Exposure on the Redwall Route from the Dam Survey Site
Bob Bordasch and team!
October 21/28 2000 Bob BordaschThis trip is described by George Steck in Grand Canyon Loop Hikes II. Ten of us made the trip: Steve Allen, Bob Bordasch, Fred Braun, Leslie Brown, Jim Finch, Jim Chee Ilchuk, Ed Jaramillo, Marcey Olajos, Joro Walker, and Hansjorg Wyss. All of us except Ed and Joro had hiked together many times. All of us are experienced off-trail backpackers. Marcey and Leslie had done this trip years ago with George Steck, but neither could remember many details.
In July, Steve Allen put in a small cache for us while he was on a raft trip. I had previously obtained both NPS and Navajo permits.
Day 0 (October 21, 2000). We all met at noon at Page airport, then drove down to Cedar Ridge where we turned off onto a dirt road on the Navajo Reservation. We had five cars which we needed to do the shuttle. My GPS was very useful in finding our way through the maze of unmarked roads. We dropped off two cars at the top of Eminence Break, then drove to the Shinumo Wash trailhead, where we camped for the night. Just before dark it began to rain.
Day 1. It was still raining when we awoke and it didn't stop until about 7:30 - it had rained steadily for over 13 hours. Our cups left outside held more than two inches of rain water. My main concern while preparing for this trip was the lack of water, so now I was feeling much more at ease.
Since we expected only about 4 hours of hiking to the river, we waited a couple of hours for the weather to improve before we headed off. It finally let up a little, but continued to lightly mist all the way down the trail. The trail turned out to be much more substantial than I expected. We had no trouble following it all the way down. It was built as a stock trail in the early 50s for use by the Bureau of Reclamation to survey for a possible dam site. The few washed-out places had plenty of ducks.
About 45 minutes before we reached the beach (at Mile 30.2) it began to rain heavily. We were disappointed with the beach. It was very small with many large rocks and little sand. Soon after reaching the beach, the little drainage that built the beach began pouring water out onto our little alluvial fan. The water ran everywhere and threatened every part of the beach. But we all found spots that turned out to be adequate. We soon noticed that very dirty water upriver was heading our way, so we quickly filled all our containers with clear river water. A couple of minutes later the river was completely brown. Waterfalls began to pour off the Redwall all around us. It was a very impressive sight. The rain finally let up enough for us to cook dinner and set up tents. And, boy, was I happy I brought my tent instead of the usual bivy sack. Two others just brought bivy sacks, and one had only a tarp. The rain continued intermittently all night. Twelve hours is an awfully long time to be stuck in a small, one-person tent.
Day 2. Wet and cloudy, but not raining. We planned to spend the night on top of the Redwall instead of going all the way to the beach at Mile 35.7. We brought 200 feet of webbing for use in climbing down Steck's Emergency Descent Ravine to get water from the river. We reached the Descent Ravine in about 4 hours, following a good trail all the way. Along the way we had a wonderful view of Vassey's Paradise. Although we didn't need to go down for water (plenty of water on top), the weather had improved (partly sunny), so we decided to camp on top and spend the afternoon checking out the Descent Ravine. The route starts out following a steep ravine, then contours out onto a steep face of Redwall, where 1-inch diameter rods had been embedded into the Redwall about every 30 to 40 feet most the way down. We used the webbing for a handline. Marcey and Leslie could hardly believe that they had done this route years ago without using a rope. I think it would have been quite challenging to climb up with a full load of water. But we all made it down and back up safely before it started raining again. We had wonderful views from our camp, including a view into Redwall Cavern.
Day 3. Today was mostly cloudy with a little sun and rain. We had another short day of hiking to the beach at Mile 35.7, where we had our cache. About 15 minutes after leaving camp we came to what Steck calls the construction site. It had lots of interesting stuff laying about - it would make an interesting camp. Apparently workers came down the Shinumo Wash trail to a tent camp at this location. I would love to see old photos of this camp, if any exist. It would have been quite an adventurous place to work. The trail ends at this camp, but it was relatively easy hiking until Nautiloid Canyon. Both Nautiloid Canyon and the next one were slow going.
The descent ravine to the beach at Mile 35.7 was quite steep, but there was a scant trail to follow for a while. The beach was pretty small, but better than the one at Mile 30.2. We found our cache still intact (5 gal plastic paint can). It was cloudy, but dry that evening. And we all had a pretty good time, partly due to the wine we had in the cache. It is a very pretty place, directly across from Bridge of Sighs. The Redwall is riddled with caves.
Day 4. Another cloudy morning. As per usual, we were packed up and on our way by about 7:45. A strenuous 45 minute hike brought us again to the top of the Redwall. The weather cleared some, and with only one major side canyon to negotiate, we had a very pleasant morning hike to Tatahatso Wash. We had good views across the canyon to the rim-to-Redwall route we did years ago via Mile 36.7 Canyon (AKA Mitchell Canyon). It was warm and partly sunny when we got there.
I had planned for us to have at least one layover day. Because there was plenty of water in Tatahatso, we decided to camp there and to spend the rest of the day and the next morning exploring the area. We followed a side drainage on the north side of Tatahatso all the way to the main bed. We could only hike a ways downstream before being stopped by a 60-ft pouroff. We couldn't go far upstream either. But we all enjoyed the sunshine and the beauty of the area. This
was the only night I didn't set up my tent. It sure felt good to be out of that cramped tent and watching at the stars.
Day 5. This morning we hiked up Tatahatso for a couple of hours, then back to our campsite and our packs. Even though it had rained a lot, water on top of the Redwall disappeared quickly and could only be found in a few scattered places. So we each hauled about 2 gallons of water this afternoon to our next campsite, the tram site. In spite of our heavy burden of water and the intermittent drizzle, the 3-1/2 hour hike to the tram site was pleasant. We passed the "window" that Steck describes: a large hole or tube in the top of the Redwall that connects with the cliff face about 50 feet below the rim. We stopped to camp at a large flat area about 1/4 mile before the tram site. Again we had spectacular views.
Day 6. Again we awoke to a cloudy and threatening day. Since we all preferred camping up high rather than down at the river, we decided to skip going to the beach at President Harding Rapids, and instead camp on the Redwall near Eminence Break. On the way we passed Buck Farm Canyon on the other side of the river and could see our exit route we used years ago when we entered via Mitchell. The weather turned colder and nastier the closer we got to Eminence Break, which we reached after about 3-1/2 hours of hiking. It was pretty easy walking until the last hour or so, when we had to cross a couple of large faults. We set up camp on the very edge of the Redwall on a flat point jutting out into the river just above Eminence Break. It was the most spectacular campsite on our trip. We had great views up and down the canyon, and across the river to Hansburough Point. I immediately set up my tent when we arrived, and was almost finished when an hour-long downpour accompanied by spectacular lightening was just starting. The lightening was striking the rim and buttes all around us, and even the Redwall rim off in the distance. We were concerned enough about the possibility of lightening hitting us that we climbed down into a ravine and waited for the storm to pass. After it passed, I was pretty cold, so I climbed into my tent to get warm. It was still raining, but the lightening had ended. Jim and Steve scouted a route into Eminence Break from the left side, so we didn't have to drop down into Eminence Break and follow Steck's route up the right side. Fortunately it was not my night for dinner. Jim Finch and Steve braved the cold rain and called us out of our tents for dinner around 5:30. By this time we were standing in ankle-deep mud eating dinner in the pouring rain. We all went to bed right after dinner.
Day 7. We awoke early in a sea of mud. But the clouds looked like they were breaking up. We were concerned that if it didn't stop raining, it would be too dangerous to hike out Eminence Break. It also occurred to us that our cars might not make it out on the muddy roads. We broke camp about 8:00 and headed up to the Break. The weather continued to improve. It took us about 3 hours to get to our cars. The views were breathtaking. We popped out of the fissure and onto the rim just as the sun burst out. A glorious end to a great hike. But I must say that this route is not for everyone. Although we didn't need ropes, and the exposure was minimal, it was very steep and loose. We hiked up in small groups of 2 or 3 to avoid getting hit by dislodged rocks. I would also discourage anyone from entering the canyon via this route - it's just too damn steep and loose.
The roads were very muddy with lots of foot-deep puddles, but since we all had 4 wheel drive, we had little trouble.
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