Little Colorado Crossing - continued
Nothing can be seen of the possible route up Sixtymile from the river. Camp 3 at the beach provides rain and blowing sand for evening entertainment. Exploration up Sixtymile is launched in the morning. The are no obstacles until a 30 foot fall. After testing the loose slopes on either side we opt for climbing the boulder ravine to the south. This takes us quite high and picks up a faint track. Binocular study of the Redwall at the head of the canyon is not encouraging, but it is difficult to tell with the morning light over our shoulders. Really, the group is not in the mood for chancy exploration, and the quest for a route is quickly abandoned with more enthusiasm than it had been started.
Sixtymile to Kwagunt
Major brush along the bank forces seeking a track along the Tapeats ledges. Very little sign of travel or track is found. Halfway between Sixtymile and Awatubi, the Tapeats goes under and boulder-hoping begins. Marshall enjoys the change, but Bill's toe is hurting, and Bill and Nancy go slow. Early break at Awatubi; late break at Malgosa; an afternoon shower. The narrow channel at Malgosa is blocked by trees suggesting there is not so very much water in this drainage. My promotional effort for going up Malgosa is not gaining any adherents either, so we continue upriver. The group is well spread out and getting tired on reaching lower Kwagunt delta. There are no camps, so we continue across the grasslands of the inner delta. There is no other place like this in the Canyon: rolling hills, grass slopes, open space, a network of deer trails. Everyone seems to be wielding a blunt object of some sort (antler or driftwood), but there is no attack on the leader... yet. We head for the main beach for Camp 4. On arrival, the wind is blowing sand furiously and rain is threatening. We go back from the beach inside the tree line and try setting a tarp. Rain comes fiercely, but briefly. I am ready to stay, but everyone else wants to go back to the beach and we split.
The threat of rain slacks off and two boats arrive at the beach looking for a camp. The offer of beer and food is quickly taken as an unnecessary bribe for sharing the site. Am I stupefied by such an unxpected encounter with luxury in the middle of nowhere?... or is it just the sudden effect of two beers on an empty stomach. Who cares... we party!!... dining on salad and ribeye as guests of Michael Genius, entertaining the tourists, and enjoying our status as adventurers. As usual, I am an open book to my friends, who can all tell I would really prefer to bask (or stew) with isolation. First aid for Bill's toe, and glue and tape for Marshall's blown-out shoe, come in handy. Pancakes for all in the morning, but I get out my granola; it's one of those defining moments to be cherished and recounted.
Kwagunt to Nankoweap
Up Kwagunt Creek to the Butte Fault goes quickly and easily... water all the way. For exploration, we climb the point upstream from the fault to look for ruins. Evidently we are not great archeologists, since we cannot find a trace. A duck in the mouth of the right fork convinces us to follow that drainage, although I would have taken the other. The bed is easy, sandy walking. Halfway along the bed I get an idea to go up the ridge between the drainages and lead up a steep slope to the top. The ridge is a disaster: impassable on top and a 45 degree unbroken face on the other side. After a lunch in the shade we go back down. The bed turns rocky, but not difficult, and we follow the drainage to the saddle, where the slope is very steep going up. Descending the drainage to the north, we encounter the largest Canyon rattler (pink) I have ever seen.
The drainage cliffs out, but a steep descent with a footprint is found to the right (wrong!). We descend to a broad bed and continue, entering a beautiful Redwall gorge. Still, no alarm goes off that we have crossed over the Butte Fault and are on the wrong track, even when Marshall comments about the possibility of a big drop. And then we hit it: A BIG DROP! A map check quickly shows my error. The route goes over the ridge to the west to the next drainage. It is late, so we stop at the tadpole pools and fill all containers for a dry camp. Backtracking quickly, just as the bed opens out a clear track goes up the west slope to a saddle. Discussion, map study, and doubt ensues, but I feel sure of it and we go up. There is a lot of blackbrush, but enough space to make Camp 5. Leaving my pack here, I go on and check the slope down. This leads to a steep climb down several ledges to the slope below. This must be OK for the deer, but not for lost hikers. When I get back I see a little snake crawling under my pack. It looks like a gopher snake and I get everyone to come over and take a look. When I pick up my pack Nancy says, "Oh look, he's wiggling his tail at you." Oops, not a gopher snake, but a baby rattler with nothing to rattle. The ground under us has enough holes to house an army of snakes... most probably we are camped on top of a rattlesnake den, and everyone knows it. As dusk falls, I check another track going south. This one joins the drainage easily, so I can sleep without concern for tomorrow.
Getting lost in the Redwall valley east of the Butte fault did lead to a useful discovery. Climbing Nankoweap Mesa would require gaining access to the saddle at the head of this Redwall valley. And the pass we found across the Butte Fault is an easy access.