Grand Canyon Journey Tanner to Grandview - Oct 31st - Nov 4th, 2016

When I proposed to my brother that our next backpacking trip be in the Grand Canyon, he said he would be delighted! He had never been to the Canyon although both of us have backpacked all over the West. I was introduced to the world below the rim by a buddy last Fall on a trip to Phantom Ranch. I wanted to explore the Canyon further. After much research and debate we decided to take on the Escalante Route from Tanner to Grandview over 4-½ days. It was a terrific trip with variety of scenery and terrain! Here are some photos, impressions and notes.

" Leave it as it is. You cannot improve on it. The ages have been at work on it, and man can only mar it. What you can do is to keep it for your children, and for all who come after you, as the one great sight which every American…should see" - Theodore Roosevelt, 1903

Thes is the view down Tanner Trail. The 9 mile decent to the River was tough because we needed to pay attention to our footing and it was steep.

This route was very challenging for us but all our energy expenditure was totally worth it. There is no place like the Canyon. Often we did not know where to look because the grandeur of the formations, colors, & textures extended in every direction. The scale of the Grand Canyon is unparalleled. We read that some people do this route in 3 days. Although it would not be physically possible for us to do this we were glad we had 5 days for the 31 miles. Nevertheless I felt rushed at times; there were many beautiful places we could have hung out for hours or days.

The hiking was generally tough. There were a few sections that were relatively flat with a good trail surface. But for the most part, we were either climbing or descending. The trail was rocky and generally unmaintained. We used our hiking poles heavily throughout the trip. At times the trail is very narrow and there is a lot of exposure to cliffs, and major drop-offs. This makes the views spectacular but also means it is not a good trip for a person with fear of heights or falling.

We left our car at Grandview and arranged for a shuttle taxi to take us to Lipan Point. We got on the trail about 8:30am. We were excited about the adventure ahead. It was such a great feeling to leave the parking lot looking forward to 5 days in the wilderness. I love backpacking and seeing how little stuff you need. I looked forward to having few decisions to make the next few days. As we descended into the Canyon, we thought we were nearly to the River until we realized that we were parallel with the red wall and had a long, long way to go! However, the canyon is mesmerizing and we didn't care that we were wearing a heavy pack and that our legs were getting very tired. We did not get to the river until about 6pm. It was dark. The days are short in early November!

We continued down the Tanner. It is really hard to get a sense of the scale. Below is a photo
Looking back up the Tanner Trail toward Lipon Point. We passed the red wall! See if you can find my brother in the photo. If you find him it will give you a sense of the scale!
"The wonders of the Grand Canyon cannot be adequately represented in symbols of speech, nor by speech itself. The resources of the graphic art are taxed beyond their powers in attempting to portray its features. Language and illustration combined must fail" - John Wesley Powell

Cardenas campground is at the base of this photo

The first night we camped at Tanner. We found a sandy spot in the bush by the rushing Colorado River. We had heard that the river might be muddy and we might have to let the water settle in a bucket and use alum. We were blessed to find that the water was pretty clear our whole trip. We happily did not use the collapsible bucket or the alum that we brought.

We even saw a polar bear from behind! A very odd sighting in the Grand Canyon.

Our second campsite was at Escalante. We again arrived in the dark after a gorgeous day of hiking. We slept under the stars the first three nights of our trip. There was no moonlight and the stars were quite bright. We saw shooting stars.

Reading older trip reports, it sounded like we might have to use some trail finding skills. However, my current understanding is that over the years the trail has become much more defined and well marked. It was a thrill not to see ANY trail signs for the entire route. The only signs that we saw were for the spur trail to Miner Spring and to "Keep Out of the radiation areas around the old mines on Horseshoe Mesa." We made extensive use of the thoughtfully placed cairns along the trail. There were a couple moments of indecision but we had no problems following the trail.

In the 5 days we were in the Canyon, we saw about 5 other parties…totaling about 12 people. It was wonderful that there were so few people.

Beach by Escalante camping area

Between Escalante and Seventy-Five Mile Canyon
Looking down into Seventy-Five Mile Canyon from the top
Looking down into Seventy-Five Mile Canyon
Rocks of 75 Mile Canyon
Walking in Seventy-Five Mile Canyon

Even though I had read tons of trip descriptions…the nature of Seventy-Five Mile Canyon was a wonderful surprise. We had to walk along the edge of the deep canyon quite a ways because there was no route "across" deep straight walled narrow canyon. Then we got to a place where we entered the canyon and walked "back" to the river "in" the slot canyon. It was very cool!

Between Seventy-Five Mile and Papago
Looking toward the Papago Wall (middle of photo)

We wondered about the Papago Wall. Would we be able to scale it? We heard it wasn't bad and it was not. We managed to get up it! We didn't our rope. We were able to climb the first part with our packs and then hoist them up by hand to each other the rest of the way. We climbed further up and then encountered the Papago slide!

This is the view from near the top of Papago Slide toward Hance Rapid. The Slide was as advertised. We needed to be very careful, be strategic and take it slow.

Looking upriver from near top of Papago Slide
The upper part was more difficult. Here we are in the lower section. I yelled to my brother this part was "just like walking" He got a good laugh and is still calling me on my lack of perspective! Speaking of perspective, this picture does not show the steepness accurately!

This is taken from our campsite at Hance Rapid! We actually got to our campsite before dark and enjoyed the late afternoon light and sunset! Again we slept out under the stars!

We had heard that mice were or could be a problem at some of the river campsites. We took precautions and each of us stored our food in a stuff sack, which was inside a ratsack, that was enclosed in a stuff sack.. The first night at Tanner we hung it from a rope that we found nicely suspended from a rock cliff. The other nights our food was on the ground and it was untouched. We also heard that ravens could be a problem. At Hance we saw a couple ravens flying near camp but we did not have any issues the whole trip.

"You cannot see the Grand Canyon in one view, as it it were a changeless spectacle from which a curtain might be lifted, but to see it, you have to toil from month to month through its labyrinths" - John Wesley Powell
"The elements that unite to make the Grand Canyon the most sublime spectacle in nature are multifarious and exceedingly diverse. - John Wesley Powell

On the morning of the 4th day of our trip we left our camp at Hance Rapid and started our climb away from the river. The landscape was awe inspiring. We made it to Hance Creek around 3pm and filled our water bottles in the barely running creek. Although we were scheduled to camp at Hance Creek we decided that it would be far better if we could get to Horseshoe Mesa by nightfall. By dividing the elevation gain from the River to the rim over two days we would be better off.

We had beautiful clear weather throughout our trip. The temperatures were in the 70's during the day and in the 50's at night. But the sky had turned cloudy and it was starting to rain. We also needed to wait till our iodine purified the water (yes, we are super old school and use iodine!), so we could drink as much water as we could and then refill our bottles. We debated whether we should try to make it to Horseshoe Mesa or not. We had heard the trail up via Miner's Spring was steep, but how steep? Could we find a flat place to lay down if we could not make the Mesa by dark? We put on our rain gear. We looked at the sky. We debated the pros and cons. We decided to go for it!

It was steep! We made it to Miner's Spring pretty quickly. Since it was the last water before the rim and we were going to dry camp….we drank some more water and very quickly filled our bottles at the gorgeous little grotto spring. We needed to keep going since we were racing the light and perhaps the rain. The rain was holding off and we trudged up the steep canyon through the red wall. We made it! We arrived on top of Horseshoe Mesa. We made our camp.

We had debated back and forth whether to bring a tent since the weather forecast looked very good for our 5 day trip….except there was mention of "slight chance of showers" on our last night. We decided to carry the extra weight and brought the tent. Good thing we did because it started to pour. We got in the tent and it rained (not showered) for several hours!

The next morning was beautifully damp and cool but no rain. Perfect weather for our 2700 foot accent over 3 miles to Grandview!

Morning view from near campsite at Horseshoe Mesa

Whew! Here is the view looking down on Horseshoe Mesa. We made it to Grandview. It was a hard climb but it topped off an terrific trip!

"I don't believe that anyone can see the Grand Canyon area for themselves and not know that we have to do everything we can to protect it for future generations." - Nolan Gould
Created By
Anthony Witt


All images © 2016 Anthony Witt

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