Day 6

April 8, 2013

Unkar Creek to Vishnu Creek


Click on photos to see larger image.

Today's route stats: 

    Distance:  Difficult to determine off-trail miles, but probably about 5.

    Elevation Gain:  2300 feet

    Elevation Loss:  1700 feet

Everyone was expecting today to be hard.   It was one of the hardest days encountered last year, but much of their difficulty was the result of route-finding problems.  We didn't expect to have the same problem again.

We started hiking at 6 am, and again I started out with almost a gallon of water.  We had to retrace our steps back up Unkar to the side canyon that leads to Vishnu saddle (the saddle that is about 3/4 mile NW of Vishnu Temple).   The going was easy for the first 1-1/2 hours, until we reached an impassible section in the Tapeats that required a bypass on the left.  It only took us about 30 minutes to climb around the drop-off and get back down into the drainage.   

Hiking Towards Vishnu Saddle. Hiking Towards Vishnu Saddle. Bypass in the Tapeats.
Hiking Around Tapeats Cliffs.  Jim Climbing Through Tapeats.  View of Saddle From Top of Tapeats.

For the next two hours the hiking was relatively easy, until we came to an especially difficult section in the Redwall limestone.  We climbed up a steep, thin, and exposed ramp on the left. 

Marcey Starting Up the Ramp Ledge.

Looking Down at the Ledge Ramp.

Finally Above the Redwall.

Clouds had been building all morning, and the wind was picking up.  At first we were glad to get some relief from the gnats, but it continued to get colder and windier.  We reached the top at 10:45.  After a short break, and just as we began to start down into Vishnu, the wind abruptly increased.  It was fierce and very cold.   We were worried about a storm blowing in from the west.

View Down Into Unkar From Saddle.

Resting on Vishnu Saddle.

View Down into Vishnu Creek drainage.

The climb down through the Redwall was very steep and loose.  After only about 15 minutes it began to rain, snow and/or sleet.  It would come in squalls from the west.  We could see them coming, but there were very few places where we could find shelter.  We were all cold and starting to get a little wet.  Rocks, dislodged from the cliffs above us, would occasionally whiz by us.  It was pretty scary -- no place to hide.  We continued to scramble down the chute until we needed to leave the chute on the right and contour way around to avoid impassible cliffs.  It was still raining and cold as we hurried along, anxious to get to the bottom and on flatter terrain.  As is typical in such situations, I didn't take any photos.

Finally Down onto Flatter Terrain.

Resting During Let-Up in the Rain.

My Home Along Vishnu Creek.

When I was only about a hundred feet from the bottom, a rock rolled out from under my foot and I fell forward, face-down the steep slope.  I was wedged between rocks, my pack on top of me, and my hiking stick under me, facing down the steep slope.  I couldn't get my arm free because it was still in the wrist strap of my hiking pole, which was firmly stuck under me.  I could not move.  The others, who were resting at the bottom, rushed to my rescue.  Amazingly, I wasn't hurt at all -- no bumps or scrapes.  Luckily, my head landed snugly between two rocks.  The only causality was a broken hiking pole.  I had broken one of my poles two days before, and Ethan loaned me one of his.  This time he gave me his other pole too.  Apparently he isn't used to hiking poles and didn't really need one.  Thank you Ethan!

The hiking was now much easier.  Once back in the main Vishnu drainage we agreed to stop at the first available water.  It turned out to be about a mile further down-canyon.  We arrived at our campsite around 3 pm.  I set up my tent, which consisted only of a rain fly and poles.  It was difficult to set up because of the wind.  I needed to hold it down with giant rocks.

We were all pretty tired and glad to be at camp.  We went to bed right after dinner, even though it was still light.  It rained off and on all night.

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