|Off Shoshone Point!
December 06, 1970 Harvey Butchart
When Al Doty was climbing Lyell Butte, he studied the east side of Shoshone Point and wondered whether there might be a route down from the rim through the Kaibab an Coconino. Recently when he went to climb Pattie Butte, he checked the place and found that everything worked. It was also obvious that prehistoric Indians had developed this route since there were three or four rock piles to serve as steps, two or three places where logs had been placed, and at least one place where steps had been cut in the Coconino sandstone. He wanted to show me the way down, so we went to Shoshone Point together about 2:40 p.m.
The road to the point is shown on the new map. There is a padlocked cable across the one lane road back from the highway, but one can move some tree limbs out of the way and drive a car around the barrier. At the point are some picnic tables and a concrete grill or two. Below the rim a few yards we found a trail contouring that seemed to show pick and shovel construction. We guessed that it had been built years ago for the early tourists.
Al led me northeast to the rim from the car and we started down a sloping bay. The dusting of new snow made us watch our footing and I slipped once. About two thirds of the way through the Kaibab there is an eight or ten foot ledge across the bay. At the easiest place to descend, barkless tree trunk has been well placed to assist the climber. On the return Al was able to get up here without touching the pole, but I got some real help from using it as a grip.
One should continue down the slope in the bay until he is through the Toroweap and then follow the bench along the top of the Coconino right out to the point. One gets down by looking for cracks between the blocks with now and then a tranverse along the narrow ledge above and awesome drop to the west. Al put up quite a series of little cairns to point out the route, but there is usually little choice or reason to take the wrong way leading to a dead end. There are several ancient rock piles built at the bottom of the longer steps down, and at one place there is a series of four Moki steps cut to assist one. At one place a small but stout forked tree trunk had been wedged into a crack and one could use it as a step.
We had brought my light 50 rope since Al kept warning me that there was a worse place ahead. When we turned to the east side of the point and south a few yards, Al warned me that we had now arrived at the most difficult place. He went down handily, but when I tried to reach the same holds he had used, I didnt feel that I could get my foot down far enough for safety. He came back up and he held the rope since there was no logical place for us to tie it. I coiled the rope around one hand while I used natural grips for the other and got down to the safe ledge below. We left the rope where I had used it. On the return, we noticed another way to get past this angle. By using some natural steps a yard or two lower, one has some good grips and can get past this projecting angle quite easily. I came up here with out using the rope, and I believe I could do this place and the rest of the route with no help.
This bad spot was about the middle of the formation, but the rest is mostly a ramp with no difficulty. The first part of the ramp goes north until it comes to the farthest north part of the route and then it angles down to the southeast. Just a bit of care is needed in finding the way off the Coconino at the very bottom.
Only a couple of yards above the very bottom, I noticed some fossil footprints in the bedrock. This was a switch since the footprints are usually found about a third of the way from the top.
The route is about the most interesting way I know to get through the Kaibab and Coconino. There are so many places in the Coconino where it seems that thee is just one way through, and work done by the aborigines surely makes this one route much easier. With a little practice one should be able to go from the rim to the bottom on the Coconino in 45 minutes and thus save almost an hour compared to coming down the Kaibab trail and over.
Do you have any off trail stories or descriptions you would like to add?
Do you have any questions, comments, or corrections? If so, drop me a email at firstname.lastname@example.org