O'Neill Butte P300 RS
The Battleship P300 RS
Grandview BM P1K RS

Thu, Oct 13, 2022

With: Eric Smith
Tom Grundy

Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 GPX
Grandview BM later climbed Sat, Oct 15, 2022


It had gotten a little too warm in Sedona, so we decided to head to the Grand Canyon where the temperatures were expected to be cooler. This worked out surprisingly well, and Eric and I got our first taste of fine scrambling in this Wonder of the Natural World. All of the summits are found in Purcell's Rambles & Scrambles, one of the motivators that had gotten me out to Sedona in the first place.

O'Neill Butte

This was expected to be the fun part of the day, packing climbing gear and rope down the popular South Kaibab Trail to visit this stunning landmark not far off the trail. The small lot at the TH was full at 6a, so we ended up parking on Desert View Dr and hiking the Rim Trail to get to the TH. We had cool temps to start as we descended the trail and the lovingly constructed switchbacks for almost 1,500ft vertical feet. There weren't many folks on the trail on the way down, but there would be plenty on the way back. At Ooh Aah Point we had a first good view of O'Neill Butte just as the sun was hitting its imposing cliffband. Once the sun hit us we began to warm up a bit. So far, we'd done nothing but go downhill, not really enough effort to warm us. This would change soon enough. We passed by the fancy outhouse just above the saddle with O'Neill Butte, then paused at the saddle to take off some layers.

We left the main trail here, traversing around the east side of the butte, all the way around to the north side where the easier climbing is found. When we reached a tree where the class 2 ended, we left our poles, donned our helmets and went up a short class 3 slab to a ledge, aided by the tree. We then traversed west to what we guessed was the class 4 crack/ramp leading to the second ledge. We let Tom go up first, after which he dropped a line of webbing to use as a handline, then Eric and I followed. More traversing to the west leads to the start of the roped climbing, a 5.4 awkward dihedral. Tom once again led this, then up a squeeze chimney, atop of which he set up a belay. Favoring the middle position so he has help from above and below, Eric went up next, and finally me. More scrambling leads to the second rope section, a wider chimney with a huge chockstone above, and an awkward exit going either left or right. Tom chose to exit to the right, while Eric and I did the more standard exit to the left after Tom had put us on belay. There was a pause here as I realized my camera had been left below while I was belaying Tom. I had to rap down, retrieve it, then climb the chimney a second time. Fun. Once past this, it's only a few minutes of easy scrambling to the summit.

The views today were quite outstanding, even by Grand Canyon standards, very clear, with unlimited visibility. The views of the canyon were, well, grand. A very busy register dated to 2002, and included Purcell's 2nd ascent in 2010 with a few Las Vegas friends from where he hailed. After a rest at the summit, we returned back down, all rappelling the two roped sections. Eric and I then rappelled the class 4 section, Tom downclimbing it to save having to leave any gear. We retrieved our poles and other gear we'd left at the tree, then hiked back out to the trail to reascend the 1,500ft of gain we'd lost in the early morning. We were joined by hundreds of visitors, and even a few bighorn sheep, showing only slight concern for the folks taking pictures and walking by them. It was just after 11a when we returned to the TH.

The Battleship

The Battleship is detached from the South Rim, below Maricopa Point. It is accessed via the most popular trail in the park - the Bright Angel Trail that descends to the river starting from Grand Canyon Village. The village is everything that Wilderness is not, yet easily the most popular destination in the park. There are markets, a train station, a museum, shops, mules, restaurants, lodging, a vistor center, rangers, schools, and of course, acres of parking. Somehow, leading his truck through this jungle, Tom managed to find two open parking spots directly next to the start of the trail. These spots are not part of the massive parking lots the signs direct one to, but rather some of the few public spaces available around the Bright Angel Lodge. Eric had had enough excitement for one day and decided to skip this class 3 summit.

Starting out on the very busy trail with The Battleship visible below, Tom and I descended the elaborate switchbacks blasted through two tunnels for about 45min, including pauses to allow a mule train and a later pack train to go by in the uphill direction. We left the trail at a switchback around the 5,500-foot level, picking up a ducked cross-country route that traverses along the east side of some cliffs for about a mile. This leads to a saddle on the south side of The Battleship. We took a short break here, then continued on the use trail as it goes around the east side of The Battleship, before starting to ascend in earnest when about due east of the summit. The route is very convoluted, up a series of slots and ramps on the East Face, then traversing back towards the south under a cliff band, then finally scrambling up to the summit - great scrambling, airy exposure, splendiferous views, a highly recommended bit of fun. And well-ducked, too. We signed the busy register, took in views looking up, down, and across the canyon, then reversed our route back off the summit. It would take us until 4:20p before we found our way back to the TH, the vehicles, and Eric reading his book on one of the nearby benches. About four and a quarter hours for the roundtrip effort.

Grandview BM

This P1K is the highest summit along the South Rim and a drive-up. The area around it is part of the Kaibab National Forest, just outside the Park boundary. There is a lookout at the very top, closed to the public, but no fence around it (thouogh the cab is locked). Views are limited, even from the stairs, due to the surrounding forest. No views of the Grand Canyon. The best part is the ample dispersed (and free) camping to be found around the area off the Forest Rd 310, that any vehicle can navigate unless muddy. It would be very easy to drive in to the park after hours when the entrance booth isn't manned and then camp here as many days as you please (legally, probably 14 days). One can see why they don't advertise the area and provide no signage along the paved road, save for the simple Forest Rd designation. We would come back a few days later to take advantage of the camping opportunities, but tonight we would drive back to the town of Tusayan for dinner and our old campsite south of there...


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