Grandview Trail to Old Grandview Trail – Grand Canyon – AZ (3.1.17)


My eyes popped open.  No alarm had sounded, the twilight was starting to open up in the sky. I jumped up frantically searching for my phone; it was dead as a doornail. The 10 degree temps had helped to suck whatever battery I had left and I had overslept almost an hour. I jumped up, threw on my hiking clothes, and stuffed my bag with food for the day. There was no time for coffee or a warm breakfast…I needed to finish my hike and drive back to Phoenix for work the next day. I pulled on my jacket and ski mask and let out on the trail.

The air was chilly and a few people hung about at the start of the hike, taking pictures of the sunrise. Once I passed them, there was no one else. No birds, no people, no sounds… just me and the canyon and the snow. The snow was a good 12 inches deep at the beginning of the trail. I had my microspikes on, so I trudged through the snow knowing that once I dropped low enough, it would give way to rocks and dirt again. What a peaceful sight, the canyon undisturbed in the fresh fallen snow.

mmmm snow baby!
leaving the switchbacks and heading out on the skirting arm that would lead me to Horseshoe Mesa

The trail was steep and I quickly descended through the switchbacks on the south rim cliff. I soon skirted the arm that jetted out to meet horseshoe mesa where the most padded part of Grandview trail ended. I broke out of the shade and the sun warmed me, so I pulled off the ski mask and hoody and trekked the bridge to the mesa. As I neared the Horseshoe I noticed a sign to the right that stated that there was radioactive area nearby, the sign read “Do not enter”. Hmmm . . . I highly doubted there was actually radioactive material in there, but I knew the sign served as a deterrent to keep people out of the Last Chance Mine (founded in 1890 by Pete Berry when copper was discovered there) and it was not on my list of things to do so I trekked on.

The snow finally gave up!
uhhhhhh where my geiger counter?
Foundation of an old miners house

I found the mesa and the remaining foundation of what I could only imagine was a miner’s house. After a short pause and some pictures I kept trekking north. Eventually I came to a seldom used trail that went directly west. I heard that the only cave in the canyon that didn’t require a special permit was located there. I figured “why not, let’s check it out” and took the trail. Soon after the trail had walked all the way to the edge and off the west side of the cliff I found Cave of the Domes.

Rounding the corner to the Cave of the Domes
Entrance to Cave of the Domes
  • Cove of the Domes Registry
  • Like Rome, columns out front!

There I found a small entry to the cave.  Sporting my headlamp and camera, I entered. The cave was much warmer, probably mid 50’s compared to low 40’s outside. It was also dusty and the air was a bit stagnant. I searched around and found the typical formations, stalactite and stalagmites, but also found some bacon, popcorn…a little bit of everything. I poked around the main chamber of the cove, trying to look down all the legs of the cave. I found quite a few that undoubtedly went further into the ground, warranting further exploration. Curiosity began to rear its head, but I quickly squashed the idea. I didn’t have much time, and the cave was not my primary goal of the trek.  I was already breaking quite a few caving rules (running solo, with only 2 sources of light, and no helmet), so I thought it best to move on and come back another time. I emerged from the cave the same way I entered and was soon back on the trail headed towards the river.

Looking back towards the rim from Horseshoe Mesa
Getting closer to Tonto Trail, dumping off Horseshoe Mesa

I dumped off the front side of the Horseshoe Mesa, tying into the Tonto trail skirting west towards the Old Grandview trail. The trail down from the mesa was quite different that the beaten trail above. It was much more sparse and I had to follow cairns until finally reaching Tonto. By this time the temps were perfect… still chilly, but just right while moving with some sun on me. I rounded a corner and saw my first sign of life. A pack of small brown birds erupted in flight, all chirping and fluttering. It was such a nice day. The Tonto trail moved quickly and I pushed on passing Cottonwood creek, which to my surprise was running. It seemed like a little oasis. I could see some lush green foliage clinging to life near the small creek.

Turning the bend, skirting on the Tonto Trail
Cottonwood creek, slightly flowing

The Tonto snaked back and forth in and out of canyons until I finally reached a large cairn signifying the Old Grandview Trail. I looked down at the inner gorge in awe. The rock here was hard and impenetrable, which is why there are only a very few trails that lead all the way to the river as the rocks offered a type of protection. Skeptical of the difficulty, I cautiously proceeded down the steep embankment which dropped down to the river with 1,200 foot drop in just under half a mile. “Oh look a cairn!” I thought as I descended, and I was very surprised how good the trail was.  Another cairn, and another, “Man this isn’t nearly as bad as I thought it was going to be” I thought as I pushed on.  I found myself climbing over the first notch into a shadowed wash, everything was pretty smooth. I passed the second notch and entered the final wash which would take me all the way to the river. A little loose but very doable, and I hardly had to use my hand.

Inner gorge, man I have so much further to drop, it looked impenetrable from where I stood!
River and the inner gorge
Pushing down the slot that would lead me to the river

Soon enough I found myself sitting on the beach of the Colorado River. The water was murky, but powerful and cold as hell! The Colorado is always an impressive sight. I sat, ate a snack and had a nice break before finally packing up and heading back out. On the trek out I decided to take the Cottonwood Creek trail and I wasn’t disappointed. There weren ample opportunities to camp creekside, which was shaded by the namesake cottonwood trees that lined the edge. The gain was good, but it secretly became my favorite part of any trip. I pushed hard and trekked at a good clip. It was just me, so no one to catch up to or wait on. Sometimes it’s nice to have a little 1-on-1 time with the canyon. I finally pushed out and ascended the last snowy switches to find a few people at the trailhead taking in the view and taking pictures with their families. Another trek successfully completed. Man I love the canyon! I hope you will get the chance to see it too, trek on!

Sitting on the beach at the Colorado river (180 degree view)
Heading up Cottonwood Creek
  • Snow?! Heck yes, gotta love that golden light!
  • Golden goodness!



  • Weather: Hi 60s, Low 10s, Sunny
  • Water: 3 liters
  • Food: Snickers, 2 Cliff Builder Protien Bars, 2 Kroger Protien Bars, 1 apple, 1 bag of jerky, bag of salt and vennigar chips, 1 bag of cheetos, 2 granola bars, 1 bag of neon sour gummy worms
  • Time: 10 hours
  • Distance: 17 miles Round Trip
  • Accumulated Gain: 5,000 feet


  • Mule Camelback backpack (3 liter bladder)
  • SPOT Tracker
  • Black Diamond Trekking Poles


  • Cotton Handkerchief
  • Smart Wool Long sleeve shirt 195
  • Smart Wool Beanie
  • Smart Wool glove liners
  • Patagonia pants
  • Merrell Mid Moab Hiking Boots
  • Darn Tough Medium Wool Sox
  • Arcteryx Atom hoody
  • Facemask

Baboquivari – Trad Climb – SouthEast Arete – AZ (3.4.17)

First glimpse of the beast

The morning light shined through the windows as Kari and I stirred in our sleeping bags in the back of the van. There were no signs of life from Sam and Sri in the tent outside, and after the long drive the night before, no one seemed to be in the mood to get going. I sat up and looked to the west to see a massive beast staring back at me. Baboquivari is an iconic feature in Southern Arizona, and it has a lot of history for the Tohono O’odam people. They believed that their creator, I’itoi, lives in a cave beneath the mountain and that this place was the origin of all people in the world after the Great Flood.

Welp we came this far, miles well pack up and go for it!

The beastly intimidating mountain had been on my radar for some time and despite my laziness to get moving, I was eager to take on this awesome backcountry climb. We finally peeled ourselves from our sleeping bags,  got ready for the day. Cooking breakfast and going through the gear was the normal ritual as we got ready to roll. We took a short creek-covered drive to a metal gate that marked where the adventure began.

Lets get moving!
Well hello there ranch!

We let out on the dirt road headed towards the saddle on the north side of Baboquivari. We approached an old house that looked decently maintained, which marked the end of the dirt road and the start of the single track. We pressed on, following the sparse trail until it disappeared. We backtracked slightly, found a cairn and continued to hop back and forth across a creek headed upstream. The bushwhack became hardy. On the edges of the creek awaited catclaw and for Sam and myself, who chose to wear shorts, we were in for some “fun”! We pressed on, reading the land and picking up a sporadic trail, until finally we finally reached the saddle. What a push!

Just a small taste of the bushwhack
Looking back at Babo from the saddle to the North/east

We took a nice, good break here where we decided to drop some packs and get partially geared up. We were all tired form the push and with the late start I began to question whether we would finish the climb before nightfall. Little did we know, we would not get back to the van until almost midnight. Following the description in the guide, we began skirting the east face of Babo. From the slopes below it was very unclear how we would traverse to the start of the climb. We hugged the rockface away from the exposed cliffs below, until finally the rock give way to the Lions Ledge, which was our gateway to the base of the climb. We skirted the vegetated ledge, where we once again found ourselves bushwhacking. This time not against catclaw, but now against pine and holly bush.

  • Lions Ledge skirt
Looking at the traverse of the Lions ledge as we get closer, Just follow the vegetation!!
Kari, scoping a dropoff below as we came around an arete to actually get on the Lions Ledge. Follow the vegetation!

Finally, like being birthed from a thorn-filled tunnel, we popped out at the base of the 6-pitch Southeast arête (5.6) that we planned for the day.  Finally! We made the short scramble up the low Class 4 chimney and geared up at the base of the first pitch (P1). We would climb in pairs of 2. I would lead, while Sri would clean. Afterward Kari would lead, while Sam followed him up the rear to clean the gear. The first pitch was pretty straight forward, but I quickly noticed the quality of the rock wasn’t the best (typical of many backcountry climbs). I banged on the holds to make sure they would hold my weight, and I only had to throw a few pieces of protection (pro) in before reaching the top of P1.

180 View to the south from the start of the class 4 scramble to the start of pitch 1 (P1)
Kari and Sam starting up the Class 4 section to the start of Pitch 1 (P1)

After setting up the anchor, I belayed Sri up P1 and soon saw his gleaming grin as he reached the top. What a fun climb! We swapped gear and I started off on P2 soon after Kari arrived to belay. The first move was an awkward high foot with decent holds, but full-on commit. After the move I quickly found good pro placement and cruised the rest. I was tossed out into a Class 4 scramble and pushed up through a shady tree through a “V” past a cactus (watch you hand!), where I combined both P2 and P3 and set up the anchor for the next push. Here I greeted a group climbing ahead of us, and we chatted for a bit. Apparently (as the other team informed me) the west approach had a much better road and hike to get to the base of the climb (hindsight is 20/20!).

Sri, grinning as he ascends Pitch 1 (P1)
Start of Pitch 2 (P2)

Once Sri ascended P2 and P3, again with a big grin on his face, I set out on P4 all geared up to go for it. I started up the left crack system then realized I needed to be in the right, I down-climbed a few feet and went climber’s right into the correct crack system. On the way up I encountered another strange move – a high right hand and solid right foot. I threw a high left foot onto a small ledge and went to stand for a left hand. Once I put full weight onto the left foot, it blew off the rock. All my weight, including the weight of the backpack and gear I was wearing went onto my right arm. I heard the sound of velcro in my right shoulder and the instant pain, I knew right then I was hurt.

Looking up at P3 as the last climber of the group ahead of us ascended

I was still hanging by my right hand while I managed to get a cam in. I rested for a moment, but decided to finish what I started in leading P4 of the climb. Once I reached the top, I belayed Sri in pain and tried to minimize the use of my right arm until he once again reached me. No one really knew the extent of the damage I had done, not even me. I decided to switch it up, ask Kari to lead on, then I would follow. He left the safety of the ledge where I belayed him traversing climbers left to find an old rusty bolt, and the start of P5.

Looking out as I belayed from the top of P4 start of P5
Looking up the fun layback of P5

We cleaned the layback P5 quickly, which everyone agreed was a lot of fun. I was just wanting to make sure I could still finish the climb, so I had to be as safe as possible as I climbed up. Kari grinned as I popped over the ledge while he was sitting under a nice pine belaying me. Sam was soon to follow, and finally we all met at the belay station. I decided to press on, finding the small notch to down-climb, before starting the final pitch (P6), which comprised a small 20 foot face climb and scrambling to the peak.

Sam ascending P5, crushing!
Looking up the 20′ climb of P6 to the short scramble to the summit
Looking down P6 as Kari, Sam, and Sri ascended and the sun fell

I felt like everyone was in pretty good spirits, and after some quick scrambling, we simultaneously touched the highest rock on the mountain! Finally!!! The sun was setting in the distance and the views of the desert below were absolutely incredible! We were far from done for the day, and had to do our best to find the descent route before all the light of the day disappeared. Attempting to find bolts in the dark on slabby slopes, where one false move means death, is never easy. We all left our offerings to I’itoi as it is tradition to bring an offering to the peak for the Tohono’s creator.

Gorgeous sunset views!
360 view

Smiling and dirty we pushed down the north side of the mountain to find 3 rappels in the dark and a long bushwhack-filled walk/scramble back to the van. We reached the van around 11:20pm, and were glad that we all came back safe. We set up, grubbed down, and were soon all back in our sleeping bags, where we started the morning. Even with the shoulder pain and the worsening swirling thoughts of possibly never being able to regain full functionality, I decided to just let it be, hope for the best, and go to sleep. I will never give up the mountains, even if I’m reduced to painting them in a wheelchair one day, I will still be drawn to these places. Craving the experience and the adventure. What another great adventure!

Descending the North side of Babo, one small patch of ice remains in the route
  • Looking down at the fields of grass on our bushwhack ascent
  • beautiful cool creek on the ascent




  • Weather: Hi 70s, Low 50s, Sunny
  • Water: 3 liters
  • Food: 2 Cliff bar, 1 orange, 2 Cliff builder bars, 2 Kroger protien bars, 2 Nature Valley Granola bars, 1 bag of gummy worms, 1 bag of mediterranian chips, 1 bag trialmix
  • Time: 14 hours
  • Distance: 8 miles RT
  • Accumulated Gain: 3,500 feet ( 700 feet of gain on the Climb)
  • Climbing Rating: 5.6 Trad
  • Number of Pitches: 6


  • Don Camelback backpack (3 liter bladder)
  • Black Diamond Helmet
  • Petzl Corax Climbing Harness
  • 2 Black Diamond screw carabiner
  • 4 Phantom DMM screw carabiner
  • Black Diamond Camelot X4+C4 Cams – 0.2, 0.4, 0.5, 0.75, 1, 2, 3
  • Black Diamond Standard Nut Set
  • 14 Alpha Trad DMM quickdraws 12mm cord
  • Black Diaimond ATC Guide
  • 70 meter 9.8mm Sterling rope (Orange Slice)
  • Webbing/7mmCord for personal anchor
  • Arc’teryx Chalk Bag
  • SPOT Tracker


  • Cotton T Shirt
  • Arc’teryx Hoody
  • Cotton Handkerchief
  • Nike shorts
  • Darn Tough Medium Wool Sox
  • Merrell Mid Moab Hiking Boots
  • La Sortiva TC Pro Climbing Shoes