Wilderness Leadership Semester: Grand Canyon Scramblin'
Stepstepstep-pole plant-step-poleplant-repeat. I have a rhythm but it’s almost too quick to hold. I’m nearly at a trot, walking at this pace. My short legs turning over 3.5mph walking pace. Bright colors to my right catch my eye, turning to look I loose my stride and stop, pulling out the camera. Desert flowers! Globemallow, hedgehog, primrose, and brittlebush. I beam at them. I can’t walk this fast and enjoy this magnificent place. And it was for traveling through a new part of the Canyon that I was in favor of this route today. That, and I thought it would be a good challenge and experience for my students to facilitate a big day. Not just facilitate getting to the South Rim from the Deva-Brahma saddle, but making it happen smoothly, keeping our small group moving steadily, stoked, hydrated, and committed. It was happening now. The four boys were off charging ahead as I chased and photographed along behind them. I looked up, past my flowers to check on the gap they were building. They were striding along the Clear Creek Trail, four little specs in the landscape. Zoroaster Temple was the main culprit here for shrinking them to ant size. It towered above them. At this point we had nearly hiked a full circle around the prominent Coconino tower.
The first day we dropped down to the river, our own big congo line along Bright Angel trail, negotiating hundreds of spring breakers and rim-to-rim-to-rimmers. My group then split off, heading up to Cottonwood camp, leaving Lovejoy and crew to approach Brahma from the south, via Sumner wash.
Our west-facing canyon rewarded our early start the second morning with shade until 10:30. By that time we were well through the Redwall, up a no-name drainage to Deva-Brahma saddle. At the saddle by noon, we bypassed Deva, with hopes of reaching Brahma with time to summit and bivy on the Zoroaster-Brahma saddle. Two and a half hours of side-hilling later, we were stopped in our route by 60 degree slope of Hermit Shale slipping into neatly stacked bands of Supai, which quickly gave way to the Redwall abyss. Retreating was written on the wall.
The boys gracefully posed for a sub-summit photo, and headed back, eager to camp at the “epically elevated” bivy that is the Brahma-Deva saddle. I was tempted to make progress into our next day’s itinerary, now a 20+mile day, but the boys were in charge. And the bivy did reward. High cirrus clouds and sunset at 5,000’ perched in the middle of Grand Canyon provided a fantastic sunset. The changing Canyon colors were potentially a high higher than the summits sitting to our either side.
Coffee in the dark. First light.
We went into Grand Canyon looking for summits. We exited with hands empty of summit photos, but overflowing of things we didn’t expect to find.
Three sun-rise starts, 57 Grand Canyon miles (12 off-trail), lots of loose scramblin’, a shut-down traverse, epic saddle bivying, real-life decision making, 10 tired feet, and one Mexican Spotted Owl later, my group left me inspired as we crested the south rim at 9pm. One of the best work trips ever.