Day 4

April 13, 2015

Down Un-Named Tributary to Surprise Canyon


Click on photos to see larger image.

We were packed up and hiking by 7:00 AM.  We were sure we would be doing the rappels today.  In about 90 minutes we had reached a point where we could drop down into the Redwall gorge.  And within minutes we began encountering standing water in potholes.  We took a long break at the first pothole, chugging a liter or two before continuing on.  Now the fun would begin.

Canyon Bottom Getting Closer. Still Looking For a Way Down. Almost Down.


It didn't take long before we were at our first rappel.  Ben was a little nervous because he had never rappelled before.  And I was a little nervous because I didn't have much experience setting anchors.  But we were both more excited than nervous. 

We built anchors for most of the rappels by building a large pile of rocks, like a big cairn.  Webbing was attached to a rock at the bottom of the pile and rocks were piled on top.  We brought two rappel rings with us, so we used one on the first rappel.  We ran the webbing out so that the ring was clear of any cracks that might prevent the rope from being pulled from below.  Thus we ended up leaving some webbing and a ring at this first drop.  I hate to leave anything in the canyon, but I'm sure it will be gone after the first flood. 


Precious Potholes. Ben Collecting Water. Ben at Our First Rappel.

The canyon was awesome and very narrow in some places.  We came to our second rappel soon after the first.  And then a third.  We were expecting two or three rappels, so we figured we might already be done with the rappels.  But no, we soon came to a fourth.  I was now getting a little more nervous.  Perhaps Rich was able to lower packs and free-climb down.  I know I certainly couldn't. 

There was absolutely no way we could go back up the canyon.  We were fully committed to continuing down.  I'm not sure when we used the last rappel ring and the last of the webbing, but probably on the third or fourth rappel.  We brought enough webbing for a diaper-sling sit-harness, plus a few yards of webbing for rappels.  Now we needed to cut pieces from the end of our rope to use in setting up rappels.  Luckily we brought 60 feet of rope -- 10 feet more than Rich had recommended. 


Beautiful Canyon.  Notice the Window. More Spectacular Canyon. Another Rappel Required.

It was next to impossible to know exactly where we were in the canyon.  No way to get a GPS signal, and the canyon was so convoluted that keeping track of turns and bends in the canyon was hopeless.  Not that it really mattered.  The canyon was so narrow, long, and deep that we really got the feeling of being in an extremely remote place.  And this has got to be one of the most remote locations in Grand Canyon National Park.  It was a little spooky.  I don't know how many people have been down this canyon, but probably only a handful.  Since there was no way to get livestock down here, the ranchers didn't even name it.  And they named many much less significant canyons in the area. 

We encountered many water-filled narrow sections where we were forced to wade.  Trying to keep our boots dry was futile.  And pointless, really, since they were dry by the next morning, with no apparent damage. 


Endless Canyon. More Endless Canyon. Canyon Opening Up.  Near the End?  No!

Soon after our 5th rappel, the canyon began to open up a bit.  We figured we were done with the rappels and maybe even close to Surprise.  But we really didn't know. 

We continued on.  Towards the end of the day we came to a huge pouroff -- way too deep for a rappel with our equipment.  We figured this was the pouroff we saw earlier from the rim.  We had been worried about how we would get past it.   Ben spent close to an hour scouting for a bypass.  We were running out of daylight, and we were both very tired.  Eventually he figured it out and we ended up camping above the bypass.  Thus our fears were eased a bit, and we could enjoy the evening without worrying too much about tomorrow. 

Our campsite was on some reasonably flat slickrock next to a small flow of water.  Rich had said there were some great campsites on the ledges about a mile from the end.  We weren't really on ledges, and the camp wasn't great, so we figured we still had a ways to go to get to Rich's campsite. 

I continued to listen to Wild  before going to sleep.


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