BEHUNIN CANYON BACK COUNTRY PATROL
On June 20th, Mark Meinert, Tina Gornick and I traversed Behunin Canyon. This was the first traverse of this canyon by present Park staff. Meinert had previously been through Behunin and his experience was very valuable. Interest in this area appears to be increasing and several inquiries as to the conditions in Behunin were received this Spring.
We began at the West Rim Trailhead (Grotto) at 0900 hours. There is a sharp bend in the West Rim Trail just before ascending the last set of switchbacks below the cabin site on the West Rim. At the apex of this bend, we left the trail and descended into the head of Behunin Canyon. We followed the bottom of the drainage (dry and thick brush) for approximately .75 mile to where the canyon floor drops off approximately 600 feet. We then climbed the east side of the drainage until we reached a small flat spot on the ridge top. From here we used a series of three 150' rappels to make our way along the ridge separating the west and east drainages of Behunin.
The first anchor is a tree. The second rappel anchor is a rather small and obscure mountain mahogany. From the bottom of the second rappel, it is necessary to scramble down 30 feet to the third anchor (another mountain mahogany).
Some scrambling and bushwacking brought us down into the west drainage. A rappel was necessary a short distance (less than a 1/4 mile) below this point. Another .3 mile and some scrambling brought us down to where the two drainages join. From this point, the canyon becomes very narrow. A rappel is necessary at the south end of this narrow section, just above some pools. From here, we proceeded to where the canyon terminates above Emerald Pools. Two rappels are required to reach Emerald Pool Trails. The last one is the longest. One 150' and one 165' tied together with a double fisherman's will just touch the ground using the present anchor point (bolts and slings). This last rappel is almost entirely free. We returned to our vehicle via the upper Emerald Pools Trail at 2030 hours, the trip taking three of us 11-1/2 hours.
Behunin Canyon was quite dry for this early in the summer. I anticipated more water. No springs were found. I suspect flooding is prevalent in the Spring and certainly no one should attempt this trip if shower activity is forecast. The rappel anchors are pretty evident as there are at least three or four slings remaining from previous trips.
We found evidence of another party, perhaps three to four weeks before us. We also could see what appeared to be bolts and slings (rappel anchors) set up in the upper part of the west drainage parallel to our route, although staying in the west drainage would appear to be more difficult.
There were no signs of resource impact. Scenery is quite spectacular. Would not recommend this route to other than experienced canyon hikers with a moderate degree of technical expertise.
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