Green Sporings Grand Canyon

"With some eagerness and some anxiety, and some misgiving, we enter the canyon below....."----John Wesley Powell, August 13, 1869Buenas tardes,My son Jake has been asking "where's that trip report?" I wonder where he learned to be such a bugger?Well, here it is. I barely have the energy to write it. Both feet are a blister mass and my ankles are so swollen I can hardly walk but El Lobo will deliver within the required two day time window!This expedition challenged me physically, mentally and emotionally but was a richly rewarding and immensely satisfying trip as well as a wonderful learning adventure.We visited a superbly beautiful and rarely visited area in an extremely remote location. We climbed to pristine parts of Green Springs Canyon where no other human being has been. Harvey Butchart, now 94, the undisputed king of extreme and obsessive Grand Canyon hiking, could not find access to some of the areas we visited, as documented in his book. Harvey logged over 12,000 miles in the Canyon.Eleven days ago I rode with one of the other participants, Ross, eight hours to St. George Utah. In St. George our group spent two days in thorough planning and pre-trip preparation. This included emergency planning. Actually the planning process began two months ago in researching how to get to our target area-Surprise Canyon and its tributaries. Back road access had to be determined. Geological maps were utilized to figure out some routes to Surprise Canyon and plan two itinerary options for a six day hike in the Surprise Canyon area. In addition various exercises had to be completed in order to make map reading and terrain recognition easier. The geological maps provided are special and cannot be easily obtained. They were donated to the group by George Billingsley who did the stratigraphy. George was a frequent hiking partner of Harvey Butchart and mentioned frequently in Harvey's books.After finalizing goals a consensus was reached for the route with alternatives. At this time we started the 100 mile rough back road drive through the Arizona strip and Shiwits plateau to our starting point climbing down steep loose rock into Green Springs Canyon. All packs were extremely heavy as each started with three gallons of water.The first day was vey hard as we encountered numerous narrow cliff passage challenges. It is a beautiful canyon with some nice water pools that required some swimming. One of our group took a nasty 30 foot fall and miraculously not only lived but also had no broken bones. He fell close to me where I was desperately trying to find a good hand hold. It was one of the scariest things I have ever seen.He stood up and smiled and said "I'm Ok." I was still in shock from watching his fall and even in more shock that he appeared all right. He was very fortunate, but had some real nasty cuts and his skin had been ripped from his legs. After three hours of emergency medical treatment, he opted to try to continue without attempting to radio a passing plane requesting emergency rescue. The weight of his pack was distributed among the group and he continued. We had to go on belay a couple of times. The injured party could not get his leg wet so he had to be carried by the group through pools that required swimming. The walking was extremely hard on the feet as you were absolutely required to "leave no trace" and always plant a foot on a rock and not leave any footprint. This was challenging but after a while became second nature.We finished walking just before dark and at our meeting that ended close to 11:00 everyone agreed that the highlight of the day was Ross appearing to escape serious injury. We would start each day around 6:00 A.M. and finish after 11:00 each night. My strategy was to just get through one day at a time. Ken, our leader was constantly coaching and teaching. When passage seemed impossible it was used as a group problem solving exercise. Teamwork, determination, and creativity would get us through. I learned that there is a way, keep looking!The following day we made it to Cottonwood Springs, through a gorgeous narrow redwall canyon with pools and lush growth of ferns, flowers and cottonwoods. Monarch butterflies would frequently flutter through the narrow gorge. Frogs, whose croak sounded like a bleating sheep were everywhere. This was a long day with only one rappel required on a down pour.The next day we day hiked to Hidden Springs---Shangra La. A lush riparian area with vines, ferns and moss.We had to carry the injured party through some pretty good pools and rope up a couple of times to get to a 40 ft. Natural bridge, that we believe has never been seen by other human eyes. This was very exciting!The next day's destination was Amos Springs. One of my goals was to get to the river and I requested permission to go solo since the rest of the group was intent on Amos Springs. Our leader gave me permission but commented that he thought that I would later be sorry. The river was a 24 mile round trip down Surprise Canyon dropping 1200' in elevation. The temperature was in the nineties but there was plenty of water flowing in Surprise Canyon. I left at 9:00 A.M. and the walking was on jagged rocks and boulders. My turn around time plan was 1:30. I arrived at the river at 2:00. The walk, although difficult was enjoyable having such solitude. The river was very peaceful at mile 248. The mighty Colorado that I rafted in September was not to be found, it was more of a lake due to Mead backing up. Clouds had been forming and I heard my first thunder. This was both frightening and exciting. This part of the Canyon is narrow and I did not want to get caught in it. It started raining hard and all I could think of was those that died in the flash flood at Antelope Canyon in 97. In my haste to get out of the narrow part I got caught in some deep mud and my boots and socks were drenched. I walked as quick as I could all the while looking for ways to go high if it kept raining. The thunderstorm lasted a half hour and then cleared. Unfortunately due to sliding socks, I started to blister and had to stop and try to contain them with tape. Going back was slower than going down and with it getting dark I could really feel the blistered pain.I made it back to camp at 9:00 P.M. and the group just started an emergency strategy meeting exploring the options in case I did not show. This served as a good exercise for the group. I went to bed at midnight and rose at 4:30 A.M. to break camp for the long hot trek out Twin Springs to where we had shuttled a car. This was about 4000' of elevation gain.My blisters needed attention and our leader coached me through draining, treating and bandaging them. I was able to keep a good pace but the pain was a little less than excruciating on every step. The redwall narrows were spectacular and we found a large chockstone lodged between the narrow walls up about 25.' The walk up Twin Springs drainage was arduous and at a break in the shade we were given an adrenaline rush when a very large pink rattlesnake crawled next to our leader causing him to do a somersault to get out of harms way when he heard the rattle warning. We had what we thought was our last challenge when we arrived at the 500' steep loose rock climb to the car. This was a slow process and some had real difficulty at this point in the journey.Finally all were at the top and we all took hands and tried to skip to the car. We reached the car and the jubilation turned to disbelief and dismay when the shuttle vehicle did not start. Another strategy meeting and plan formulated. The other vehicles were fifteen miles away. It was decided to walk the back road that night leaving most of our group at the shuttle car.At 3:00 A.M. the hikers arrived with the cars. On the way, one had a flat. Could anything else go wrong? Yes! One of the vehicles had it's keys locked in it by a very tired driver. Again, the team worked together to find a solution and was able to take a wire from one of the packs and slip it through the rear window and open. We then started the long drive back to the hotel at St. George. We arrive at 6:30 A.M. got our rooms, showered and met for breakfast. I called Gerry to let her know I was out.Ross and I started driving back to Phoenix at 10:00 after gallons of coffee and coke.We stopped at Vermilion Cliffs for a nice lunch and swapped driving every few hours. There was a slight delay on 17 backing up with weekend traffic, but I was dropped offclose to 6:00, in time to share a great steak dinner with my lovely and thoughtful wife that I was very happy to see.As I am finishing this trip report with my swollen ankles and achy feet it is difficult to fully appreciate how special this trip was and the tremendous growth and learning experiences. That will happen soon, when the pain stops.Note: the fallen climber prefers to remain anonymous

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