Day 4

April 3, 2012

Asbestos Canyon to Vishnu Creek via Newberry Butte Saddle

I was looking forward to today because I would be off-trail in a very remote area and the route would require some route-finding skills.  And going solo also adds to the excitement (and danger).  I was also looking forward to meeting my friends who were hiking to Vishnu from Unkar today.  There were two possible routes I could take to get to Vishnu.  One was a lower route that contours below the Tapeats until the next side canyon.  Apparently there are trail remnants that continue around and up through the Tapeats in the next side canyon.  This route ends in the lower section of Vishnu Creek, below the Tapeats but above the Vishnu schist. This is where Hance's old cabin is reported to be.  I have marked this route with a dashed line on the map.  Although it sounded interesting, I opted for the other route, which was more of a sure bet. 

I broke camp around 7:30 and began heading up canyon, carrying 3 quarts of water.  In a little over half a mile I turned into a side canyon.  The going was pretty rough for a while, with lots of huge car-sized blocks.  The farther I went, the steeper it got.  But the weather was perfect for hiking.  As I continued up canyon, it became clear that to continue straight up the drainage would most likely become technical,  so I turned to the left and climbed a steep slope towards the Tonto Platform.  I reached the first small saddle on the Tonto around 10:15. 

Looking Down Asbestos Canyon Looking Down Asbestos Canyon Apparently Impassible Canyon Ahead

Approaching the Tonto Sheba Temple Horseshoe Mesa in Center

The views from the Tonto were awesome.  Looking back across Asbestos Canyon provided a great view of Sheba Temple, with Soloman Temple visible behind Sheba.  An unusual view of Horseshoe Mesa could be seen looking south. 

The hiking would now be pretty easy, with the main objective to contour around towards Newberry Saddle without losing much elevation. 

Contouring to Newberry Saddle Newberry Butte Newberry Saddle

It was pretty easy contouring over to Newberry Saddle, with only a short 400-foot climb at the end to gain the saddle.  The views from the saddle were spectacular.  I got a perfect view of the route we would be taking tomorrow morning as we crossed over to Clear Creek via Angels Gate Saddle.  The drop into Vishnu Creek didn't look difficult.

Newberry Saddle From Vishnu Side Route to Hall Butte Saddle Redbud

Cliffs prevent you from dropping straight down from Newberry Saddle.  I contoured to the right for a couple hundred yards before starting down an easy slope to Vishnu Creek.  I headed directly towards the Creek, but was stopped at the rim by a hundred foot cliff.  I contoured up-canyon until I found a way down. 

I ended up in the middle of the gorgeous quartzite narrows.  The Redbuds were in bloom which really enhanced the charm of the canyon.  There were only a few intermittent potholes.  It was now around 1:30 and no sign of my friends.  I hiked down canyon to the point where the drainage coming down from Hall Butte Saddle enters Vishnu, where I found a nice flow of good water.  About a hundreds yards farther down stream is a large overhanging campsite on creek right. 

Quartzite Narrows in Vishnu Quartzite Narrows in Vishnu Upper Vishnu Canyon

I left my pack at the spring and headed down canyon for a bit of exploration.  I soon came to a large pouroff, which I assumed was the 50-ft or 25-ft waterfall described in Day Hikes from the River  and Grand Canyoneering, respectively. Both books say to bypass the falls on creek right.  It didn't look right to me, but I continued on, climbing fairly high up on creek right.  It wasn't at all obvious that creek right would even go, and if it did, I would have to climb very high to do it.  I decided against it and instead took some pictures looking down from the waterfall, then hiked back to my pack.  As it turns out, this waterfall was not the one described in the books.

Vishnu Narrows

View Below the Waterfall

When I got back to my pack it was about 4:30 and I figured my friends could show up anytime.  I hung around for about an hour, then decided to hike up canyon to look for them.  After about half a mile the narrows end and the drainage opens up.  I was now starting to get a little nervous that they might not show up, although I knew they had made it to their cache at Lava.  I yelled up-canyon in an almost useless attempt to connect with them, then I turned around.  I picked up my pack and headed down to the overhang camp and started to settle in for the night.  It was now about 6:00. 

While sitting in camp I contemplated what I should do if they didn't show up.  I didn't want to try to go over Angels Gate by myself, and I didn't like the idea of the long and dry Tonto route either.  I could go back the way I came, but that didn't sound like any fun.  Or I could try to go down Vishnu to the river.  Although I still thought creek right was probably the correct route to bypass the falls, I could see a way on creek left that didn't look bad.  Once at the river I could catch a ride down to Clear Creek.

Around 6:30 I heard voices coming from down canyon.  How could they possibly be coming from that way?  I spotted two people carrying backpacks, but I couldn't make out who they were.  They turned out to be two backcountry rangers.  One of them was named Dean (I think), but I can't remember the name of the other.  They both work at the Backcountry Office.  They started out early this morning, hiked down the Grandview Trail, then continued to the river via the old and abandoned Grandview Trail extension.  They waited only a few minutes for a raft to take them almost directly across the river to the mouth of Vishnu.  It was nice to see backcountry rangers out in the backcountry. 

They explained to me that the falls described by Tom Martin were farther down canyon and that the falls I was looking at are best bypassed on creek left.     They were going to camp above the narrows, and then continue up-canyon tomorrow morning.  I told them that if they run into my friends, tell them that I will wait until noon tomorrow and then I would hike down Vishnu to the river and hitch a ride. 

At around 7:30 (completely dark) I heard voices and saw a couple of lights coming from up canyon.  My friends had finally arrived using their headlamps.  They said that this was their usual MO.  They got into camp at around sunset or a little after almost every night so far.  And this was their 6th night.  They were all exhausted. 

I listened to more of How We Decide by Jonah Lehrer before falling asleep.

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