Grand Canyon --Tanner - Escalante Route - East Tonto - Grandview

Curt

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Feb 1, 2014
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On the first week of April 2016 we made this hike. This was my third hike below the Rim in the Grand Canyon - but it was the hike I wanted to do from the beginning. The other hikes were basically warm ups for this one and to test myself, my gear, and to get some experience below the Rim for myself and my hiking companions before attempting this. In preparing for this I read every trip report and watched every U-Tube video I could find for this route. I knew that this was going to be tough for me and it was a little depressing to read some reports where the authors clearly didn't consider it very challenging. But I'm over 60 now and have had a few significant health problems in the last few years. I knew it was getting down to now or never. So I dialed it in.

Five of us went; Steve, a classmate from high school. Scott, my brother-in-law. Jared, Scott's youngest son who is completing his senior year of high school. Brent, @b.stark of BCP. And me. We started at the Tanner Trail head and finished at Grandview Point. In planning the trip, it was agreed that I should keep the daily mileage low so I planned for 6 days with the longest day being under 8 miles. We camped the first night on top of the Red Wall near the Red Wall break just below Cardenas Butte. This was a dry camp but I chose it on purpose because of the awesome view there. The second night was spent at Cardenas Creek at the Colorado River. The third camp was at Escalante Creek at the Colorado River. The fourth was at Red Canyon at the Colorado River. The last night was spent at the creek crossing at Hance Canyon below Horseshoe Mesa. All of the camp sites except for the first were chosen to take advantage of reliable water sources.

I wasn't disappointed in thinking this would be hard for me. I was pretty shot at the end of 4 of the 6 days. I had been hoping that we would experience normal temperatures for this time of year especially at the River. Instead of the normal 70 degrees at the River we had about 90 degrees which made everything harder - at least for me. My GPS recorded 35 miles and an accumulated elevation change of 35000 feet (that's not a typo).

Having hiked about 100 miles below the Rim now, I think this hike is pretty representative of the best that the Grand Canyon has to offer. The "Escalante Route" section of the hike is considered by the Park Service to be off trail. However, its fully cairned and most of the way it looks like a developed trail. We never had to do any route finding. Let me know if you would like a copy of the GPS tracks.

Hope you enjoy the pictures.

Looking East from Lipan Point near the Tanner trailhead. The Tanner Trail makes it to the Colorado River near where the river disappear behind the cliffs in the upper right of the picture.
GC 2016 - Day 1 - 3.jpg


Looking West from Lipan Point. We made it back to the Rim a little left of where the smoke is on the horizon. 75 Mile Canyon is the canyon the picture is looking down toward the Colorado River Gorge.
GC 2016 - Day 1 - 2.jpg

This is the saddle between 75 Mile Canyon and Tanner Canyon - looking down 75 Mile Canyon. The smoke on the Rim is from a controlled burn that the Park Service was conducting.
GC 2016 - Day 1 - 5.jpg


This is the view east from our camp on the first night.
GC 2016 - Day 1 - 6.jpg


The cliff formation is called "Palisades of the Desert"
GC 2016 - Day 1 - 9A.jpg


I got up at midnight to try to get a picture of the Milky Way. It turned out that it was still below the horizon at this time of night. The picture is taken looking back toward the South Rim. The bright star is Jupiter. The bright light on the Rim at the left is the light at Desert View Tower.
GC 2016 - Day 1 - 10.jpg

Morning view to the east.
GC 2016 - Day 2 - 1.jpg


The North Rim
GC 2016 - Day 2 - 2.jpg

View from the Tanner Trail
GC 2016 - Day 2 - 3.jpg


Finally at the River at Tanner Rapids. From left; Steve, Scott, @b.stark, Jared, and me.
GC 2016 - Day 2 - 4.jpg

While we were at Tanner Rapids we saw a helicopter landing nearby. The Park Service was replacing the containers at the toilets at Tanner Rapids. The crew took our picture with their helicopter.
GC 2016 - Day 2 - 5.jpg


On the Escalante Route somewhere between Tanner Rapids and Cardenas Creek. This area is called "Furnace Flats". A good name. It was somewhere between hot and damn hot.
GC 2016 - Day 2 - 6.jpg

We shared the beach at Cardenas Creek with river rafters who were from Canada. They said they were out for 14 days and were going about 200 miles. I really think I'd like to give this a try.
GC 2016 - Day 2 - 7.jpg


Morning at Cardenas Creek
GC 2016 - Day 3 - 1.jpg


@b.stark on the cliffs above Unkar Delta. Some rafters are below to the left coming to the Unkar Creek Rapids.
GC 2016 - Day 3 - 4A.jpg

GC 2016 - Day 3 - 5A.jpg


Looking down river from the cliffs at Unkar Delta.
GC 2016 - Day 3 - 6.jpg

The trail contours around just below the nearby jagged cliffs.
GC 2016 - Day 3 - 7.jpg


Looking back at Unkar Delta. There was an Ancestral Pueblo village in the delta. We couldn't see it, but it is visible on Google Earth if you look closely.
GC 2016 - Day 3 - 10.jpg

Descending down Escalante Creek to the River. @b.stark is visible on the knoll on the left.
GC 2016 - Day 3 - 14.jpg


Sunset at the rapids at Escalante Creek.
GC 2016 - Day 3 - 17.jpg

Looking down river from our Escalante Creek camp.
GC 2016 - Day 3 - 17A.jpg


At the edge of 75 Mile Canyon. We were at the other end a couple days before. The trail contours around until you can drop down into the canyon. Then you make your way back to the river.
GC 2016 - Day 4 - 3.jpg

Looking down into 75 Mile Canyon. This picture doesn't do the scale of this justice. Its a long way down.
GC 2016 - Day 4 - 4.jpg


In 75 Mile Canyon.
GC 2016 - Day 4 - 5D.jpg


Past 75 Mile Canyon on our way to the Papago Wall which is just visible where the river disappears behind the cliffs.
GC 2016 - Day 4 - 6.jpg


The Papago Wall is the cliff formation where Papago Creek intersects the River. The cliff extends out in to the river and cannot be bypassed on the river side. The way past this is up the cliff. Basically it involves climbing about 30 feet up a cliff.
GC 2016 - Day 4 - 6A.jpg


This shows the 2 basic ways up the wall.
201605051639.jpg


Steve and @b.stark going up the ledge route. Somehow, in person, this looked a lot more precarious than it does in this picture. After watching them do this I decided to take the cliff route.
GC 2016 - Day 4 - 9.jpg

Looking back toward the rapids where Papago Creek enters the River.
GC 2016 - Day 4 - 10.jpg


After climbing the Papago Wall, the next obstacle is descending the Papago Slide. Its as steep as it looks. Steve can be seen below trying to get around some boulders into the nearby chute.
GC 2016 - Day 4 - 12.jpg

The view upstream from our camp at Red Canyon. The Papago Slide is where the River disappears into the V at the center of the picture.
GC 2016 - Day 4 - 13.jpg


The river runs from right (east) to left (west). North is at the top. We camped in the trees at the bottom.
GC 2016 - Day 4 - 14.jpg


I tried again for the Milky Way. This is at 4:00 a.m.
GC 2016 - Day 5 - 1.jpg

GC 2016 - Day 5 - 1A.jpg


First light at 5:00 a.m.
GC 2016 - Day 5 - 1B.jpg


On the East Tonto Trail looking back at Hance Rapids where we camped at Red Canyon.
GC 2016 - Day 5 - 2.jpg

There are some historic asbestos mines operated by Peter Berry in the late 1800's on the north side of the River. Tailings piles spilling down the canyon walls identify the locations of the mines.
GC 2016 - Day 5 - 4A.jpg

GC 2016 - Day 5 - 6.jpg


Mineral Canyon.
GC 2016 - Day 5 - 7.jpg


North Rim
GC 2016 - Day 5 - 9.jpg


Looking down into the intersection of Hance Canyon and the Colorado River Gorge.
GC 2016 - Day 5 - 11B.jpg

Looking up Hance Canyon toward the South Rim. Horseshoe Mesa is on the right.
GC 2016 - Day 5 - 14.jpg


The weather changed on our last morning and we tried to get to the Rim before the rain caught us. This is looking down Hance Canyon toward the North Rim.
GC 2016 - Day 6 - 2.jpg

At "Last Chance Mine".
GC 2016 - Day 6 - 3A.jpg


The Last Chance Mine was a copper mine and is at the top of the tailings. We camped in the trees a little ways above the pour-off at the bottom right of the picture.
GC 2016 - Day 6 - 4.jpg

The miners moved ore from the mine to the South Rim with mules. The trail they built is now called the Grandview Trail. Sections of the trail are paved with slabs of limestone and are still in good condition more than a hundred years later. Some trail construction can be seen on the upper left where the miners filled in a gully to get the trail across.
GC 2016 - Day 6 - 6.jpg


At the old Mess Hall on Horseshoe Mesa.
GC 2016 - Day 6 - 7B.jpg

View down Cottonwood Canyon on the Grandview Trail. Horseshoe Mesa is the cliff formation with the knoll on top on the right side of the canyon.
GC 2016 - Day 6 - 9.jpg


Near the top of the Grandview Trail. Grapevine Canyon is on the left. Horseshoe Mesa is the U shaped formation on the lower right.
GC 2016 - Day 6 - 10.jpg

The view from Grandview Point.
GC 2016 - Day 6 - 12.jpg


It was a great hike with great guys. Thanks for reading my report.
 

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westy

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Everything's cooler, with a fish eye lens !

Love that shot, kudos
 

Ben

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nice. when did you go. i did nearly the same thing in october.
 

Curt

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nice. when did you go. i did nearly the same thing in october.
I went about 6 weeks ago during the first week of April. Are you referring to your trip down the West Tonto Trail - Hermit to Bright Angel? I thought that was pretty epic.
 

Ben

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That was a great trip. We went all the way from grandview to hermit. But I went again this last october, down the tanner and up the south kaibab with a day hike out the Beamer. Haven't gotten around to putting it up here yet. The views off the tanner trail are incredible aren't they.
 

b.stark

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Thanks for the excellent report Curt! And thanks for inviting me to come along. Curt started chatting with me via this forum early on in the year, looking to make more local connections with backpackers (since there aren't a lot of us in Nebraska). After talking for a while, Curt invited me on this trip--having never met me before! And I had never met anybody else who was going on this trip. So--a backpacking trip in a place I'd never been before with people I'd never seen before... Challenge accepted! The Grand Canyon has been on my list for a while, but the opportunity has never been there. This trip came at the right place and the right time, so it was on. I did get to meet Curt a couple weeks before leaving, as we met up so he could carry my gear down in his pickup since I would be flying. And that was the only time I met any of the guys before the trip. Fortunately the group turned out to be excellent, and it was definitely one of the most memorable trips I've ever done. A big thanks to the group for accepting the guy from the internet into their group and sharing such an adventure with me. The canyon is amazing. What really was amazing about it was that every step of the way the view was as good as it could get. In the mountains it seems like there are always some times where you get in a spot where the view is just "meh" but that was not the case in the canyon. I still like the mountains better, but the canyon certainly earned my respect, and there was never a time I regretted being there.

Hope you don't mind Curt, but I'm going to throw my video in here. I do plan to do my own writeup, but it's taking me FOREVER to edit the 2453125601894701893 pictures that I took during the trip. My videos aren't the best, but this does give you a really detailed video report of the route itself and a good look at the scenery.

 

Curt

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That was a great trip. We went all the way from grandview to hermit. But I went again this last october, down the tanner and up the south kaibab with a day hike out the Beamer. Haven't gotten around to putting it up here yet. The views off the tanner trail are incredible aren't they.

Wow! That's a lot of hiking. I kinda think all of your trips are epic. I hope you put up a report. I would certainly read it.

I agree. Hard to beat the views off of the Tanner. World class.
 
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Curt

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Thanks for the excellent report Curt! And thanks for inviting me to come along. Curt started chatting with me via this forum early on in the year, looking to make more local connections with backpackers (since there aren't a lot of us in Nebraska). After talking for a while, Curt invited me on this trip--having never met me before! And I had never met anybody else who was going on this trip. So--a backpacking trip in a place I'd never been before with people I'd never seen before... Challenge accepted! The Grand Canyon has been on my list for a while, but the opportunity has never been there. This trip came at the right place and the right time, so it was on. I did get to meet Curt a couple weeks before leaving, as we met up so he could carry my gear down in his pickup since I would be flying. And that was the only time I met any of the guys before the trip. Fortunately the group turned out to be excellent, and it was definitely one of the most memorable trips I've ever done. A big thanks to the group for accepting the guy from the internet into their group and sharing such an adventure with me. The canyon is amazing. What really was amazing about it was that every step of the way the view was as good as it could get. In the mountains it seems like there are always some times where you get in a spot where the view is just "meh" but that was not the case in the canyon. I still like the mountains better, but the canyon certainly earned my respect, and there was never a time I regretted being there.

Hope you don't mind Curt, but I'm going to throw my video in here. I do plan to do my own writeup, but it's taking me FOREVER to edit the 2453125601894701893 pictures that I took during the trip. My videos aren't the best, but this does give you a really detailed video report of the route itself and a good look at the scenery.


I'm really glad that everything worked out and that you came.

I think you're understating how good this video is. I know I'm not impartial - because I was along and because I know everyone in it - but I've watched a lot of videos of this route and I think yours is, hands down, the best I've seen. It gives a lot better idea of what this was like than the pictures do. I think you really captured the essence of this trip through the Canyon. Gonna have to watch it again.
 

powderglut

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This was a sweet trip. I like the route. I think I would have carried a flyrod down there. Water looked really clear. Beautiful trip report!
 

Curt

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This was a sweet trip. I like the route. I think I would have carried a flyrod down there. Water looked really clear. Beautiful trip report!
It was a sweet trip. Thanks.

I don't know anything about fishing conditions on the River but i suspect that a fly rod might be extra weight for nothing. Sometimes after it rains the River is so full of sediment that it looks like chocolate milk (and may be about that thick too). In fact, I think its more common for the water to be brown than not. Hard to imagine fish doing well in conditions like that. We were probably lucky to have it so clear. Made filtering it a lot easier.
 

Vegan.Hiker

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Oh man, this sounds like an amazing trip @Curt. Loved reading it and your pics are great. Great night shots too. You offered to send the gps tracks if anyone wanted them. Would you mind sending them to me. I want to return to the Grand Canyon badly. Might not be for a few years, but I'd like to learn more about your route.
 

powderglut

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It was a sweet trip. Thanks.

I don't know anything about fishing conditions on the River but i suspect that a fly rod might be extra weight for nothing. Sometimes after it rains the River is so full of sediment that it looks like chocolate milk (and may be about that thick too). In fact, I think its more common for the water to be brown than not. Hard to imagine fish doing well in conditions like that. We were probably lucky to have it so clear. Made filtering it a lot easier.
I know the main fishery is Glen Canyon Dam down to Lee's Ferry. The Paria is the first place it can start to get dirty. Downstream...More creeks contribute to the murk if there's weather. It doesn't mean fish don't hold further downstream. Bright Angel cr holds many fish and the Colo river in that area can fish well even when murky. I've fished it. Anyway.. my comment was mostly about how nice water clarity was.
 

Eugene

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Great pictures. We plan to do the Thunder river/Deer Creek next fall on the north rim.
 

Curt

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Oh man, this sounds like an amazing trip @Curt. Loved reading it and your pics are great. Great night shots too. You offered to send the gps tracks if anyone wanted them. Would you mind sending them to me. I want to return to the Grand Canyon badly. Might not be for a few years, but I'd like to learn more about your route.
Here are the GPS tracks. In doing research I found a track on line and I thought it was helpful to load it up onto Google Earth and look at the route. @b.stark also said that he thought looking at the route on Google Earth was helpful. For most of the way you can actually see the trail on Google Earth though sometimes its a little hard to follow.

My one regret is that we didn't visit the hilltop ruin near Cardenas Creek. The hilltop ruin is an ancient Anasazi structure and is thought to be associated with the Anasazi community at Unkar delta. Somehow leaving camp at Cardenas Creek we took the wrong turn.
 

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Curt

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Great pictures. We plan to do the Thunder river/Deer Creek next fall on the north rim.
I've read several reports on this. It looks really sweet. Thunder River has to be completely unique - especially in a desert. I can't imagine that there's anything like it anywhere else. The Deer Creek Narrows would really be something to see. Have a great trip! I'll be looking for your report next fall.
 

Curt

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Oh man, this sounds like an amazing trip @Curt. Loved reading it and your pics are great. Great night shots too. You offered to send the gps tracks if anyone wanted them. Would you mind sending them to me. I want to return to the Grand Canyon badly. Might not be for a few years, but I'd like to learn more about your route.

I thought I'd give you one more resource on this route if you think you'd like to try it. The best, most comprehensive trip report I found on the route was on Flickr; https://www.flickr.com/photos/89912015@N07/sets/72157632020625248/

That report has a lot more pictures than I have here and more explanation plus several maps. Between Google Earth with the tracks, these trip reports and @b.stark 's video above I think you'd have a pretty good idea of what the trip would be like.
 

Vegan.Hiker

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Thanks so much Curt. Hopefully I'll be able to make use of this info in the next few seasons.
 
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