Trip to the Big Ditch...this one's Loooong.

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Greg Opland

Mar 26, 1997, 3:00:00 AM3/26/97

Another one I've been sitting on for about a year.
A climb for your tick list. Thank God it's checked
off of mine! :-)

Hope you enjoy.



G. Opland, April 1996


There is is...right there across an immense abyss, perched on a hill for
millions of visitors a year to see. Zoroaster Temple, one of the top two
destinations for technical climbers in the Grand Canyon (the other being
Mt. Hayden off the North Rim), rises to an elevation of 7,128 feet,
500 feet higher than the South Rim itself. If I was a bird, I could fly
over there and back in about a half hour, but my ancestors came
up the wrong branch of the tree and I lack the necessary winged
Barring that, we'd have to lumber over there in our own inefficient
and climb that dang tower to see what's on top. Like the shirt says...
"This ain't no &$^#% weinie roast!"

The crown of Zoroaster remained without footprints until a pair of
climbers, Dave Ganci and Rick Tidrick, wrestled their way to the top of
the temple in a two-day push, ending on September 11, 1958. Of the 180
so "temples" in the Grand Canyon there are but a handful that demand 5th
Class climbing to reach their summits. Of these, Zoroaster is one of the
more well-known and most often attempted. The unique naming of the
is credited to Clarence Dutton, one of the earliest explorers and
of the Canyon. He had done some travelling in the orient and evidently
that the ethereal names of the Eastern dieties fit the mind-blowing
formations of the Canyon best. This is reflected by names such as Shiva,
Ra, Isis, Bhudda, and Brahma. After my trek into this wilderness, I
convinced that Mr. Dutton was on the right track. Respect is a
here. If it isn't given willingly, the canyon will extract it. Veterans
of the canyon know this, beginners often learn it the hard way.

For ourselves, this odyssey started about two years ago. Since the best
times to climb Zoro come in the spring and fall, it had been cancelled a
grand total of four times in those two years, due to quite diverse
One wedding, a blown knee, trails washed out due to flash floods, and
one last reason that eludes me at the moment. That was all behind us
now, we were finally on our way!

The Drive - Thursday, April 18th

"Ohmagod! It's COLD!" I said, as Scott's head poked out the back of his
pickup shell. We'd disturbed his sleep, driving in and parking next to
him just short of midnight. We were stashed for the night in the Kaibab
National Forest just South of the Grand Canyon, aiming to take a shot
at one of the most physically demanding technical climbing routes in
all of Arizona: Zoroaster Temple. From deep in the bowels of the Grand
Canyon, the imposing summit of Zoroaster rises, directly across from
Yaki Point on the South Rim. This formidible chunk of Coconino sandstone
perches on the north side of the Colorado River, presenting the
of a nearly impenetrable fortress protected on all sides by a complex
of canyons and rock layers. Climbing to the summit of "Zoro" and
to the South Rim would receive our concentrated effort for the next
days. "Conquistadores of the Improbable!" That was us.

Bill and I quickly emptied the back of the truck so we could climb in
sleep. The late hour, 11:30pm, and the fact that the mecury was parked
27F (the "F" stands for "Friggin'" cold!), meant there wasn't much to
but get in the bags and get warmed back up and off to sleep as quickly

The Approach - Friday, April 19th

Morning came way to soon. Bill fired out of the truck shortly after 6am.
His light sleeping bag had left him with a pair of half-frozen feet,
so he wasn't into the idea of "sleeping in." Like 'til 6:15 or so...
Scott and Wayne, the other team members, were already moving around
and getting their stuff packed up. Bill and I went through last-minute
sorting and divied up our team gear and soon had our packs ready to go.
The addition of climbing gear almost guarantees you're going to be
hauling at least 50 or 60 pounds into the depths of the Canyon on
your back. Grim prospects when your final tally of elevation gain and
loss from car-to-car is in the 20,000 foot range.

A quick stop for last minute grease (it is a food group after all)
at the McDonald's in Tusayan and we were on our way to the trailhead.
The trucks were left and packs shouldered for our trek into the Grand.
When standing on the rim of the Canyon, the history of the world seems
to spread before you. Millions of years of time and erosion are etched
in the hundreds of canyons and side canyons reaching their arms in all
directions. It's nearly impossible to take in the enormity of the place
but even standing there looking it over, your mind is drawn into the
nearly into the soul of time itself. One inch per 1,000,000 years? Too
much to grasp.

We headed down the Bright Angel Trail bound for Phantom Ranch, nearly
4500 vertical feet below us. We took advantage of a sight-seeing stop
to squeeze around the mule train, which had beat us onto the trail by
only a couple of minutes. Trust don't wanna be "behind" the
mules! Four hours and 9.5 miles later, we stomped up to the canteen in
Phantom Ranch, bellied up to the bar and emerged with lemmonade and

After about a half hour of lounging about, we started up the North
Kaibab Trail. We were hoping to establish basecamp within striking
distance of Zoro. We would launch our assault on the summit early the
next morning. We turned off onto the Clear Creek Trail about a half
mile up the North Kaibab. A sign marked the trail, but it was clearly
not one of the "highways" that are pounded by thousands of tourist feet
every year. The trail wound it's way up out of Bright Angel Canyon and
headed west along the top of the Tonto Platform. After about 2 miles,
the trail is intersected by the Sumner Wash, which comes directly down
from an obvious jagged break in the Redwall. This break, basically a
steep, loose gully, was the key to the first ascent of Zoroaster in

Before we could breach the Redwall, we had to scramble from the trail's
3,760 foot elevation up Sumner Wash, gaining about 1,000 vertical feet
to reach the base of the break. Wayne, showing tremendous hiking shape,
smoked us to the Sumner Wash turnoff. He waited for us, and we regrouped
to ascend the wash. It was about this time that discussion of where to
camp came up. Our permit was for the Cheyava Zone. Evidently Cheyava is
roughly translated by the park service to mean "above the Redwall
With the temperature dip of the previous night, Bill was pulling pretty
hard to sleep lower, so he wouldn't have to play popsicle for the next
two nights. Skipping boulders, and zig-zagging up the wash, we finally
settled on finding a nice bivy spot somewhere in the Sumner Wash just
below the Redwall break. Wayne didn't put put up much of a fight about
this, although he didn't seem to be very happy with sleeping outside of
our permit zone with his name attached to the permit. We logically
that it would do two things for us: 1) We wouldn't have to climb through
the 4th and low-5th Class rotton Redwall break with heavy packs on, and
2) We would be lower in elevation and more protected, thus warmer that
night. Case closed.

In all the literature you'll find concerning the climbing of Zoroaster
over the nearly 40 years since it was first attempted, there is one
item which has proved pivotal to the success or faliure of expeditions:
water. Although the Colorado River flushes the very bottom of the canyon
with millions of gallons of water, even half a mile up the hill from the
river, the desert reigns and getting to the Colorado River becomes an
impossible task. We'd all read the stories of Ganci and Tidrick using
tubes to suck water and insect larva out of plants on their original
attempt on Zoro. Our secret weapon went by the name of "Wayne."

About a week and a half before our attempt, Wayne had hiked into the
canyon and carted nearly 12 gallons of water up from Phantom Ranch and
cached it in the Sumner Wash. With this invaluable store, we would be
well hydrated during the trip. A short ways up the wash, we found the
first cache of about eight gallons. We grabbed four gallons and
ascending the wash. About a half-mile futher, we threw our packs down
near the second cache and staked out sleeping spots. With the sun
just after 7:00pm, sleep came early that night. We had a long day

The Climb - Saturday, April 20th

Saturday morning came way to soon. While I was prying my eyelids open
with a stick, Bill, being his usual hyperactive self and tremendously
excited with the day's prospects, took off hiking up to the break in
the Redwall. He had nearly reached the cleft when I realized he was
gone. I could just make him out far up the gully near the mouth of the
break. Wayne looked to be about 10 minutes behind him. Damn! No one told
me it was a race! I quickly shoved my remaining gear in my pack so it
wouldn't blow away while we were gone, grabbed my climbing gear and set
off with Scott on my heels. We didn't want to be branded as some kind
of slackers, so we motored after our partners. At the last minute, I
left my heavy fleece pullover. I would regret that later.

When I entered the bottom of the break, I was surprised to find Wayne
still at the bottom. He had decided to spend that night on top of
the Sumner-Zoro saddle, and was carrying his whole load up the Redwall
that morning to stash on top. Hiking with the unwieldy pack was slowing
him down a bit as he tried to determine the best way to get up the
break's two steep 4th Class climbing sections. I climbed up the
wall of the break at the bottom. Some limestone shelves led up and right
and then back to the left where a short downclimb deposited me back in
the main gully. I stopped to snap some pictures as Scott downclimbed
behind me, helping Wayne to lower his pack off from the top of the
downclimb section. The next short vertical step was the crux of the
Redwall, but we passed it without too much trouble. It was good to be
past the vertical sections, but the loose nature of the remaining gully
above is no major comfort. About 150 feet of scrambling leads to the top
and onto the Sumner-Zoro Saddle. One obstacle down! Several to go...

We had a group pow-wow at the saddle, and decided to use "the force" to
navigate us in the right direction. From what we'd read, we knew that
you had to maneuver your way around the north side of the Supai layers,
but detail had been fairly sketchy on this subject, so we just headed
out across to the west towards the first lump of Supai bands. We kind of
envisioned at first that we could see a trail, but this turned out to
be a figment of our collective imagination, so we ended up just
the path of least resistance. This was pretty much easy uphill-type
until we arrived at the unbroken bands of rock. We had seen a couple of
cairns, but had to snoop around a bit to find a place where we could
third-class our way over the two bands, both about 30 or 40 feet high.
This slowed Wayne and Scott down, and Bill and I found ourselves hiking
along the narrow ridge above by ourselves. Bill had the bit in his teeth
and smelled "climb" ahead. We had made pretty good progress towards the
Temple before we even saw the others following behind. Although Wayne
had stashed his overnight gear back at the saddle above the Redwall,
his pack still weighed quite a bit and was slowing him down a little.
I think Bill was doling out a bit of payback for the hiking clinic
Wayne gave us the day before. Nobody beats Bill to the route!

We came up below the last layer of sandstone that serves as kind of a
pedestal for Zoro, an unbroken band over two hundred feet thick. We
skirted around the north side. A narrow trail appeared in the talus,
indicating that this climb receives at least a bit of attention now
and then. This was easy hiking, but there wasn't much room for error.
The loose slope below the small path was of the "one-bouncer" variety;
if you slipped, it would be one-bounce and then on to the bottom of
the gorge below, a grim aerial slide of some 4000+ feet. The small
trail led us into a bowl just west of the Brahma-Zoro saddle. The bowl
had many ledges and features in it. A knotted sling hanging from a
small tree indicated that we were still on the right path. We worked
along the faint trail leading back and forth up several ledges, and
arrived at the sling we'd spotted from below. We pulled ourselved up
a steep vertical corner by hand-over-handing up the sling. This proved
to be the only aid we would use on the climb. More ledges and a short
section of actual 5.easy climbing got us to what George Bain once
nicknamed the "Killer Talus Slope." This name seemed somewhat
after scrambling up the loose dirt and broken rock mixture to the north
side of Zoroaster. Three hours after leaving camp, we arrived at the
of the Northeast Arete. This section of the Temple was quite exposed to
the wind. We beat a hasty retreat around to the eastern side of the
northeast buttress and found it toasty warm and out of the wind. "Too
bad the climb isn't over here!" I mentioned grimly, wishing I'd brought
my stupid fleece pullover.

We sat in the sun and warmed up a bit, did the last minute organization
on the rack and put on our shoes. Our compadres had not arrived yet. We
weren't going to waste time, and planned on getting on the route as
quickly as we could. Cold or no cold, we were going up this sucker!
Having left my fleece pullover back at camp I could only pull my spare
t-shirt out and slip it on over my polypro. This I covered with my wind
shell, the critical item for conserving body heat that day. The route
was completely in the shade and getting blasted by the wind, a really
nasty combination for climbing. We grabbed our ropes and headed back
around into the shade to start the climb. Around the corner, Scott and
Wayne still weren't in sight. We scanned the next ridge over, looking
for signs of movement, but there was no one there. That left us in an
interesting dilemma. Do we start up and assume they're on the way? or
do we wait and see if something happened to them? Shit! In the end, we
decided to head back around into the sun and wait another 10 minutes
to see if they would show up. About 15 or 20 minutes later, Wayne
came around the corner with Scott a few minutes behind. We grabbed the
stuff and headed to the start of the route. It was time to climb! We had
to get on this thing before our resolve to climb it froze up and cracked
in the face of the freezing wind now stiffening our fingers and hands.

Bill drew the first lead. It didn't look so bad from the ground,
not having a belay anchor kind of sucked for me, considering the small
ledge 30 feet up from the talus slope below that I had to belay from.
"Get a good piece in!" I yelled up to Bill. He started up a short slab
leading to a small roof. A good cam went in under it, but with the pile
of fairly fresh rock fall directly below this section, you could only
wonder how solid things really were up there. Bill, climbing deftly in
his fleece gloves, moved over the roof and onto a small ledge. A
chimney above this led to another ledge about 130 feet up, where he
belayed off a solid tree and brought me up. Just before leaving the
ground, I yelled into the gale to Wayne, "THE GENERAL PLAN IS TO GET
UP AND DOWN AS FAST AS POSSIBLE!" He nodded and continued flaking their
ropes. Bill and I had brought along two ropes. Although I had wanted
to bring a 9mm and an 8.5mm, Bill had talked me into just the 9mm and
a 7mm zip line for the rappels. Although I didn't care for the
of launching my 190+ lbs onto that 9mm rope in a lead fall, that's what
we went with and I didn't push the issue much. "The leader must not

The first pitch felt kind of foreign. Although I've done quite a bit of
sandstone climbing, this rock was slippery even by sandstone standards,
covered with a fine layer of sand and well rounded, which made most of
the holds less than positive. I took my gloves off at the start.
Although it was cold, I wanted to be able to hang on if I had to.
The roof wasn't nearly as tricky as it looked, and was only hard
in it's finishing move, due to lack of holds to finish it off with.
The '94 article in Rock and Ice on Zoroaster specified that this pitch
was now A0 of some kind. As it was possible to stroll right onto the
pitch from the ramp, and then up and over the roof, I suspect some
additional rockfall (or those guys were smokin' doobies) has occurred
since then. I was freezing my brass monkeys off by the time I made the
first belay, but it was my turn to lead, so I just grabbed gear and
continue up the route, trying to maintain some body heat.

Moving out from the belay onto pitch two, the obvious path seemed to be
straight up. A couple of rather shallow cracks ran up the wall from
and it looked climbable. I checked out the alternatives and decided that
the first ascent must have gone out to the right and then up. I guess
not knowing is a side-effect of not having a decent topo? One of the
prominent features of the wall is the Needles Eye. This is an incredible
looking, seemingly-detached flake of rock that is virtually hanging off
the side of Zoro. This scimitar of sandstone had been hollowed out over
time, until only the top and bottom of the piece remained attached to
face of the rock, with a large airy space in the middle. The topo said
go up along the left side of the Needle's Eye, so that was where I
I climbed out to the right, stepping on a couple of raggedy bushes to
a small stance below a corner. The corner looked climbable, but was
awkward to get up into. I was able to get a flared placement for a #4
Camelot before getting serious about trying it. My first attempt didn't
quite pan out. I found myself hanging on my hands and burning out, so I
downclimbed back to the stance, nearly losing it and falling off when
one of my footholds shattered in an explosion of sandstone shards and
dust. I caught myself before falling, and finished downclimbing with
my heart going a mile a minute. "Damn! That was close!"

This was going to be interesting. I figured the pro was ok, if not
bomber, but I was also going to do my level best to keep from testing
just how good it was by falling. On my next try, I managed to find a
small finger slot out right and used it to get up into the awkward moves
a little further, finally working my foot up onto a small ledge in the
crack. I thought for a minute this was going to get me into trouble, as
I got really off balance when I did this. I managed to get things
straightened out and I was able to move up into the left side of the
Needles Eye chimney. With my pro now a few feet below me, I checked out
the upcoming climbing. Hmm....not much pro for this section! A couple of
folds in the rock, but nothing you'd get anything into. I spotted a slot
near the top that looked like it would take a large cam, so I headed for
that. Much as it gave me the willies, I started stemming up with one
(in the grave) on the face and one foot on (a banana peel) the very edge
of the Needles Eye flake. I didn't trust it enough to get in there and
try to chimney, so this was my next best option. I managed to stick on
the rock long enough to reach a point just right of the slot I'd seen
from below. It took a little fooling around with hand and foot position
so I wouldn't fall off while leaning out left to place the piece, but
I finally got a blind #3 Camelot in the flare. Then more fooling around
trying to match feet on a crummy little smear, so I could move over and
see what kind of placement it actually was. looked ok, so I
it and made the final slippery moves onto the shelf above, glad to be
of that section. An easy crack/chimney book led to the belay from a tree
on a nice shelf. The kind of place it would have been great to belay
if there was no wind and the sun was on it. Instead, it was like an
extremely drafty refrigerator shelf.

Bill came up the pitch and took over the rack. Pitch three had an
obvious start up a chimney with a crack in the back. He worked his way
up the chimney and past a ratty looking tree before realizing that he'd
gone too far. This was a great catch on Bill's part, as the
was totally inobvious at this point (in fact, I think a variation to the
route goes straight up here, but it's fairly unprotectable and steep).
The two different route topos we had for this climb varied quite a bit
on this pitch, and neither really clearly showed what we were supposed
to do. Bill downclimbed back to the ratty tree and took a right across
the top of a small tower. From there, he downclimbed a wide section on
the right side of the tower and then worked into a chimney that went up
from a small ledge. While Bill was finding the route again, the wind
was knifing against my face, sending pinpricks of feeling through my
cheeks. My hands had long since gone rather numb, but my core
seemed to be holding it's own. Some of the belays were rather sheltered
by the shoulder of the formation, but others were right in the ice zone.
Looking down, I was surprised that I couldn't see any signs of the
but the ledged and bushy nature of the northeast face could have been
blocking my view, and the wind made it nearly impossible to hear
so I just figured they'd gotten a slow start and were on their way,
somewhere below.

Back in the chimney, Bill was finding some interesting moves. It was
to really get into one kind of climbing. You could climb the cracks in
back of the chimney, then kind of turn sideways and chimney for a bit,
go back to the cracks, etc... This was a tricky little section and never
really felt too secure to me when I followed the pitch, but pro
seemed to show up on a fairly regular basis. Bill got up the chimney
a minimum of fuss and set up a belay from some cracks in the back of the
chimney about 20 feet below where the chimney pinched above to form an
overhanging 5.11++ offwidth from hell. Clearly NOT the way to go!

Again, our info was not too clear, but the easiest way seemed to be by
climbing the right side of the chimney up some large heucos and folds in
the rock. This didn't look hard, but not too many of the obvious holds
looked too bombproof either. We couldn't see much up and around this
bulge, so I got the gear and stemmed and chimney'd up the wall until I
could move over onto a ledge on the right side. I could see the rest of
the route from the ledge and we didn't have far to go. I had the option
of finishing the pitch there, or heading to the top. I debated it for
a while, and decided it would probably go better to just move the belay
and then go from the ledge to keep from getting the rope pinched in the
corner. Bill would get the last pitch, while I got hosed on my lead. I
should have kept going.

Bill was at the belay in no time and started up the last pitch. This was
actually the most well-protected part of the climb (IMHO). The hands,
fists, and flaring crack went all the way to the summit in a
corner. Bill did a nice job of calmly dispatching the wide slippery
part (5.9), and was soon at the top of the pitch. Steep talus rose
the top of this section, and he had to be careful not to dump anything
big on me (thanks Bill!). The first part of the pitch wasn't bad at all.
Good hand jams and footholds to the right of the crack. Cruise! Things
got more interesting up higher as the crack opened up to offwidth flare
size and the footholds disappeared. A small rail handhold on the left
side was the key to the section. I pulled up on this and tried to get
my hand in the crack, but a small shower of rocks had piled down in to
the slot and were now blocking my efforts to get a handjam into the
crack. Hanging from one arm, I dug rocks out of the hole, but they
kept falling down. I finally had to reach long and get a less-than-good
jam above and finish out the moves by sticking my foot in my ear
The gear I was carrying (big cams, rope, water, etc...) were all making
life miserable for me, so I arrived at the top panting and wasted from
the effort. At least the sun was hitting the top of the route!

I plodded up the short hill above the last pitch to what looked like a
stable pile of sandstone, untied and threw down the lead rack and it's
annoying cams. We grabbed a quick sip of water and then set about
for the summit. At the top of the slope a a saddle led to the actual top
of Zoroaster Temple, an 80' tower of Toroweap limestone perched on the
450-foot Coconino sandstone base. There for a minute, we thought it
be necessary to bring the rope and gear, but we found a chimney on the
north side of the tower. We soloed up inside the tower (easy 4th-5th
class), popping out the top to find a small plateau covered with bushes
and small trees. Cool! Bill located the summit register over near the
southern edge of the summit plateau, a small pipe with a chain, right
next to a USGS benchmark marker. Not much inside, except for some
entries from the year before. Three parties had summitted on consecutive
weekends in October of 1995. Traffic on the summit of Zoro!? We signed
in and gathered in the view. The canyon spread out below us on all
An amazing and yet incomprehensible creation of nature too huge for the
mind to take in. We enjoyed the summit for a bit, and then headed back
down to see if Wayne and Scott were on their way up.

Back at the top of the route, we found only our gear. Something was
wrong. Our partners were nowhere to be seen! It was inconceivable to
us that they would come all this way and go back down unless there
was a serious problem. That worried me a little. We waited a bit longer
and then decided to start down, to try and find out what was going on.
The first rappel was from a pair of ancient, but solid, bolts on a small
sandstone shelf just northeast of the top of the last pitch. We threw
off our two thin strands and Bill started down. This was one steep
140 feet to a small shelf and some slings around a large block. Although
I was kind of worried about my ability to get enough friction out of
two such small ropes (9mm/7mm), I had recently picked up a smaller
diameter belay/rappel device that worked just fine for this. The
slings below were backed up by a single 1/4" split-shaft bolt that
was half out of the rock. The block seemed pretty solid, so that wasn't
a big deal. Another long rappel off the side put us on a ledge just
across from the second belay ledge. Still no sign of the others.

A shorter rappel deposited us at the first pitch belay and then another
long one to the ground below where we'd started up. Scott and Wayne were
watching us from the bottom by this time, but the atrocious wind kept
us from being able to ask what happened until we hit the ground. I
the ropes off the last rappel, and the 7mm line wrapped around a tree
branch and we couldn't pull it down. I had to belay Bill back up to
the tree area (bad pro, no belay anchor, shit!) to get it down, which
he did, downclimbing afterwards.

Back on the ground, we found out that Scott and Wayne had been stopped
by the runout cimbing on the second pitch (the Needle's Eye). After
trying a few different options, Scott (who was doing all the leading)
backed off rather than push a bad position. He'd left a Camelot behind
to facilitate the rappel, so it's still up there until the next party
comes along. I'm sure they felt completely disappointed about not
being able to summit, but neither felt bad about making the call to
go down. I found a quote that someone had posted on the net last year
that seemed to cover the situation nicely:


"The main thing to realize is if you have to leave a piece
or two in the rock and back down, you are out about fifty
bucks, has anyone priced reconstructive neurosurgery lately?"
- Unknown, rec.climbing,


For myself, I felt somewhat bad that the cold and the wind had pushed
us to move quickly and, unable to hear them, not be able to drop a
toprope to get them throught the runout climbing. There wasn't much
we could do at that point. Bill suggested that we go up and retrieve
the abandoned Camelot, but I wasn't too psyched about going back up
and nixed the idea. Mid-afternoon, things going well so far, don't
push your luck, time to go down.

The descent from the base of Zoro went very smoothly. We rappeled once
on the way back through the Hermit layer, hand-over-handed back down
the knotted sling and made our way back along the thin plateau to the
Supai layers. Wayne rigged a rappel to get back through the Supai, while
Bill downclimbed instead of waiting with me close behind. The
went easily and we continued down to the Sumner-Zoro saddle and waited
the others to show. Wayne had elected to sleep on the saddle that night,
so we left him there and continued down through the loose rock of the
Redwall, scarier now than it was on the way up that morning. We managed
to make it back to the gully and from there, quickly down the hill to
basecamp, sweating and fairly spent from a long day of continuous
I'd done the entire day on a diet consisting of a few Skittles, a few
Starbursts, and a ClifBar I ate when we returned to the top of the
Redwall break before the final descent to camp.

Sleep came effortlessly that night. We had a bit of excitement when
Bill found a baby scorpion crawling up his sleeve while he was reading.
The day (and my eyes) closed with millions of stars above and a light
breeze blowing across the Canyon. End of a great day.

The Hard Part - Sunday, April 21st

The deal we had with Wayne was that we would be off in the morning once
we got up and packed, and not wait for him to make it down through the
Redwall gully. As it was, I figured he would be up and on his way down
at the first rays of the sun, but when we were ready to head out at
6:30am, we couldn't even see him coming down yet. We took off for
Phantom Ranch.

The hiking started out pretty rough. Sore leg and back muscles
loudly from the previous two days' efforts, letting us know that it
be a LONG day. We still made decent time, arriving at Phantom Ranch by
that morning. We hit the canteen for snacks and made phone calls to our
sweeties to let them know we were down from the temple and just fine. It
was great to hear Felicia's voice, and I missed her even more. We were
there about 20 minutes, but Wayne never showed up, so we continued on.
Next stop: Indian Gardens.

The hike was hot from the bottom up. Plodding up the trail in Bill's
footprints, I concentrated on putting one foot in front of the other,
while my mind wandered from one thought to the next. The heavy pack
reminded me of the last time I'd hiked out of this canyon under a
similar load, four years before. I tried not to think about that much
and got a bit of a diversion from the guy that we ran into on the
trail, who spent about three miles trying to convince us that the
snow skiing on the east coast is good. We arrived at Indian Gardens in
reasonably decent shape, parked the packs and dove toward the water
fountain. It was too short a break and we were soon back on the
trail. One leg to go! Bill had some sort of death-wish desire to
hike out and climb a formation called the Battleship. Achieving
the summit of this "hill" involved some serious traversing along
steeply sloping shelves of loose sandstone running across just below
the Coconino band to get over from the trail. I got a bit nasty with
him when he was insistant on dropping his pack at the trail and
going off to "take a look." The round trip to the summit of that
thing had to be at least two hours. I also wasn't thrilled about the
idea of waiting in the parking lot for two hours that I could be heading
south to get a much-needed shower. In the end, we agreed to disagree and
headed our separate ways.

After time to contemplate my actions here, I should have just said
"Have a good time!" and continued walking. Being a weiner wasn't
necessary, I just didn't feel like sitting around waiting on Bill
on the rim and had plenty of time to consider that while trudging
up the trail. Bill is more of a "quantity" climber, in that he tries
to get the most out of each day of climbing. For him, there's always
one more climb to do, one more summit you can try to reach before the
day runs out. I'm more of a "goal" climber. I like to set a goal,
achieve it and then head for the bar. Sometimes this causes clashes.
I admit it...I was being a schmuck. :-)

The last part of the trail was the worst. I started running out
of gas in there somewhere. I hadn't really eaten much to keep
myself fueled, and I'd been sweating since early that morning,
so I was on my last legs when I staggered up that last mile to
the rim. I owe a lot to some guy from Toronto that I met on the
trail. He was very talkative and by way of conversation, he helped
me to ignore the enormous fatigue and continue plodding upward as
we chatted. Four hours and forty minutes after leaving Phantom Ranch,
I wobbled up the last ramp to the parking area and across to my truck,
dropping my pack heavily near the tailgate. I unlocked and crawled
in the the back to get some dry clothes. The temperature on the rim
itself was in the 50's and my sweat soaked shirt was freezing. I
got changed and then worked on getting some food. The only real
food I had was a box of HoneyNut Cheerios, so I pulled out my
chair and my bowl and sat there in the parking lot chowing down
with my feet up. Sometime after my second bowl I was dozing off
in my chair when Bill hiked in across the parking lot. The Battleship
would have to wait for another day.

Scott showed up a while later, but still no sign of Wayne. I hoped
he was ok, but there wasn't a lot we could do for him at this point.
We pretty much figured since he was in some serious hiking shape
that he would catch up by Indian Gardens that morning. As it turned
out, he came flying up the trail about a half an hour after Bill and
I headed for home.


After all this time, it was a great feeling of accomplishment to finally
bag this summit. With a round trip of 30+ miles of hiking and 20,000
of total elevation change, this is one of the hardest climbs in the
to check off, simply based on the amount of energy it takes to reach the
top. A phenomenal amount of work!

Living in Arizona for the last six years, I had only made two previous
trips to the Canyon, and had not really "felt" the beauty and
of the place that I got on this trip. Going down into the guts of the
Canyon really brought out the awe of the place for me that I so often
read about in articles by self-professed lovers of the Canyon. This
was a cool feeling to experience. On my two previous trips, walking
on dusty tourist "highways" and suffering through the nasal rending
stench of pools of mule urine just didn't give me a feeling of
spirituality and peace so many have written about the Canyon. Maybe
that's the proper way to experience what is best about the place; to
put yourself into the arms of the Canyon, and fight for the right to
be worthy of it's secrets and rewards. Makes you feel pretty small...
in the big picture of things.


- -
( O O )


Paul Davidson

Mar 29, 1997, 3:00:00 AM3/29/97

Alright, way to go Greg, now you're ready for the real route,
the SE Face ! Just kidding, Zoro by any summit is Zoro !

here's a hint though, no one, I mean no one, uses the BA trail
to get down and out, always, yes, always use the Kaibab.

They're both mule piss filled slogs and now full of grafiti from
some of our european "guests" (a very very sad state) but the
Kaibab will shorten the load by a good long ways.

Congrats - what's next, Buddha ?

- Paul Davidson

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