Escalante Butte P750 RS
Cardenas Butte P500 RS
Buggein Hill
Grandview BM 2x P1K RS

Sat, Oct 15, 2022

With: Eric Smith

Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 GPX Profile
Grandview BM previously climbed Thu, Oct 13, 2022
later climbed Sun, Oct 16, 2022


Our last day in the Grand Canyon had us visiting two additional summits found in Purcell's Rambles & Scrambles, accessed via a trail we had not used before. It would keep us busy for most of the day. Afterwards there was time for a few easy summits.

Escalante Butte - Cardenas Butte

These two would occupy the bulk of the day, starting from Lipan Point, near the east entrance to the park. The Tanner Trail descends from this overlook, down Tanner Canyon to the Colorado River. It is not as popular as the Bright Angel and Kaibab Trails, but more so than the New Hance Trail we'd used the previous day. The Tanner Trail has a proper trailhead kiosk, but only limited parking compared to the more popular thoroughfares. We were up well before sunrise from our camp near Tusayan, pausing in town to get our Starbucks fix before driving to the TH for a 6:30a start, just before sunrise. It was chilly in the early moring air at 7,000ft, but we would warm soon enough with the sun and lower elevations as we descended the trail.

We had the trail to ourselves for the first hour, watching Cardenas Butte catch its first rays of sunshine, then Escalante Butte about 30min later. It took us an hour and a quarter to reach the saddle south of Escalante Butte. Tanner Canyon is to the east, the 75 Mile Creek drainage to the west. This is where we would leave the trail, and as we paused for a rest, a group of five fast hikers went by us on their way down to the river. They were the only folks we'd see on the trail all morning.

The climb up the Southeast Slopes of Escalante Butte is mostly class 2 with a few class 3 steps along the way, characterized by a lot of broken sandstone rocks of all sizes. The summit itself is hidden behind a false summit, coming into view as we traversed the SW side of the false point. The rock changes from reddish brown to white in the upper reaches. We found a short tunneling move, probably completely avoidable, and more class 3 before reaching the summit blocks that require consideration and caution. There is a short class 3-4 face with minimal exposure, followed by a step-across with a heart-stopping drop below it. Purcell calls this last move class 4, but it requires no more than a moderate step to get across. The trick, if you could call it that, is to use your momentum to keep going forward after making the step. Eric made the step after much hesitation, describing it as "terrifying" after joining me on the summit. It's a bit more awkward on the way back, so we used my length of webbing to give him a psychological handline for getting back off the summit block. There were two booklets placed in the same custom-made copper box that I'd found on Sinking Ship the previous day, the handiwork of Art Christiansen. One booklet dated to 2013, the other to 2017, both quite busy. Views are as good as one might expect from the Grand Canyon.

After carefully extracting ourselves from the summit block, we reversed much of the route, finding a few easier lines and optimizations. Cardenas Butte lies a mile to the northeast of Escalante Butte, and I figured the easiest way to get there would be to descend the drainage on the east side of Escalante to pick up the trail below. However, Eric wanted to skip Cardenas and would prefer not to descend the rest of Escalante by himself, so we returned together back to the saddle and trail on the southeast side of Escalante. While Eric took a break before starting the climb back up to the rim, I plied the trail downhill around the base of Escalante's East Ridge and then around to the south side of Cardenas Butte. Purcell describes the South Slopes as class 2-3, which I thought was fair. He then describes two class 4-5 moves in a dihedral just below the summit, but I didn't find this difficult at all (or perhaps found a different way?) and would have called it class 3-4. Barely an hour after leaving Eric, I had found my way to the summit where there was an identical copper box with the same two notepads as we had found on Escalante. It seems these two buttes are most popularly done together. I spent the next two and a half hours making my way back down to the trail and then back up to the South Rim and the TH at Lipan Point. Eric had thought I would catch up to him on the way out, but he would have had to have been very slow and take long breaks. As it was, Eric was back almost an hour before me.

Buggein Hill

This is a small hill along the South Rim near Sinking Ship. There is no official trail, but a good use trail can be followed, starting from a small turnout southwest of the summit. One then follows the edge of the South Rim up to the highpoint in less than ten minutes, with a pretty decent view looking north into the canyon. Eric had already done this one, so I was on my own while he was off looking for an appropriate campsite up by Grandview BM.

Grandview BM

I showered where I'd parked for Buggein Hill, then went up to look for Eric. Forest Rd 310 forks from the main park road (SR64, Desert View Dr), going into the adjacent Kaibab National Forest. Free dispersed camping abounds in the area as we'd found a few days earlier. There is an old, boarded-up entrance station at the Forest/Park boundary. Grandview BM is the highpoint of the South Rim area, and is the site of a tall lookout tower. It's closed to visitors, but an ascent of the stairs gives a view of the surrounding forest, though none of the canyon. We found a spot next to a pile of slash that the Forest Service had collected, essentially giving us an unlimited supply of firewood that we would make good use of this evening. Behind the slash pile is a cell tower. Free camping adjacent to the park, free firewood, full bars of cell coverage - it was hard to imagine finding a better campsite in this part of the state...


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