Day 6

October 20, 2016

River to Tonto Via Grapevine Canyon


Today's route stats: 

    Distance:  2.8 miles

    Elevation Gain:  1550 feet

    Elevation Loss:  400 feet

We were expecting today to be pretty tough at first, followed by a leisurely hike up Grapevine Canyon to the Tonto Platform.  Our first objective was to climb 900 feet via a steep chute to a saddle overlooking Grapevine Canyon.  On a day hike in February, 2014, Ben and I (and others) hiked down Grapevine to a point about 0.8 miles from the River, then about 400 feet up a steep chute to a saddle where we could look down and see the River.  This route would avoid the difficult obstacles in lower Grapevine Canyon.


Looking Up Grapevine Creek From the Saddle. View of River From the Saddle.  Mouth of Vishnu in View.


The climb to the saddle was steep and loose.  We picked our way up slowly trying to avoid the steepest and loosest sections.  I'm not sure how long it took us, but my guess is somewhere between 90 minutes and 2 hours.  The above photos show the views down to the River as well as down into Grapevine.  In the picture on the right, you can see the tiny beach at the mouth of Vishnu Canyon. 

The drop into Grapevine was also steep and loose, but only about half the distance as the climb up.  Once we got down, we dropped our packs and headed down the canyon, just to see what was there. 

There was a significant amount of water flowing in Grapevine Creek -- more than I remembered the last time I was here.  It is a little over two miles to the Tonto, and it took us several hours.  There were many small obstacles and pools to deal with.  One pool in particular was very difficult for me.  Ben managed to climb above and around the pool, but I thought he had taken an extreme risk.  I would never have even considered it.  So I had to attempt to get by the pool by wading through it.  It was chest deep.  I carried my pack over my head and managed, with my dysfunctional shoulders, to get my pack up past a small waterfall to a place where Ben could retrieve it.  I tried several times to climb out of the pool and up the small waterfall.  I could not do it.  Finally I suggested that Ben throw me one end of the webbing, which I wrapped around my waist, and had Ben pull as hard as he could.  As Ben pulled,  I squirmed my way, a little like a slug, up the waterfall.  

Eventually we did get to the Tonto Platform and the Tonto Trail.  Surprisingly, there was no water at the trail crossing.  However, we did find water a couple of hundred yards up-canyon. 

As a side note, the route to the river via the Grandview Trail extension is shown in purple in the above map.  There is a large cairn marking the top.  It is a little steep and hard to follow in places, but it gets you down to the river without much difficulty.  This route is mentioned in several guide books, but the best description is probably in Bob Audretsch's book, Selected Grand Canyon Area Hiking Routes


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