Coronado Butte P1K RS
Desert View Point P300 RS
Sinking Ship P300 RS

Fri, Oct 14, 2022

With: Eric Smith

Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 GPX Profiles: 1 2


On our second day at the Grand Canyon, we visited three additional summits found in Purcell's Rambles & Scrambles. It was a pretty full day, keeping us busy from before sunrise until sunset. Or at least kept me busy - Eric skipped the last one, having had enough scary scrambling to satisfy him for the day.

Coronado Butte

Purcell describes this as his favorite climb in Grand Canyon. It's very good, but I wouldn't give it that label even after only a few days at the Ditch. Coronado Butte is detached from the South Rim, one of the few summits with an elevation as high as the rim. Access is a bit weird. One uses the New Hance Trail where the otherwise unsigned TH is signed for No Parking. It seems this rough trail has suffered numerous rockfalls over the years and the Park Service no longer maintains it, nor really wants you to use it. You have to park down the road on either side and walk to the start, whereupon signs indicate you are at the right place. The trail descends Red Canyon via a series of steep, rough (only by Park standards) switchbacks, with Coronado Butte clearly visible as one begins the descent. After dropping about 1,000ft to the 6,000-foot level, one leaves the trail to climb up to the saddle separating the butte from the South Rim. Sinking Ship rises prominently to the southwest. As one climbs up the South Ridge from the saddle, the first of many ducks appear to guide you around the Southeast Face after you reach the imposing summit crag.

Continue around on class 2 terrain until you go around a corner and find yourself at what looks like the north side of the summit, which is actually due west. There are two steep, north-facing gullies to work around on a series of very cool and improbable ledges. After traversing into the first gully, climb until difficulties increase and a ledge appears on the right to take you around to the second gully. We found this well-ducked. Climb this loose gully until it gets beyond class 2-3, then exit right. Find your way to the summit up class 3 rock - the easier line appears to be further right, but several options will work. Purcell describes a tree climb, a chimney climb and other features, some of which we didn't recognize on the route, but the ledges seemed obvious and the primary keys to get you up the mountain. We spent a little over 2.5hrs in reaching the summit. Eric was feeling like he was at his limit on this one.

An ammo box held a messy register with many loose pages and business cards, and a notebook dating to 2008. The return went slower, because we had to downclimb the hard parts, and once back to the New Hance Trail, had to finish off with an hour-long climb back up to the rim. We were just short of six hours for the round trip effort.

Desert View Point

Though it has close to 500ft of prominence, this isn't a very interesting summit, not sure why Purcell bothered to put it in his guidebook. It's found near the park's east entrance along Desert View Dr (SR64), adjacent to the historic lookout tower. The area is undergoing massive development not represented in the satellite views, probably to relieve congestion at Grand Canyon Village on the west side. Seems the Grand Canyon wants to compete with Yosemite and Yellowstone for the honor of bringing the making John Muir do the most turns in his grave. We parked in the huge lot and wandered west to the rim where the highpoint is located. It has nice views looking into the canyon, at least. We wandered about the tower to claim a PB-only point, though I didn't actually go into the crowded structure now serving as a souvenier shop. I really couldn't get away from this area fast enough. We drove back west along the rim, stopping for more PB-only points that Eric wanted to visit, including Navajo Point, Lipan Point and Moran Point.

Sinking Ship

Having enough fun with the roadside peakbagging, I had Eric drop me off just west of Buggein Hill so I could pay a visit to Sinking Ship, another summit detached from the South Rim, this one via a high saddle. This one is rated 5.3 and I wasn't sure I'd be able to do it without gear, so I brought a length of webbing in case it proved useful. There is no trail to start out on, just a pleasant walk through grassy forest to the canyon rim before the more challenging work begins. Sinking Ship can be seen as one starts down to the saddle. A use trail of sorts can be found to minimize the bushwhacking. Once at the saddle, I scrambled up the South Ridge and then around the east side (seems all these buttes involve traversing around this same side) to gain the north side, around a corner. I had some trouble locating the start of the difficulties, seems one needs to work up loose dirty, needle-strewn slopes to gain the highest point where the rock walls start. I could not make the initial class 4 rock step with a bum leg, but I could use a squeeze tunnel behind it. I used my webbing to haul up my pack afterwards since it wouldn't fit through the small hole. Just above this, the crux is encountered in a true chimney, rock on all sides. This was a fun, albeit a bit unnerving climb with back against one side, feet on the other. The rock quality was somewhat poor, leading to the unnerving description. Again, I used the webbing to haul my pack up after me. There are two class 3-4 obstacles beyond this, but they were easier problems than the first two. I found a broken length of old webbing with a rap ring while working my way up. Not a rap accident since they were together, but perhaps cut by rockfall? I worked up the last class 3-4 face to find easier ground leading to the summit a few minutes later. It had taken about an hour and twenty minutes to gain the summit. The register was left in 2019, housed in a cool, custom-made copper box. The booklet already had six pages of entries. I was going to be nervous until I had descended back down the chimney, so I took a quick collection of photos (including a nice one to Coronado Butte), and headed back down the way I came. I lowered my pack down through the chimney before carefully stemming my way back down, then lowered the pack again for the class 4 step before squeezing back down through the hole. Back on easier ground and feeling relieved, I more leisurely worked my way back to the saddle and then up to the South Rim, arriving shortly before sunset. I was able to text Eric once I reached the rim, and after waiting only a few minutes, my Uber driver was there to wisk us off to dinner in Tusayan...


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