Diamond Peak from down river of Diamond Creek on the Tonto. The route upriver gains the Tapeats on the west side, and then traverses the North side. I used this route on the return.
River Mile 226, to 205 Mile Canyon!
Grand Canyon Trip Report!
Solo Up River to the
December 12-16, 2005
Mile 226, to 205 Mile Canyon along the
Colorado River in the Grand Canyon
With my Hualapai Tribe permit in hand I got underway shortly after 8 am. It had taken about an hour to drive the Peach Springs Wash dirt road from Peach Springs to the Colorado River at Diamond Creek. Feeling like I was late for something, I hastily packed up and headed upriver.
There is a bit of trail at first, but that soon gives out once the Gauging Station is passed. The Colorado River was flowing from 12,000 to 16,000 cubic feet per second, and the water level varied about 2 feet between the high and low. I always hope for a good low on such at trip, as the exposed sand makes for easier walking and faster travel. Mostly this hope is fantasy as it rarely happens.
I believe there is a route up 224.5 to the Tapeats, but I went by thinking I could stay along the river. Soon I was cliffed out as the Granite went right into the water. After exploring a bit, I started working my way up the Granite, to bypass the cliffs. After a couple of deadends I climbed carefully to the top of the Granite, directly underneath the Tapeats. I was able to continue and finally reach the North Point under Diamond Peak, some 300’ above the River. From here it was an easy descent back down the Colorado River and Mile 224 Canyon.
224 Mile Canyon has a small stream, but it is very mineral tasting. I could stay along the River, mostly away from the water, and above the tamarisk and willows. The sand is overgrown, so most of my time was spent higher up from rock to rock.
At 222 Mile Canyon I could see that once again the Granite was exposed at the water, and the Tapeats was above. There are some nice beach camps here. I climbed directly to the top of the Tapeats, some 300 feet. On the return I found a trail that follows the ridge up.
Once on the Tapeats it was smooth going.
There are remnants of a trail on the Tapeats, perhaps dating to the miners as much as 130 years ago to the 1870’s. There is no sign of construction, and mostly the trails are overgrown by vegetation. Harvey describes it as a Burro Trail, however, since Cleveland Amory evacuated them in 1980-81 the trail is only maintained by an occasional Mule Deer.
Jorgen Visbak tells of exploring with Harvey Butchart, "We always crossed just a short way upstream from Diamond Creek when we explored the North side – and we didn’t cross on air mattresses. We used Harvey’s small canoe, which we carried the short way up to our crossing point."
In and out of Granite Spring Canyon is easy as the Three Springs Fault crosses near the Colorado River. It is down a ravine and quickly up a similar ravine on the other side.
Across from 220 Mile Canyon and Trail Canyon, the Tapeats is broken, and in places becomes more talus, then becomes stable once again at the way to 217 Mile Canyon.
I camped at 217 Mile Canyon, satisfied with doing 9 River miles on my first day. I set up a camp at the place where the boaters land to inspect the 217 Mile Rapid. It is rated a 6 or 7 at most flow levels. It didn’t look like anyone had stopped in a while. The beavers are active here, and slapped their tails on the water several time to make me aware of their presence.
From 217 Mile Canyon it is back on the Tapeats and relatively easy going to Three Springs Canyon. Three Springs Canyon has a heavenly flow of water, and would make a nice camp. The River parties stop here sometimes. Looking up the Canyon was very beautiful. I wondered if Harvey had ever slapped the Redwall in its upper reaches?
The Tapeats is barely 50’ above the River in this area! It was really fun walking it’s ledges as the Colorado River boils by below. There are Tapeats sections like this in Marble Canyon, and across from Fossil Bay, and I always enjoy them. This continued for approximately two miles. Just above Pumpkin Spring there is a big lava flow that once covered the Tapeats. Some huge Lava boulders lay over the Tapeats which make for some sporting climbs in and around, over and under.
Pumpkin Springs is at River Mile 213 and is a wonderful place. The Pumpkin is huge piece of Travertine nestled in the Tapeats at the River level. From the River it resembles a Great Pumpkin. The water is mineralized so I filled up with the River water. I really liked the Great Pumpkin Spring. It makes a great rest stop and camp.
At River Mile 212 is the Little Bastard Rapid. It is most challenging at low water levels, and washes out completely at high water. I could just imagine an unsuspecting river runner getting nailed by it at low water. Soon the Tapeats gives out, and I was forced to follow the River to Granite Park.
I tried all options. I stayed at water level. I walked the sand through the brush. I stayed above the brush on the desert talus. It was important to look ahead as much as possible to pick the best route.
Granite Park is a beautiful place. Big and open! Harvey
and Jorgen Visbak came down here from the Rim above. 209 Mile Canyon on the
North side is also big. Homer Morgan, Bill Mooz and Jorgen came down this
canyon from the North Rim to float on air mattresses down to Separation
Canyon and return to the rim by the route taken by Oramel G. Howland, Seneca
Howland, and William Dunn when they left the Powell party in 1869. The three
men were later murdered.
Harvey Butchart and Jorgen Visbak were the prime explorers of this area. They came from the South Rim to Granite Park, as well as along the River, like I had done. and they also explored various routes on the North side, including routes in 220 Mile Canyon, 209 Mile, 207 Mile, and Trail Canyon.
Harvey says a mapper error has resulted in the mis-naming of two Canyons. There are significant signs of trail construction in 214 Mile Canyon and that this actually should have been called Trail Canyon, instead of Mile 219 Canyon which has no sign of construction.
From Granite Park it was three hours to Mile 205. Just upstream from Granite Park there is some metamorphic rock at a 45 degree angle. It was fun to walk on. From there it is easy going along a broad bench away from the River. At 207.5 a large lava bluff comes up. It is best to climb up on it and follow it until it runs out. Then down on the talus and back to the River level opposite Indian Canyon.
I traveled along the shoreline, often staying as close to the water as possible. Near 205 Mile Canyon the shoreline eventually pinches out. The Muav forms a gorge at the mouth of 205 Mile. I was able to climb up on the Muav with a couple of class 5 moves, and then climb back down to the beach just below Kolb Rapid to camp. 12 River Miles this day.
A Mile farther upstream on the North side is Spring Canyon, where John Wesley Powell and his party helped themselves to squash from an “Indian Garden”.
In years past Robert Benson, Colin Fletcher, as well as Bob Marley and Bob Cree, passed through this spot in three separate parties, all many years ago. It is possible to continue along the River but the brush is horrendous. It has gotten worse as the beaches have eroded, and the River’s flow has been regulated. Benson was able to work his way though and above the jungle on until he eventually exited to the Esplanade. At about Mile 197 Marley and Cree hitched a ride to the easier going on the North side of the River. I have no information on Fletcher other than he did this trip going downstream. Green says that the saddle of 192 Mile Canyon offers access to the Esplanade, as well as finding routes up the lava flows.
I had heard from John Green that North arm of 205 Mile Canyon worked to the Esplanade with nothing more challenging than “a rope to raise one’s pack would be helpful”. Tom Martin says that Bob Packard hiked the east arm to the Esplanade above 209 Mile. Other than these two, I hadn’t heard of anyone exploring out here. Green made the trip one October, and then traversed the Esplanade to 193 Mile Canyon.
The North arm parallels the Hurricane Fault all the way to the Esplanade Rim. There is no stream flow. It wasn’t long before I reached a chockstone that I could almost climb, and then using the rope recommended by John Green, pull my pack up. I looked at it for quite sometime strategizing how I would get up it. In the end I decided to explore for a bypass. The next little arm over to the right, I met another unclimbable pourover. I continued to explore for a bypass and eventually found one to the right. A climb up scree and talus, then a traverse along a ledge, and I was above the pourover! Higher still I found I was actually on the fault line.
Here I had two choices. Follow the most direct route and do some big traverses along the fault line. Or drop down, and get back in the main bed. I chose the direct route. I eventually reached a high point in the Redwall at the Esplanade level, but due to the Hurricane Fault, I was nowhere near the actual Esplanade! Yikes! I made the decision to retrace my steps back to the point above the pourover and then see what the main bed looked like.
From the point above the pourover I had to do another easy bypass to get in the main bed at 205 Mile. It was easy walking for a while, and then I entered the Redwall. There were many dry pools, small pourovers, and narrows. It was quite exciting. I came across a few pools still with water, but very green and filled with vegetable matter. There were no signs of deer.
The Redwall narrows seemed to go on forever, and I realized that it was because of the fault. Harvey had said once he was in the Redwall for 2,600’! Finally I got to a pourover with a big pool below, filled with water, which I couldn’t get past without a dip. Even then I didn’t think I could get up the other side without wet shoes. My only option was to backtrack and look for a way out of the Redwall to bypass the big pool.
It is interesting that the Redwall is polished smooth where the water travels over it, but above and on the sides it is rough. That is good for hand holds and foot holds, but really hard on skin and clothes. After a couple of tries I was able to climb out and stay on top of the Redwall until it disappeared. Eventually I got well into the Esplanade and almost to the head of 205 Mile Canyon, but not quite.
Knowing the route now, it was easy to get back to the Colorado River and beach. I did see one isolated cairn that proved someone had been in 205 Mile Canyon before. I spent almost 9 hours exploring and thoroughly enjoyed myself. It is a thrill to be able to figure out the route.
The next two days I retraced my steps back to Diamond Creek. This time I stayed on the Tapeats to a point on the West side of Diamond Peak. There I descended a gully about half a mile up Diamond Creek from the Colorado River.
The December weather was clear, cold and dry. The temperatures varied from mid-30's at night to mid-40's during the day. I saw two river parties on the Colorado River the first two days. None after. It was fun to go where Harvey and Jorgen used to explore. Not many folks get out in this area these days.
5 days, 50 Miles, essentially with no trail at all. Very difficult.
The Colorado River flow didn't vary much. Only the daily fluctuations.
What next? 205 Mile Canyon to Supai on the Esplanade! Want to explore? I always welcome correspondence with other hikers. I am always willing to answer any questions concerning the places I have visited.
Thanks to Mike Quinn, and Jorgen Visbak, for help and support! Also to Harvey Butchart, Colin Fletcher, John Green, and Robert Benson for inspiration, route information, and providing that spirit of exploration!
The overview of the route I did from Granite Park to, and up, 205 Mile Canyon.
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