Phantom Canyon 2008 - Day 3

Synopsis: Backpack from BA Campground via Utah Flats to Overhang Camp in Phantom Canyon (4.6 miles). March 9.

This was perhaps our toughest day, as we not only climbed 1,700 feet up but came 700 feet back down. Our goal was middle Phantom Canyon; we got there via the Utah Flats route rather than going directly up the creek (which flows into Bright Angel Creek about a mile above Phantom Ranch) to avoid wading and climbing waterfalls.

Charles adds: The hard hiking day was a well-paced slow-and-steady. I was amazed how much less wasted I felt at the end going about 10% slower than I would have by myself.

I have written a Utah Flats route description which may be of interest.


Striking camp.

Photo by Charles Yeamans.
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The first part of the Utah Flats route.

Photo by Reid Priedhorsky.
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Ascending the loose rocks and dirt.

Photo by Reid Priedhorsky.
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The first part of the route was very rough and loose, giving the feeling that you were going to slide backwards. Chris reached up to grab a rock at one point, but it turned out to be a cactus instead! Ouch.

Charles adds: I remember two Chris vs. cactus events on the initial Utah Flats ascent leg. By the second time, we had developed a good system of perching on the steep slope, where Chris would get the pliers out of my pack brain and hand them to me, then dangle whatever limb contained the spines down to my level for extraction.


Phantom Ranch proper from halfway up the slope.

Photo by Reid Priedhorsky.
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We took a slight wrong turn, ending up at the foot of a small cliff that we had been hoping to avoid. During the backtrack, Erin lost her footing a little and landed on her butt on a cactus. When she stood up, Reid reassured her that the cactus didn’t have many spines – guess where they all were!

She toughed it out for a little while, but after a few minutes of itchy bum, we stopped while she dropped trou and brushed most of the spines out. Charles was pleased that he wasn’t the first to moon the group.


Nearing the top of the first slope.

Photo by Charles Yeamans.
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The second slope. This part is called Piano Alley, because the boulders are the size of pianos (apparently).

Photo by Reid Priedhorsky.
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South Rim from Piano Alley.

Photo by Erin Tatge.
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Piano Alley proper. This was kind of a rough scramble with heavy packs.

Photo by Erin Tatge.
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Finally on top, it was lunchtime.

Photo by Sara Tatge McCarty.
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The beginning of Utah Flats – so named because it resembles the slickrock country of southern Utah. The big bluff is Cheops Pyramid.

Photo by Reid Priedhorsky.
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A purple plant.

Photo by Erin Tatge.
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Charles on Utah Flats. Note the trail scarring and buildings on the Tonto Platform across the river: this is the South Kaibab Trail, our route out in a few days.

Photo by Reid Priedhorsky.
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View across the “flat” part of Utah Flats.

Photo by Reid Priedhorsky.
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“Cactus Hill”. Note the frequent cactus in the foreground. Much of the traverse across Utah Flats consisted of weaving around and between cactus.

Photo by Reid Priedhorsky.
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Upon topping “Knoll 4414” one is greeted by this view of Phantom Canyon. Major prominences L-R are Cheops Pyramid (mostly hidden), Isis Temple, the North Rim, and Buddha Temple.

Photo by Reid Priedhorsky.
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The beginning of the descent into Phantom Canyon. The “trail” was nasty and very loose underfoot.

Photo by Reid Priedhorsky.
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Reid on one of the nicer sections of the descent.

Photo by Charles Yeamans.
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About 2/3 of the way down, we could see the bottom, and a sandy campsite which looked very nice.


Folks coming down the final slope.

Photo by Reid Priedhorsky.
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Unfortunately, the site turned out to be tiny and the drain for the slope above – “Disappointment Camp”. As folks trickled in, they heard from Reid that he wanted to continue upstream to “Overhang Camp”, which wasn’t especially popular since everyone was already tired.

Going upstream was much easier physically, but more difficult emotionally because most thought we were home already. However, it was worth it when we got to Overhang Camp, which was much larger and really lovely. There was plenty of room for us to spread our tents out and a big overhang of rock which gave us shelter.

Charles cooked us some delicious jumbalaya with delicious sausage, and we all headed to bed.

Charles adds: At dinner, Reid and I continued our sausage-waving contest. (No, not that kind of sausage, you pervert.) Both having done much of our trip shopping at our respective favorite hippie grocery stores (The Wedge for him and Berkeley Bowl for me), we both brought copious amounts of fancy-sounding cured tube-shaped meat (pervert) for lunches and group-meal amendments. I believe my choice for an addition to the jambalaya was a hard Catalonian-style sausage, cubed. It was generally agreed to be a success.

Please continue reading on Day 4.

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