Sunday, September 9, 2012

Mt. Hayden

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-

I'd never climbed in the Grand Canyon before although wanting to for the past 4 years.  The guilt of living so close, and being to lazy to go for it finally won its battle and Friday afternoon I hurriedly packed for a journey into the unknown.

It'd been a good busy week, and I was excited to get out of town.  The simple act of camping can make it seem like one is on vacation, and bring a certain sense of newness to the soul.  We headed out of town around 5pm leaving just enough time to catch the sunset at the Vermillion Cliffs!




Another hour and a half of driving brought to the North rim in the dark.  We decided to pull over on a forest road and set up camp for the night.  After a few pbr's, some spicy mac (One of my new favorites for camping... any tasty bite Indian food packet mixed with mac and cheese! Thanks Alonzo!) We headed to bed.  Anytime I step into a new environment, especially one I've heard is super burly, I have trouble sleeping.   After finally drifting off the alarm came all to soon at 6am.

                                           Jason doing a late night patch job on his theramarest

We woke to find where we camped was a beautiful area that was booming with succession after the big north rim fire.  Aspens were beginning to come back in a very lush field of Arizona Fescue with the black charred skeletons of Ponderosa pines patiently watching over the process awaiting their return.

 A quick drive to Imperial Point brought us to the start of our day.  The directions were simply to hop the guard rail go down a 1,000 foot gully of loose dirt and rock, bushwack through about an hour of New Mexican Locus,and find the ridge of shale than connect Mt. Hayden to the North Rim. We couldn't find much information on the climb, but saw quite a few trip reports claiming horrible knifey locust, and 11 hour car to car days.  Many people said the approach took them 2.5 hours and the return hike another 3.5.  These comments had us all expecting a long day.

photo credit: Jason Lowry

photo credit: Jason Lowry

 After leaving a not on the lookout with our emails in case any tourist took photos of us on the summit Nate took the lead, and somehow almost flawlessly led us right to the climb in 1:15 with minimal bushwhacking.  The approach in itself is a brilliant hike! 

One very important thing in the Grand Canyon is to bring plenty of hydration...a little beer also helps with the bushwhacking.

We quickly got ready for the climb, which turned out to be super fun adventure climbing.  I tunneled through, climbed over, and slung many weird bushes guarding the cracks in the reasonably solid Coconino sandstone.  The climb had great belay ledges, and each pitch was super enjoyable.  The summit, perhaps one of the best of my life, was the biggest treat of the day.  It was perfectly flat and large enough to walk around on unroped.  The summit register read like a history book with climbing legends lining the pages.

                                                    photo credit: Jason Lowry

photo credit: Jason Lowry

After spending an amazing, wind free, perfect hour on the summit we decided it was time to head down.  The rappels went great except for one easily solved snag on the last one, and we started hiking back to the rim.  I'd planned for this to be the worst part of the day, but to our surprise we found an even better route back, with nearly no locust, and made it back to the rim in about 1.5 hours.  Stoked to be back we hung out at the overlook, drank some water, and then headed back to Flagstaff!

After making it back to Flagstaff around 8 we finished off the day with NiMarcos pizza and pints!  It was a great day with good friends in an unforgettable setting.  Can't wait to go back and climb in the canyon again.