|Tanner Wash to
|October 20/23 2000 Mike
The day was warm and clear, and everyone said, "Naw, its not gonna rain!" The weather professionals said anywhere from 15% to 90% chance of rain. When Mike Quinn and I got to Cameron and looked at the Little Colorado River it was still running from rain a week before! I waded up to my knees across it and said "no way!" The rule is the bed has to be dry and no rain in the forecast to do the LCR. There will always be another time.
Plan B was Tanner Wash to Shinumo Wash in Marble Canyon. This is an all weather route that can be done any month of the year. I parked the car at the old gas station ruin at Bitter Spring. A California Condor flew overhead. They are easy to identify, not only by their large size and ugly heads, but by the bands on their wings.
I walked down Tanner Wash in the cool of the morning. The first time I was in Tanner was years ago with Jim "Chee" Honiker. We were stopped at the pouroff, not knowing of the bypass route on the left side. This time I still went all the way to the pouroff, then backtracked to the route around the left side. There is one cairn there. This is a rugged traverse through a major slide area, then straight down a rough, steep, ridge back to the bed of the wash. The route from below is not obvious and hard to find.
There were pools of water in Tanner, but I didnt fill up, expecting the day to stay cool. The route along the rim of the Supai to Hot Na Na took a couple hours of hard travel. The footing is rough and slow. It is also possible to head upriver to Salt Wash or even Jack Ass. Hot Na Na had no water at the Supai level, but I knew there was some flowing higher up. Again, I declined the refill, had lunch and rested.
The going was very slow downriver from Hot Na Na along the Supai Rim. The highpoint of the day was passing Rider Canyon and House Rock Rapid at about river mile 17. The debris from Rider has pushed the Colorado River all the way to the South Bank. There is a nice camp at Rider Beach, we stayed there once under the overhangs on our rivertrip. Here I saw another Condor. Probably the same one the that harassed Mike Coltrin at Rider.
The next attraction is the aerial view of the Boulder Narrows at river mile 18.5 . This huge boulder sits right in the middle of the river, splitting the Colorado in two for a short time. There is driftwood on top of the rock from the great floods before Glen Canyon Dam.
The day was still warm, and I was down to half a bottle of water and thirsty. I hoped that the descent to the river would come soon, but it was not to be. However, coming upon the route to the Rim at mile 21.7, I spotted a full pothole in the Supai at the bottom edge of the wash. I dropped my pack at a likely campspot and headed down with my water bottles to fill up. Thirty minutes later I found I could not get down to it! A steep friction climb, ending in the big pothole itself, was the only possibility. There would be no way I could get back up.
I climbed back up to my pack, and brought it down with me closer to the water. By now, it was late, cloudy, and sprinkling. I knew I had no choice but to get the water and camp here for the night. I got my 6 mil cord, tied it around the water bottle, tied the other end to my leg, and fished for water. The cord was plenty long, but the bottle would not sink, so I tied a rock on to it. This worked! I could get half a bottle each time and fill up my other bottle, and cooking pan. The clorine bottle had cracked it's lid and was empty, so the water had to go untreated for the rest of the trip. On the last throw into the pothole, I watched the cord slowly slide down the wet chute toward the pothole, then unravel from my leg, and the end go in the water too! Rats!
I knew I was tired, and now I knew I was stupid. I had a pan with 1.5 quarts, and one bottle with 1.5 liters. Could I complete the trip with such meager capacity? Could I leave a bottle and 50 of rope in a pothole?
I explored again to the left, then to the right, looking for a hidden route down that I hadnt seen earlier. On the right side, I found that I could climb up 20, then hang by my hands to a hold, then hang again and work my way down a crack to the very edge of the Supai and the pothole. Adrenaline high and breathing rapidly, I fished my bottle and rope out, and threw them up to the ledge above. It was easy to climb back up. What a relief!
There were no overhangs, but I found a big boulder that would offer some protection should it rain a little. I relaxed and crawled in my bag and bivy and went to sleep, only to be awakened by a slow, steady rain. I pulled my rain jacket out over my head and arms and tried to go back to sleep. It rained all night! I slept fitfully, knowing my bivy was leaking, but being actually too hot. The rain finally stopped at sunrise. There was a good two inches of water in my cup and I was soaked from the waist down! There was nothing to do except ring out the sleeping bag, pack up and continue. My pack was a few pounds heavier now.
At Mile 21.7 there is access to the Rim. This route is not for the faint of heart, or anyone with any fear of exposure. Harvey was one of the first to re-discover this route when told of the possibility from P. T. Reilly. Bob Marley, Bill Orman, as well as George Steck and others have done this route.
The Supai continued to be slow and rough. The ground was soaked and rocks and boulders that were cemented into place yesterday now would jump loose at the slightest pressure from my foot. I began to wonder if there would ever be a break to get down to the river. Finally, even the Supai bench was getting steeper and steeper, going almost straight down from the Rim to the River. Harvey tells of a route pioneered by Alan Doty that descends the north wall of the first ravine south of 21.7. I didnt see any possibility until the break in the Supai at 23.3. On the way down a Peregrine Falcon circled overhead with his eye on something.
I was glad to get to the beach and the Colorado River and head downstream. This is the section of the Colorado River called the Roaring Twenties. The Rapids are mostly rated 4 or 5 or 6 depending on the flow. Bert Loper died at the oars in Mile 24.5 Rapid in 1949. Speculation is that he had a heart attack. It was some years before his remians were discovered. His boat still rests on a Marble Canyon bank. In addition, near here is a small isolated butte of Redwall that Robert Brewster Stanton called the Marble Pier. He thought it would make a good bridge support for the railroad he would build along the river. About River Mile 25.5, the Redwall comes out and I left the River, gradually ascending.
My goal was Tiger Wash, Mile 26.7, and the rainpocket reported by Harvey, and later Green and Ohlman. I knew it would be reliable. Suddenly the sky began to darken, and a huge boom of thunder came rolling down the Marble Gorge from Glen Canyon and then disappearing below Nankoweap. Anyone who has heard the sound of a freight train slowly coming and growing louder and louder and then gradually disappearing will know the effect. Wow! That was neat! Then another one came and went. Even louder than before! It grew so dark I wondered if my watch had broken and it was really 5 p.m. instead of 3 p.m.! Then the rain began!
I quickly put on my rainjacket, but the rain was coming down in sheets so I looked for shelter. I spied a huge Supai boulder with space underneath. I crawled in and found I was dry and comfortable. After a few minutes I decided I could even spend the night there and be dry if necessary. The rainstorm continued, growing louder and louder! Great volumes of water began to rush by on each side of my boulder and I began to worry that maybe I was in a wash and might get washed away. I went out to access the situation.
There was water rushing everywhere! Every little wash, gully, and pouroff was raging with water. Looking across the River, I could see great waterfalls off the Rim, then descending each successive layer of rock, all the way until the river. The water through the Supai turned into a flow of red, then turning the Colorado from the color of the Paria, to a deep red. I tried counting all the waterfalls but lost count at 70. There must have been almost 100 within my view! In an hour the storm abated, and most of the waterfalls diminished to a trickle as quick as they began.
I sloshed my way through the mud to Tiger Wash and the famous pothole where J.D. Green had to lower a rope to get Ohlman out. I found no pothole for water! There was instead a waterfall from the rim and rushing water the likes of which is not seen even in the Pacific Northwest! There was a choice of a couple overhangs. I made myself at home, and tried to dry my gear out a little. At least I would not get any wetter.
The sleeping bag and some of my clothes were still damp. It was a cold night. I would wake up and have to shake my legs and arms to generate a little heat, then fall back asleep. Maybe it is time for a new bivy? Then a sudden abrupt noise woke me up. I turned on the light and there was a beautiful Ringtail heading off with my dinner bag. He ran in a crack in the rock to hide, but his long tail stuck out exposing him. I put the food bag inside the bivy and went back to sleep.
It was only three miles of what Harvey calls "easy walking" to Shinumo Wash. However, it was so muddy in some places I was in up to my ankles, and the rocks were as lose as ever. Finally reaching the old worn trail in Shinumo, there were many tracks of hikers going down. It turned out to be Bob Bordasch and his team, heading for Eminence Break. It would have been fun to run into them. The old Shinumo Trail, even in its bad state of repair, was a relief after the Supai and Redwall. I was on the Rim by 11:00 a.m.
From the Shinumo Trailhead I only had to hike cross-country across the Navajo Reservation about 15 miles back to Bitter Spring. I headed around the upper Shinumo Canyon toward Shinumo Altar and then turned toward the Notch in the Echo Cliffs that marked where Highway 89 heads toward Page.
By now I was out of water, but there was always some in the many washes I had to cross. All of this section of the reservation drains into Marble Canyon and it is far from flat. At one reststop a Badger walked right up to me before I shoed him off. More thunder, a lighting show, a hailstorm, and night finally brought me back to Bitter Spring.
Not recommended except by the strongest, most experienced parties.
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