The Grand Eight: Day 7 and Epilogue

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The first part of the last day was simple: climb up Scotty’s Hollow until the drainage gives way, then turn right and climb up a steep slope to the rim. The second part was less so: walking two miles of road to my car, driving as close to Brendan’s truck as possible in said car, mountain biking the rest of the way, then getting all vehicles back to pavement.

First things first. Scotty’s ended up being a riotous canyon hiking playground; part gorgeous hike, part waterpark, part bouldering obstacle course.

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We had one very brief swim, a bunch of wading, and some thought-demanding boulders to climb up. One pool ran wall to wall in the heart of the polished limestone, with a gentle but steady and algae-slicked spout. Brendan tried it, but retreated to stow the camera. It took me a good half-dozen increasingly hilarious slides back into chest deep water to crack the code with a full body stem/smear. A couple boulder sequences required similar attempts to summit.

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Not as deep or long as 150, but I can’t recall a more fun 90 minutes of foot travel, ever.

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The 1500′ final slope wasn’t joy-fun, but it was rewarding to grind out elevation in such a stark and direct fashion.

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Slope from bottom.

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Back down from halfway up. We climbed out the obvious near drainage. Kanab runs left to right in the middle distance.

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Looking up, same halfway spot.

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We went right at the top, when we ought to have gone left, and added spice with some 5.easy cliff bands on rotten rock. I was in the zone in way I haven’t been in years on such terrain, and it floated past my eyes, with me confident I wouldn’t break anything. My big pack and I didn’t weigh anything for those 15 minutes, you see.

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And as only the Grand Canyon is, we topped out and it was over. Take 20 steps into the junipers and that canyon of canyons of canyons might never have been there.

The car shuttle/retrieval took quite a while, but some careful rut straddling with my car got us within a mile of the NPS border, from which point the bike ride back to the beginning was quick and fun. We fled to the pavement, then to Hurricane for mexican food, and went our separate ways, sure to meet again soon. There might be nothing so simple and rich as a backcountry executed well and ended.

To be basic, I would do this route again with no modifications. There are certainly plenty of variations possible, many that would add more technical beef, but the variety we had was fantastic.

Do not do this trip without a very solid partner, and make sure you’re firing on all cylinders yourself. The terrain is relentless, and the opportunities to get hurt or let your spirit break are all but constant.

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Brendan and I both ran light shoes; Inov8 Trailroc 235s for him, LaSportiva Anakondas for me. The agility and traction were vital, but having the leg and joint strength to carry 40 pounds with these shoes on that terrain is a goal which took us both years to achieve. As seen above, I lost 60-70% of the forefoot tread over the course of the trip, the cost of sticky rubber. It was absolutely worth it.

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For technical gear we had a 120′ Imlay Canyon Gear pullcord, 120′ Bluewater Canyon Pro, BD Couloir harnesses and the minimum of rapping and ascending gear. As light as it gets, and everything worked very well. The Couloirs won’t be super durable for canyoneering, but are quite comfy and meet their 8 ounce spec once you cut off the belay loop (which are stupid on daiper-style harnesses).

Our Alpacka Scouts and full sized four piece paddles were overkill. If I did these sort of trips a lot, I’d invest in a lighter boat and paddle from Supai, Klymit, or Flytepacker.

This is not a route for shorts. Light pants are vital given the brush and heat.

I purchased a Mountain Hardwear Way2Cool t-shirt in Springdale the day before we started, at 50% off. It was fantastic. Together with the BD Alpine Start hoody (which held up to bushwacking incredibly well), it addressed 95% of the conditions we had. We both had puffy coats for camp/sleeping, and a fleece shirt or vest for the cold canyons. This last was only really used in 150 Mile, but there it was absolutely vital. We brought but never used light neoprene socks. The wading was surprisingly warm the whole trip.

We both slept in light down bags/quilts, on Thermarest Prolite XSs. Given that the best camps were often on bare rock, I consider an inflatable pad mandatory. We both carried, but never used, small tarps.

We each had burly trekking poles, modified with the light and comfortable Gossamer Gear grips. They got stowed plenty, but there were even more occasions when having two stout poles was essential.

I built a simple, 1000D cordura pack around the Paradox 24″ frame and hipbelt, along with the Hill People Gear shoulder harness. It worked superbly. I’ve never done a trip of this length with a pack of this weight without pretty significant bruising on my hips. To eliminate that entirely, as well as have ideal stability over some fiendish terrain, is a massive achievement. 1000D on the main body, and a double layer of 500D on the bottom, was not overkill. I put a few small holes in each.

All that remains in the inevitable question: what’s next?

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14 thoughts on “The Grand Eight: Day 7 and Epilogue

    • Thanks Martin.

      Looking back through the photos and putting everything together was rewarding, especially because it did prompt a lot of reflection on the decades-long learning process. Learning to canyoneer a decade ago, learning to rock climb over two decades ago (!), all the decision making I’ve practiced in the more remote places here and in Alaska in recent years. More than any other this trip brought it all together, which is cool.

      I should add that I’m laying on the couch right now seriously feeling the effects of all that walking. Lots of connective tissue inflammation in my knees, ankles, and feet. Nothing another week of patience won’t clear up, but not something to be trifled with either.

  1. Dave,

    I’ve been reading your posts over the weekend from the comfort of my home in London. I am both happily jealous and in awe of your achievement. You ask what’s next? Would you mind doing it again but make a video of the trip (only half joking). Also, I’m pretty certain if you wanted you could get paid to guide other adventurers on this, or part of, this trip. But I guess that would take the fun out of it somewhat.

    May I ask if you lost much weight on the trip? And did you take any medicine with you for inflamed joints; Ibuprofen or similar. All in do you know how many miles/km you covered (I may have missed this in the posts)?

    You mentioned permits. Does this mean in the US you need a permit to hike in the national parks?

    Once again, many thanks for making my weekend a little more enjoyable.

    Darren

    • Cheers Darren. A camera which shoots decent video has been on the list for a while, but always looses out to things like funding this trip. Eventually. As for guiding; been there, done it. Not interested. I enjoy having a professional life which has nothing to do with the outdoors.

      If I lost any weight, it was pretty minimal. My body reacts pretty well to these kinds of trips, and I’m naturally not enormously lean, which helps moderate calorie stress and stay warm. I did not take any meds, either during or after. I meant to put some Aleve in my med kit, but forgot. Generally I prefer to feel the pain and have the good feedback that provides.

      I did not count miles, on this terrain (moreso than usual) they don’t tell you much. I’d guess somewhere around 100.

      In the US you almost always need a permit for backcountry travel in National Parks. How much of a bother they are to get varies enormously from park to park. Grand Canyon does more rescues than any other park, mainly due to heat issues, and for that and other reasons their permit process is rather involved. It could certainly put you off if you’ve never encountered that sort of thing. I faxed in the initial form, and got an email confirmation within 24 hours holding our requested dates and zones while we filled out and faxed in a more extensive secondary form (outlining route details and providing a bit of a resume). A few weeks later we got the paper permit in the mail, and my card was charged (80 bucks total). A nuisance? Sure. Worth it? I’d say so.

      By contrast, Yellowstone gives out permits for free and you can typically just walk in to a ranger station and get one for that evening, save in the most popular campsites during the height of summer. It certainly pays to do your research here.

  2. Simply awesome! I’m not sure if I’d enjoy all the aspects of canyon trips of this (or lesser) magnitude but the views and experience seem so good it might just be worth the uncorftable parts. ;) Though taking into account the long learning process required and that I live in a land with no canyons, I might just stay on the vasty open and white places. But it doesn’t mean that I wouldn’t enjoy a lot reading the series of reports! Thanks for sharing!

    • I was pleased with how well a bunch of skiing and a little walking around town with a loaded pack preped me for this trip. I am glad it wasn’t any hotter; that would have been a struggle.

      • Hot really is struggle when you’re used to the cool/cold. At the moment I’m actually worried about the opposite: it’s been lousy winter here and we’ve been in full spring temps for two weeks and after another two weeks of warmth and sunshine I should leave to a very cold place for four weeks of unsupported skiing. :S

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