140 Mile to Sinyala Canyon and Royal Arch!



February 25, 1992                Gil Hallenbeck

I’ve been out in the area you are interested in twice, both times at the Esplanade Level. Access is difficult because the Havasupai don’t allow access to the park from the village of Supai. People do leave from Supai, however, under cover of darkness during a full moon and wearing high gaiters (see Garci’s book on desert travel). The 140 mile trail is the usual entry, but I don’t advise leaving a car parked anywhere on Indian land. In the past I have dropped off food and water caches along the jeep trail, parked my truck at Pasture Wash or even Hermit’s Rest and then walked all the way out to Tahuta Point.

The jeep road has been extended further than any map shows owing to a forest fire, so don’t try to follow it to the bitter end. Also, don’t expect to find the upper end of the 140 Mile Trail on top of the rim. Look for the gully the trail is supposed to go down and then go to the next gully north. You will know you have the right gully if you find a barbed wire fence across it. A hole has been cut in it to crawl through. Using this second gully avoids some bad slide rock on the old route. The rest of the trail down is no problem.

There are campsites just east of the cottonwood grove, but they’re buried under horse manure. The spring at the base of the Coconino is reliable and has a constructed trail going up to it. The spring is in between ravines, not at the head of a ravine, and has an old rusty pipe sticking out of it. Don’t confuse this with small drop springs to either side. There are multiple horsetrails going west from the cottonwood grove.

Olo is pretty easy to go around on the Esplanade, but a shorter route goes across the fault. At one point on the NE arm of the fault you will need a rope to lower your pack down near a chimney. In the spring there is good flowing water and deep pools in this arm, but the water is not permanent. The opposite arm of Olo has a permanent spring just above the Redwall. There is probably more water at the top of this SW arm and straight down the other side a short distance toward Matkatamiba Canyon. Go all the way to the Supai rim and it is a deep pocket in a shallow gully and I have marked it with cairns.

Getting down into Matkat from this side is problematical. One possibility is a ravine one half mile NW of the fault, but it’s a thoroughly confused mess. The other possibility is a route down the NW corner of Panameta Terrace, used by Jim Ohlman. If you stay on the Esplanade and go around Matkat, expect the nastiest country you have ever seen. The rock garden valleys on either side of Mount Akaba are a nightmare. Stay low on the sandstone and avoid the shale at all costs.

If you get to the head of Matkat, there is water in the shallow SE fork just below the Esplanade. It smells bad, probably from the frogs. Sinyala Canyon has a seep spring at its head, just below the Esplanade. There is probably better water in the ravine south of Mt. Sinyala.

Going east from 140 mile creek the problem is crossing the three bays described in Colin Fletcher’s book, “The Man who walked through Time.” Only the first one presents any problem. At its steepest point it’s only 35 degrees. It is not exposed and there is no problem in route finding as Fletcher implies. Just expect to do a lot of stumbling. I got as far as Specter from 140 mile in one day, carrying three gallons of water and tem pounds of food. It is possible to get all the way to Fossil Bay in a single day with a lighter pack. The water pocket at Fossil Bay may have extremely nasty water in it. What I found was jet black from insect larvae.

From Fossil Bay I suggest you hug the Supai Rim in going to Forster. Up higher to the west you will encounter huge eroded Graben. At the head of Forster is probably the stickiest part of the route. Expect a six inch wide sheep track across an open exposed shale slope. It may be possible to detour this “trail” either above or below. From Forster to Apache Point the going is pretty easy. At Apache Point don’t expect any trail except near the rim. The lower part is talus and rockslide. From the base of the Apache Point route you can follow the old Indian trail around to Royal Arch Creek. The trail is faint, but follows a very level, smooth terrace. I made seventeen miles in one day around this. The only snag is the bay just west of Toltec Point.

Don’t expect to find any water except at the water pocket at Fossil Bay. I wouldn’t figure on getting any water at Royal Arch Creek either. The water in this drainage is along way down! In an emergency, you might find a seep in the arm between Montezuma Point and Point Huitzil.

I have never been down Matkat or the Enfilade Route to the river so can’t tell you what to expect. As far as the weather goes, you can expect even early April to be extremely hot, unless you get  a weather front move in. Each day I had a new set of concentric white rings on my shirt sleeves (early April).

I can get off from work only two weeks each year and have chosen the fall season because I don’t like to suffer in the canyon. If you want to do something next fall please give me a call or write.


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