Grandview Circuit - continued
Day 2 -- Cottonwood to Hance Canyon
Lacking a really good water supply here, in the morning we pack up and head for the main branch of Cottonwood Creek for breakfast. The hiker with the heaves has decided to leave the group and hike to the rim that day. It seems a wise choice and I am grateful. Departing about 9:00 we have easy travel east past the north end of Horseshoe Mesa until approaching Hance Canyon. Then I lead north along a drainage looking for the "authentic" route below the Tapeats to the point overlooking the mouth of Hance Canyon.
We scout through the blackbrush looking for any sign there was once a trail here. This goes easily through the Tapeats, but then cliffs out. Across the slope in the next ravine (unreachable) is an obvious trail. Fortunately there is an access above us back up onto the Tonto. Then we connect with and start down the real trail. It's old and eroded, but the retaining wall is intact. It turns east under the cliff and follows the edge of a huge drop to the river, less distinct but without any washouts. Soon we arrive at the location I reached last year by downclimbing a crack to scout this route. There is not much sign of a trail below this, and a thin, loose, crumbly gravel lies on the rock. Getting to the next saddle, is easy enough, where possible further routes are marked by a rock outline as a guide. Our way continues northeast following the ridge. Reaching the next saddle after is more difficult, and the slope beyond this is really bad.
This is as far as I have been before. Our strongest three hikers are leading the group again and continue down a steep ravine that seems the only possible way. Others follow more slowly. Midway, someone more observant spots a possible cairn on the next ridge. Exploration confirms a probable route and the group is redirected. This one is steep too, but an improvement. Near the bottom another cairn confirms the route. At this point my legs are reaching their limit from too much time moving too slowly on unstable ground. I have to scramble past the last few people in the group to reach the shade of an outcrop below where the others are. Soon (14:00) we are all there except the advance group who once again goes on looking for the final access to the creek. It's close.
The report back is that there are two ways down. To the upstream side is another ravine marked by a cairn and the downstream route is a scree slope. After everyone has rested enough to get some water and their legs back under them, we start for the marked ravine. This looks a bit steep and not much sign of use, so we go and try the other one. There is a short clamber down a couple of ledges and then an easy slide down. In the next moments we are refilling water bottles from Hance Creek and then finding places against the walls and out of the sun to rest, drink, and eat.
After lunch we start to think about continuing down the creek. I have been to the river down Hance 15 years before, but don't recall all the details. The group walks down the bed together and in a short time we come to a chockstone and fall. Two of our advance hikers are already exploring for a bypass and another has apparently already passed down it and gone on. The crack to the right of the chockstone looks pretty familiar to me, but the group effectively balks at this unexpected obstacle. Mostly, the objection is that people don't look forward to climbing back up in the morning. Some are willing to go on down without packs, and some are less enthusiastic. Such objections seem artificial to me since we have plenty of time to negotiate obstacles, but none will relent.
One hiker goes down the canyon to re-connect with the lead. This succeeds and he soon arrives back at the base of the chockstone, we haul up his pack and then most of the group downclimbs the crack and we follow the bed to the final chockstone / bypass (west side) and reach the mouth of Hance. There is a little bit of shore by an eddy upstream of the mouth and a short boulderfield downstream. Walking back up the bed leads to a nice place for a shower in tepid creek water. Guys and girls take turns. Except in midsummer, this place is probably in perpetual shade but it is still quite warm even now, probably from the reflected heat off the opposite wall of the gorge.
Then we return to our point of entry into Hance where the high banks on either side of the bed afford a good place to spend the night. Not only is it convenient, but there are enough good locations for tents and tarps. Eyeballing the evening sky, rain seems possible. I set up my tarp which has space for two, or even three. Dinner comes conveniently in the form of an offer from one of the group to split some freeze-dried. Basically, he has more than he needs and is eager to lighten his pack for the climb out. To the extent that this could equalize the rate of travel in the group, it seems worth carrying out some of my own supply. The wind blows downcanyon very hard tonight, snapping the tarp and keeping most of us awake from the gusts and blasts against the walls. In the middle of the night, after I have dropped my walking-stick pole to sleep on top of my tarp, it starts to rain a little. Most of the group have tube tents or tarps and can get by just crawling inside for a short time. I arranged to share my tarp with the one hiker without shelter, but he makes out OK just throwing his groundsheet on top and waiting it out.
Day 3 -- Hiking Up Hance Creek
Another casual morning and start about 8:30. Immediately upstream is the first extensive bypass. This rises about 250 feet and descends 160 feet in a steep ravine on the other side. Immediately upstream is another 150 foot climb and 100 foot descent to get around a 25 foot unclimbable fall. Both of these bypasses are much more difficult on the upstream side and the second one has a spot requiring a little more skill (at least with a pack) near the bottom. At the summit of each bypass, the group pauses for a time, staring down the slot as if wishing for an easier option until someone goes down and reaches the bottom. At the first bypass I unsuccessfully scout for a better way along a ridge, and at the second ravine I lead the descent.
Above this point it is all normal, easy streambed walking in gravel and along carved rock channels. At 11:00 we stop for a rest in the shade and before noon we arrive at the Tonto Trail crossing. Today has turned out easier than I expected. The bypasses were severe but brief and on today's schedule we have but a short way to travel up Hance Creek. We spend a little time looking for the names that are carved in the bank nearby. Although I've been here before, I have never seen them. They are easily found under the Tapeats overhang on creek left just above the trail crossing. The old ones date from the 1890s and then the urge to scrawl seems to have subsided for 100 years... now there are many new inscriptions from the last decade.
Two more of the group are ready to opt for an alternate exit. They will spend the afternoon and evening at the Tonto crossing and then go out the Grandview Trail tomorrow. In no particular rush, we repack from lunch, take a little water, transfer keys for the car shuttle, and part to move upstream. Feeling nervous about making estimates I guess that we might be 2 hours from the spring, but it's all a steady, easy rise and we are there in a hour, but still getting split up once again in that short amount of time when someonce tries to go above the bed in spite of my warning and almost misses the spring.
Still in relaxed touring mode, we hang out in the shade of the junipers, take a few pictures, look over the rock corrals, and go upslope to take a look at another small rock enclosure I discovered last year. Going up above the spring reveals nothing unusual... just a rock basin in the Muav and a tall stand of reeds. There is no evidence of where Hance's cabin may have been. The sky seems clear enough not to be concerned about rain and I enjoy another deluxe, freeze-dried meal instead of picking through my energy bars, dried cereal, cookies and gorp. Soon after dark, the wind starts roaring downcanyon again, but we have a good spot behind a hill and some junipers and are not much disturbed except for the noise, and it serves to keep the mosquitoes clear. In the morning, one of the group has to collect some stove parts and utensils scattered by the wind.