Rock Garden - Grand Canyon Routes

Waltenberg Trail

25-26 October, 2004


This is not listed as a trail name anywhere or on any map, but there certainly was a trail here connecting the W.W. Bass Shinumo Camp with the asbestos mine in Hakatai Canyon. The exact trailbed is uncertain in many places but there are enough spots with good evidence. This trail description provides more detail than is really needed to get from Shinumo Camp to the Hakatai mines. You can choose any track that appears to work and you may sometimes find a piece of trail, sometimes be on it without noticing, and sometimes on your own way. But searching out the old trail is a sport in itself, a different objective than to just get from one place to another.


North Bass Trail provides the initial access. Head down the creek from Shinumo Camp and cross at the next bend. The original trail, as shown on the Matthes-Evans map, was on stream-right from Shinumo Camp and ascended the north slope of the ridge that projects from the west, but now there is only a jumble of rocks. Go up onto the flat of the west bank and around to the south side of the ridge. From here there is a good view of the slope to the west cut through by a steep ravine that makes a break in the cliffs. This ravine does provide an access, but the old trail goes along the top of the nearby ridge and crosses this ravine to gain a good shelf above the cliff. There is a good access directly upslope onto the ridge-back where the first sign of use can be found.

The Route

Shinumo to Upper Burro Canyon

The rock is somewhat crumbly here but footing is perfectly good. The best way to go up seems to be stay near the apex of the ridgeline. Continue to a broad flat where there is an outline of a rock shelter or dwelling in the boulders. Trail sign improves going above this saddle and then leveling along the southern slope. By angling a little north before turning back across the slope you can follow the real trailbed rather than the washout. The view across the slope ahead makes this seem very doubtful and risky, but the way becomes clearer with each step. You may have to kick a few loose rocks off the old trailbed, but it is still here.

The trail is taken out by rockfall making the ravine crossing a difficult transition to the next layer, but this is the only very unstable place. There is really not any clear sign of a trail on this hard crumbly surface but travel continues following the shelf along the rising rock layers. If you are in search of as much of the authentic trailbed as possible, look for a way to get up onto the next level near a small tree and there is an easy slope with trailbed here well away from the edge of the cliff on the lower level (trailbed photo), but either shelf is OK. Cross at the broad apex of this next ridge and spend a little time looking at the elevation on the other side of Burro Canyon to get some idea of the route; the trail is not shown on the old map beyond this point. The objective is the upper shelf under the high peak of Shinumo Quartzite, passing around to the southwest face and then leading onto the Tonto platform. Continue an easy descent to reach the creekbed, usually dry but there can be a trickle of water over the rock pouroff below or a pothole, and there is a really large rock tank in the first small ravine to the west — possible water after a rain.

Burro Creek Supergroup Ramp to the Tonto Level

All the rock layers in this region are part of the Supergroup formation, lying at an angle that the trail follows to gain elevation. Again, some attention to detail makes it possible to locate a faint trailbed. From the bottom of the ravine with the tank pool, go up the left slope onto the broad surface above the rock. Take any good line across the next wash and onto the easier slope beyond. At first, an easy ascent follows the slope of the rising geologic structure to the west, providing an approach to the much steeper rubble slope above. With travel up this slope sign of a trailbed can be seen with some bends; near the base of the steeper slope it is more clear. The trail remnants take a line toward a break in the slope jumbled up with large blocks.

From here, the route becomes completely rugged over much landslide of large boulders and slabs until a place were several large catclaw bushes are rooted — almost the only significant growth here. Turn southwest across the slope passing the cluster of catclaw to once again find the track where the slope is more stable. The route may not seem clear but there is hardly any option. As the route passes around onto the southwest face under the cliff, the objective of reaching the Tonto Platform is more easily appreciated. Several names are inscribed above a rock ledge beside the trail, not very clear but with close inspection Bob Hostetler was able to decipher: Van Stewart, Paul Marice, BC Millett, DS Stewart, JG Jennings, Joe Black and the dates May 10, 1906, Mar 20, 1899 with the 8 curiously written lying down. For old-trail enthusiasts, there is an excellent view of the Copper Canyon area on the other side of the river.

Tonto to West of Fan Island

This shelf easily transitions to the Tonto, but good routefinding remains important. If you continue west across the lower slopes you will get there but not quickly. By traveling upward you can find a faint track leading to the upper shelf above the higher cliff at the base of Fan Island. On top of this shelf is a fast track leading directly to the head of the first ravine in Hakatai Canyon.

Looking down into this ravine you can see the area of the asbestos mine and this is the access up from the mine for the Steck route around Powell Plateau (1990 Trip Report) in Loop Hikes. The descent access goes quite steeply off the shelf from the south slope of this ravine, then downclimbs several Tonto ledges into the bed of the ravine and then additional easy and safe downclimbs following the bed. Although I had been up this route once, I found I was not able to get down one place with a 30 foot drop; the climb up past this chockstone is not an easy move and not that surprising that I could not downclimb.

To Upper Hakatai and the Mine Trail

The only other way to reach Hakatai is to continue north above the Tonto layer to where there was a constructed trail down into the canyon. The slope at the head of the ravine below Fan Island is steep, loose, and hazardous. From the high point on the Tonto pass down one layer to the shelf between two minor cliffs and follow this north toward the head of the canyon. Soon, a debris slope covers over the cliffs offering a descent toward the Tapeats rim. Following the lower Tonto level up-canyon (northeast) should show where the old trailbed is disguised by overgrowth and erosion, but travel from deer and bighorns should give some sign of use.

The next large drainage into Hakatai is the descent route. Follow the south slope down toward the bed of this drainage and under the first cliff. Here, the trail shows again in an old cut with some of the rocks to build up the trail still present. Below, on the north wall under the major Tapeats cliff the trailbed goes along a broad ledge to meet the talus slope. When Harvey Butchart and Bob Packard first came here they found some intact switchback construction on this slope but it seems the rocks have rolled away and no part remains now until near the streambed.

Downstream to the Mine

Upper Hakatai seems to be typically dry and when some water does emerge from seeps this is mineralized. Whether any really drinkable water can be found near the mine depends on the volume of flow to dilute the salts. There is a good-size pool just downstream from the mine with a steady supply but mineralized to the extent that it is drinkable but likely to cause some intestinal problems for most. The mining area is designated closed to visitation because of asbestos hazard, but the mining camp area, with tools and household gear, is just around the slope into the drainage from Fan Island. For access downstream to reach the riverbank and locate the tram platform, refer to Hakatai Canyon notes.

Difficulty and Appeal

This trail is only slightly more evident in some places than the one connecting Bass Ferry to Copper Canyon (see Old Trails), which is to say there is very little sign and numerous opportunity for interpretation. But anyone who is a very serious finder of old trails will prize this one very highly. Most will not be aware it exists, and others likely will have some difficulty finding it if they have any interest.


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