Bike touring may be cheap, but the weeks surrounding trips are always expensive. After visiting friends and family, dealing with the deferred maintenance that comes from spending three months living in a tent in a foreign country, and gearing up for what comes next, I headed for the desert as one usually does at this time of year. The western States offer gradations of desert, from southern Arizona to southern Utah, and I chose the Grand Canyon partly because it was not too hot and not too muddy, and partly because I had potential partners in the Big Ditch. As a warmup day by myself, I decided to take care of some unfinished business from last fall, tagging two buttes on either side of Escalante Butte near the Tanner Trail. The San Francisco Peaks beckoned with their whiteness — I have not yet skied them, and one can only legally summit Agassiz while it is covered in snow — but I drove past, heading toward the park’s east entrance to sleep down at an elevation where I would not get stuck in mud or snow. I was nervous driving the icy road up to Lipan Point the next morning, but my car did better than expected, and I had the place to myself other than one sunrise photographer and one photogenic raven. The Tanner was completely snow-covered for the first thousand feet or so, but there was a nice track beaten in, and it was not too icy or slick. I continued on the trail to the saddle before Escalante Butte, then left it to contour along the Supai toward the butte to its west. This was the usual annoying side-hilling, but the dirt was wet enough on the south-facing traverse to offer better footing than autumn dust. The Butchart map shows a route more or less straight up the east side of the butte, and I managed to put together a wandering route through the Supai bands. The sandstone was still wet in the shade, making things a bit more delicate, but nothing was harder than class 4. I sat for awhile next to the cairn, then reversed my route. I continued contouring around the northwest side of Escalante, finding more of the same Supai tedium, but this time with deep mud in the ravines. It has been wet and cold in the Canyon, and as I was to find in subsequent days, north-facing routes can be difficult or inadvisable. I gained the ridge just north of Escalante, and stayed mostly on it over a subpeak, then zig-zagged up Cardenas Butte, finding a cairn or two but again no serious traffic. Perusing the register, I saw that someone had traversed through from Escalante, and was continuing to the unnamed point at the end of the ridge. Since it added little distance and I had nothing better to do, I decided to do the same. The extra butte added a bit more scrambling, though no Peakbagger Points, and I was soon back on the trail. I met a few backpackers on my hike out, but no tourists — I guess the snow keeps them away. They were out in force at Lipan Point, however, so I hid in my car for the rest of the day, emerging only to take some photos of the stormy sunset, before driving back out of the park to camp.
On This Day
December 4, 2019