Grandview buttes

Buttes and trailhead from Horseshoe

Looking for a moderate day that did not involve the corridor trails, I chose to head down the Grandview Trail to tag the butte forming the toe calk on Horseshoe Mesa. There are also two Coconino buttes on either side of the trail that I could add as bonus peaks if I had the time and energy. I had traveled this trail many times before, both to the mesa and down to the Tonto, but had never tried to climb the butte.

Kind of exposed

It was unpleasantly cold in the morning, which was good in that the deep, slick mud on forest road where I had camped was frozen, but I was in no hurry to start hiking. Grandview Point is one of the higher parts of the south rim, so the upper trail was covered in deep snow. Fortunately enough people had gone before me to beat in a path, because the route would be both treacherous and difficult to find in untracked powder. The snow faded by the lower Coconino, but there were still large yellow icicles hanging from the cliffs, threatening to break off and cause mayhem below. Once past the snow, I was able to jog a fair amount of the trail to the mesa, where there were a handful of campers.

Horseshoe Mesa

With help from Tomasi’s guide, the butte was fairly straightforward. The route wanders up the lower slopes through short Supai steps, then passes the final cap with perhaps twenty feet of fourth class scrambling on the left. The south-facing rock was dry and non-threatening, and I soon found myself hiking across the flat top to the summit cairn. The register in its copper container was in good shape, and contained mostly the usual suspects. One entry mentioned tagging the butte on the way down the Old Grandview to the river, which sounded interesting, but I was more interested in summits than decrepit trails.

Crux dihedral

I reversed my route down the butte, then followed the trail to a narrow saddle at the base of the Coconino, connecting the eastern butte to the rim. I found a few cairns and perhaps faint traces of a use trail at first, but this summit is not a popular objective, and the north-facing route was mostly covered in snow. The scrambling was no harder than third class, but the snow changed it considerably, making it harder in places, but easier where I was able to kick steps. Emerging on the ridge crest, I saw that I had a fair ways to go to the summit. The traverse was what I would come to recognize as typical Coconino: “pancake stacks” of sandstone mixed with tilted ground littered with “surprise surfboards” ready to ride. It was tedious work made slower by the snow.

First ascent?

The final headwall seemed to require climbing a forty foot low-fifth-class dihedral, which felt secure but required a bit of caution with the damp rock. Rather than a nice copper register container, I found an old rusty Altoids tin filled with wet paper and no pencil. The only entry I saw was from 2003, stating that there was no cairn or register at the time. I let the papers dry out for a few minutes as I had a snack, then shoved them back in the can, put the can in the cairn, and reversed my route to the trail.

West butte traverse

The western butte is the end of a long ridge extending northwest from near the top of the Coconino. While it looked from afar as if it should be an easy walk from the trail, following the crest turned out to require quite a bit of scrambling and route-finding. Rather than an easy sidewalk, the ridge consisted of many Coconino stacks and pinnacles with gaps between them, a few requiring some steep climbing. Finally reaching the cairn at the highpoint, I took in the view for a few minutes, then retraced my complicated route to the trail. The snow was a bit softer on the return and, as always, it was easier going up the slick trail. While I had only met a handful of backpackers on the trail, there was a depressing mob milling at the overlook. I talked to the one backpacker hanging out on top, whose partner had slipped and fractured his hand, then gleefully occupied a precious parking spot for the rest of the afternoon before driving back out of the park to camp.

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