some good margaritas! Thanks for the inspiration, Duncan.)

DSC_0745Beth: I forgot to write out my will before I left.

We hiked 10 grueling miles on the Tonto trail. Feet only inches from the side of the cliffs. I was mentally exhausted from constant fear of falling off. This ended at an amazing campsite where we made a new hiker friend.

20150421_123915Sydney: Big Agnes did us right.  The hike to Escalante should be long, but easier on the knees and toes.  The flowers are amazing, as well as the spectacular views through the canyon.  The only way to experience this is on my own two tired legs.  So excited to hear the river at the end of the day.

Karen: “Here comes the Dread Pirate Rogers. And he’s gaining on us.”
Beth: “Inconceivable!”
(Editor’s note: “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”)

Grand Canyon - 75-Mile CanyonDay 3

Wednesday, April 22nd.  A three-mile ramble through the narrows of Seventy-Five Mile Canyon, a rock hop along the river to the Papago Wall, up and then down everyone’s favorite Papago Slide before continuing the rocky path to a nifty oasis at Hance Rapids.

Tanner to Grandview - Papago Wall MRDSC_0819Sydney: “Short” hike to Hance Rapids.  Looking down into Seventy-five Mile Canyon with amazement and then climbing down into the bottom of it was amazing.  Glad that I am not afraid of heights as we climb Papago Wall and descend Papago Slide.  That was actually really fun.

Julie: Short day of walking but mentally challenging. My body is totally wasted. Feets and quads do not want to work. The Papago Wall wasn’t so bad with help on the pack but the Slide was intimidating. Mainly because I felt like I had no strength left. It seemed like the last mile walking to the beach should have been easy but every step was a challenge. We had a nice long night at camp and more foot soaking. I am so happy to have my walking buddy Jenny.

Grand Canyon - Papago SlideBeth: Only 3 miles. Might as well just tackle that damn wall. Feet don’t fail me now. I stirred up a rattler, which freaked me the hell out. But no foul play. We were there early enough to enjoy some sun bathing and cool (fucking cold) water.

Red Canyon - New Hance from top of Papago Wall

GC 2015 - Tanner to Grandview MRDSC_0842Day 4

Thursday, April 23rd.  Leaving Hance Rapids, we started at the beginning of the Tonto Trail and hiked up about 1,100 feet and about 6+ miles to Hance Creek, to camp under a big cottonwood tree.

GC 2015 - Tanner to Grandview MRDSC_0852Julie: Starting our climb out. My feet are oozing from the blisters, but I have mastered getting them numb in my shoes as I walk. We had a lot of uphill but then flat easy walk. I just wish I wasn’t so tired so I could enjoy it more. Our campsite was awesome. A little oasis in the desert. It is so nice to know we are here for 2 nights.

Beth: Not too shabby. Stress aside I am starting to get the hang of this. Feeling like a pro and not so much a novice.

Sydney: Leave the river and climb to our little oasis.  This one seemed longer than it really was.  Good time for the rest day to come.

GC 2015 - Tanner to Grandview MRDSC_0858Day 5

Friday, April 24th.  A layover day at Hance Creek, with an (optional) day hike down Hance Creek.

Julie: A total rest day. I decided not to even do a day hike to give my feet a rest and soak. We had a very windy and light rain day. It was perfect for some nap time in the tent and hanging out with our group. Sometimes forced lack of activity is good. I was thankful for a tent over night with raging winds.

Beth: Not one to sit around all day. (Editor’s note: Beth and Karen hiked down Hance Creek to see some polished schist and other pretty things.)

IMG_5679

Sydney: Rest.  Dodging raindrops.  Granny camping.

Mike: Sydney wins the best hair contest, AGAIN.

GC 2015 - Tanner to Grandview - Hance Creek

GC 2015 - Tanner to Grandview MR DSC_0895Day 6

Saturday, April 25th.  We climbed up 3,700 feet in 5 miles from Hance Creek to Horseshoe Mesa to the Grandview Trailhead.  All present and accounted for, sir.

GC 2015 - Tanner to Grandview MR DSC_0898Julie: Besides my sore feet, my body feels rested. I am ready to be heading home. We all decide on a very early start at 6:00 am. I think we are all ready for civilization. Todays walk is up, up, up but spectacularly beautiful. Jenny and I try to stop and take in the view as we know it is our last day. Today is not as hard on my body but it is on my lungs. A lot of heavy breathing as we make our way up. It seems like I should constantly be done, but there is always more uphill. Finally finishing, tears come to my eyes as I realize I have gotten to experience what so few people ever will. Pure beauty.

GC 2015 - Tanner to Grandview MR DSC_0907

Sydney: Up, up, and away.  We prepped for a 6 AM start and lucked out with cloud cover for most of the day.  Grandview did not disappoint.  Had several interesting conversations along the way, including running into a friend of Susanne’s from Atlanta.

Beth: this too shall pass… by far the most physically challenging for me. My feet felt like lead. All 8 of us survived with minimal wounds (some sore toes and knees).

Post-trip reflections.

Julie: I never realized what a physical and mental challenge this trip would be. As a very athletic person, I thought I would be fine. It was far more grueling than I could imagine. It developed a new level of mental toughness when you have no alternative but to go on. I loved learning about back country camping and will definitely be doing more.

Sydney: Very grateful to Joe and Mike for taking some of our weight along the way.  Probably saved a few remaining toenails, and definitely saved Susanne from being eaten by birds.

Beth: I found a different kind of strong in myself and I most definitely realized that I have fear I knew I never had. I loved the physical challenge, but the constant fear of the unknown or the “what ifs” was very taxing.

The beauty I saw was by far the most rewarding part of the whole trip. Not many people will see the canyon the way we did. I am very lucky to have participated in such an adventure.

I didn’t shower for 6 days… I ate nuts and dried fruit, freeze-dried meals, and lots of powdered coffee. I met some really awesome, strong folk and bonded with family. Would I do it again? Yup.

 (For the still curious, here is an assortment of pictures from Beth, Joe, and Mike.)

11178329_10152933476579958_5360288401528925797_n

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“This is a pleasure trip?” Bouncing around Marble Canyon

With a quizzical look and a Minnesota delivery, Seth asked us “This is a pleasure trip?” He was on a river rafting trip on the obligatory stop at Redwall cavern. Bob, Maureen, and I had just floated in on our inflatable shower curtains (some call them “pack rafts”, but we’re realists). The question was a fair one. And one we then got to ask ourselves over and over as we humped too-big packs up sketchy steep stretches, hopped through boulder fields, and side-hilled on ball-bearing pebbles. The answer was always obvious, and required only a change in inflection. “This is a pleasure trip!” Shinumo Wash Rappel Twenty-nine mile canyonI’m going to skip the step-by-step narrative–sparing you not out of compassion, but only because I’m too darn busy right now. Instead, you’ll get not-quite-random thoughts, musings, and observations. (Jump right to a collection of photos from the trip.) 116a - MR DSC_0522First off, though, a brief description of the intended route. This week+ was really split into three sub-trips. Why? Because NPS permit rules limiting pack rafting mileage made it necessary. Kind of a drag, it meant we had to enter and exit the national park three times to comply. It added mileage and elevation and energy that we would have preferred to use in slots and poking around on top of the Redwall. The only pluses were trailhead pit stops that allowed us to carry less food and rope on some legs, beer, and a clean shirt. The combined itinerary, as planned, looked like this.

Trip 1 Night 0. Car Camping somewhere near Eminence Break trailhead (Navajo reservation). Day 1. Head down Shinumo Wash (Twenty-nine Mile Canyon) to river, cross river, float downstream to South Canyon. Camp at South Canyon Mouth. Day 2. HIKE OUT South Canyon/Bedrock Trail to trailhead.

Trip 2 Afternoon Day 2. Start at Bedrock trailhead. Around to South Canyon, and down South Canyon to river. Day 3. Float down from South Canyon to around Mile 35 and head up to either dayhike or hit Nautiloid or 35 Mile. Day 4. Repeat some version of previous day’s fun, 36-Mile, 35-Mile, Nautiloid. Day 5. HIKE OUT up Tatahatso Wash with Eminence Break exit, and car camping near Eminence Break trailhead.

Trip 3 Day 6. Down Tatahatso Wash including Redwall narrows to Colorado River. Camping at River. Day 7. Hike/float downriver to Eminence Break route. Exit that day or wait following, depending on time/energy. Day 8. HIKE OUT via Eminence Break “trail”.

And some points: OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

While the road to Tatahatso Wash appears to be a superhighway on some maps, it ain’t. The first several miles are clear and easy, and then you jump onto a road with two tire tracks in the middle of a maze of other similar roads. As we hit this just before the sun went down, we soon lost the ability to navigate from landmarks. And we got lost. A GPS would have been helpful here. Even George Steck noted that he once, while in this area, thought he was heading 180 degrees opposite from his real direction.  No biggie as we had food and water and just eventually decided to camp by the road. 011 - MR DSC_0468However, the post-dark meandering meant we weren’t at the trailhead, and it ate into our night time gear futzing.

Gear futzing was needed because Bob and I had just flown in, and Mo had just driven from Yosemite where she’d been climbing and wrangling the volunteers on a week of service. Plus, despite her worldwide mountaineering and climbing experience, this was her first canyoneering experience (we figured we’d start her with a small taste–8 days of suffering in the Grand Canyon).

This meant a later start than anticipated…and we still had to get out to the Eminence Break trailhead and a shuttle over to Shinumo Wash. Tim was a great shuttle driver. Found us at night, navigated to the trailhead for a vehicle drop. And then spent a lot of time helping us find the right drop in Shinumo Wash (our mileage counts having been jacked by the meandering, and descriptions a bit unclear on some of the mid-route miles). All told, the most difficult route finding of the trip was on the roads on Navajo land before we actually starting hiking, and we didn’t set off down Shinumo Wash until after noon. This lost half-day impacted the rest of the itinerary. 048 - MR DSC_0475

Tim hiked down the wash with us for a while, before leaving us to our own devices. We got down to just above the Redwall narrows by 3:30. Decision time. We thought we could rush through and hit the beach by 6:30. By we also thought, “why?”.  Why risk finishing the descent after dark? Why rush through what promised to be a beautiful slot? So we pulled up and camped.

Great decision! 059 - MR DSC_0501Morning found us packing up and donning wetsuits. I topped it off with the birthday hat that my nephew had given me a couple days earlier for my 50th–he’d asked “can you wear it while you’re on the ropes?”. So I did.

Shinumo was indeed a beautiful slot (see the image at the top!). The water was chilly, but not icy, and we were glad to have the neoprene. And just as glad that we could take our time and enjoy it. Twenty-nine Mile Canyon - Grand CanyonIt turns out that many climbers aren’t used to rapping off piles of rocks, knot chocks, or little pebbles jammed in cracks as anchors. Mo looked on with a combination of curiosity, terror, and excitement as she pondered the saying, “there are old climbers, and there are bold climbers, but there aren’t old, bold climbers.” Mo, I’m not calling you old! But at 60, and with her experience, her questions and input where appreciated. And she gained confidence in the anchors’ ability to hold us as we progressed. Heck, if they held Mike, they’d hold her. (Yet another example of the Fat Man at Risk principle–even Skinny Mike still weighs in at 200, plus gear.) Shinumo Wash - Silver Grotto - Canyoneering

Speaking of Mo, holy crap, the woman was carrying about 40% of her body weight with all the technical gear. With a smile. She wasn’t as fast as Bob or me, but she covered the distance just the same. 30 year old gym rats would have been crying, and she made it look like she does this every day. (Lugging a pack that was 60% of her body weight on a climbing mission over Shepherd’s Pass gives one a sense of her carrying capacity.) 116b - MR DSC_0530

Word apparently still hasn’t gotten out that black webbing is the rule in the GC. I cleaned out and rebuilt a couple of anchors built with orange webbing. (Bob muled out the cleanings along with a hunk of old tent until we were able to foist them on a rafting party.) We left someone else’s red and blue anchor in place–mid-slot, and well constructed, in good shape, and invisible to anyone not in the slot, but not black.

Gear note: this was my first field test of the CRITR rappel device. Loved it! Smooth, but with great control, and ability to add (and then remove) friction on the fly. 149 - MR DSC_0584

Exiting Shinumo, we hopped in pack rafts. The delay in getting down Shimuno, meant we were now a good half-day behind, and we still needed to fly up South/Bedrock to stay on permit and earn our beer. We’d also burned a half-day’s energy. I’d like to say we enjoyed South Canyon, but we looked at it more as a necessary evil. 161 - MR DSC_0596

At the South Canyon beach, we did have the pleasure of watching ravens empty Mo’s stuff sacks. Fascinating–and since there were no goodies to be had, they were soon on their way.

But remember one of the few positives I mentioned about splitting this into three legs? Exit meant beer!

The following morning found us more or less back on schedule, although with slightly lower ambitions. We’d do some more exploring in the area–adding a quick trip to Stanton’s Cave for example, before heading down river. 191 - MR DSC_0604bScouting downriver, we saw some bumpy water that didn’t have great portage opportunities. No real rapids, but some decent riffles and eddy fences that looked like they’d challenge the pool toys. And they did. Bob’s Supai raft filled with water, and his pack floated out. Mo went for a post-flip swim. I would have been doomed in the Supai, but my Flytepacker prevailed, and I was able to make sure Mo got to shore to empty and relaunch. Bob did the same on the opposite side of the river. In many ways, this was reassuring. Wetsuits and PFDs did their jobs. Obeying Archimedes’s principles, boats floated when capsized. And it was pretty straightforward regathering. However, it also make clear–these flatwater boats aren’t intended for big water. And with varying water levels and conditions, risking the Colorado in these rafts without good thermal protections and proper PFDs would be stupid. 222 - MR DSC_0612

Speaking of the Colorado, it was chocolate brown and full of debris–lot’s of logs and sticks congealing in the eddies. The recent downpours had an effect. Related Gear

Note: The MSR Hyperflow water filter crapped out. Even using a rafting as a settling pool on the very silty river water wasn’t able to bring it back to life. The backflush procedure is a bit finicky, and we soon resorted to iodine. Although it’s slower, I have better success with the Sawyer Squeeze.

We did see a few rafting parties at our Redwall cavern stop. They were quite curious about our escapades. And accommodating with a couple more beers–welcome on a warm day. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA With the adjustment to the schedule, we didn’t rush to our target campsite. Instead, we explored Nautiloid from the bottom, peeked at the 35-mile canyon exit (barely noticeable from the river, without much of a hint of the pretty canyon behind it), and checked out the traverse from 35-mile to our intended camp at about river mile 35.8, across from the Bridge of Sighs.

The following day we looped around to descend 35-mile canyon. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe climb up from the river is best described by Steck in his Loops book. Definitely worth a read if you’re heading this way. It helps build confidence as you’re picking your way up the steep slope that you’re actually headed somewhere! 35-mile was a nice little canyon. We added one rap more than in Todd’s description. Even Climber-Bob and Climber-Mo didn’t like one of the downclimbs described.  The 160-foot drop in a narrow chute wasn’t as spectacular as some, but still nice. I particularly enjoyed the narrow exit and drop down to the beach. 307 - MR DSC_0644 Canyoneering - Grand Canyon - 35-Mile Bob on big rap in 35-mileOn exit, we slogged back along the river. The route is a big crumbly, and rarely pleasant, but it goes. The toughest section is right upriver from the 35.8 mile beach. Hitting the beach we heard noises back up at Nautiloid–a rafting party exploring. We waited patiently, smiled, and they were kind enough to row in a few more beers.  Ahhh… (hmmm…a theme develops here).

The following day was a long hike out back to the Eminence Break trailhead. Again, a good reading of Steck’s descriptions combined with a few squints at the map make this pretty clear, including the jaunt up from the river, the contour around to Tatahatso canyon above the Redwall, and the wash itself. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We did cache some technical gear in the wash for a planned return to descend the narrows the following day.

Tatahatso Wash is a pretty slow boulder hop. The upper south arm of the wash, called Notsohotso by Andrew Holycross, is slower with even bigger boulders. I referred to it as Tatashitshow–although I actually really liked the scrambling, even with a pack. The escape route up a narrow crack along the Eminence Break fault was sporty. 472 - MR DSC_0697At first glance, the 500 foot climb over which might be as little as 1/4 mile seemed pretty sketchy. And it is! Loose crumbly stuff. A couple of nifty climbs with flaky hand holds. It was a bit intimidating on the way up, and we planned to return the following day.

But up we made it. Again out of the park, and to the car-cache. More beer. And a colder night.

Bob took ill during the night. Some minor GI issues, but more problematic, a fogginess and dizziness that didn’t bode well for the slog back down Tatahatso, the descent of the narrows, or the loop back along the river and up Eminence Break. Canyoneering - Grand Canyon - TatahatsoHad we lived in AZ, we would have just bagged it, left the cache, and come back the following weekend. But we don’t. We didn’t really have flexibility on the backend, either, with flights and obligations looming just a few days out. So, all-for-one, one-for-all, we decided to wait the morning and see if Bob improved. He didn’t.

So Plan B became Mo and Mike on a run down to retrieve the gear cache. We headed down that afternoon for the gear, and came back up the following day, enjoying the Break route three times. By the end, it was a familiar friend. So, Tatahatso is still waiting. And Bob and I are comparing notes to squeeze in a return. Meanwhile, Mo is out buying canyoneering gear and ready to jump in–and when she jumps into a sport, expect big things! (For more, see a collection of photos from the trip.)

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