Silver Grotto Canyon, Grand Canyon National Park


My knees still hurt. But this is not unusual. I do one hiking trip each spring to the Grand Canyon, carrying the BIG PACK (camping, canyoneering, pool toying) and it wrecks me. Then it takes a year for me to forget. This year, the crew included two oldsters with more years than me...  but they also seemed to be more durable. (Sigh)

(Best photos this Rave by Bill Church  (c) Bill Church)

2017: Silver Grotto via South Canyon with Rick Demarest and Jenny West, plus some young kids, Cassy Brown and Bill Church to (supposedly) carry all the gear. To their benefit, the longest rap in SG is only 60 feet, so I put together an 8mm x 62 foot rope with a 75 foot 6mm pull cord in a special lightweight Bagarino. We loaded up the packs at the UPS route (into Bedrock Canyon, into South Canyon), complained, and started down. And by down, I mean DOWN. The UPS route drops 1800 feet in one mile. Hard on the knees, and hard on the concentration, downclimbing for that long. But down we went, arriving in South Canyon. We hiked South a couple hours, staying left when the Redwall dropped away to avoid getting wet. To the rim overlooking The River, then down a steep trail to the beach.

The original plan was to then hike up to Fence Fault, another 2 hours along the Supai to another beach, but Rick realized on a timely basis this made no sense, so we nestled in at South Canyon Camp. We nabbed some beers from a passing river trip, and just enjoyed chilling in the wonderful sun.  I went for a swim and then napped.  Jenny napped. Bill and Cassy hiked down to Stanton's Cave and Vassey's Paradise. Rick went off hiking somewhere. Nice thing about getting into camp at 3 pm. As the sun went down we made dinner then went to bed. Like, 8 pm. Divine!

Up in the morning, we packed up the gear and headed off. Jenny was working a cold, so she joined us for the hike, but would not be doing the canyon. Our beta was sketchy, so we farted around a while trying to find a route along the river. Finally admitted that the route must be up atop the Redwall so we hiked back up the gully, then across the obnoxious Supai to the Fence Fault, which took us down to the river. Now to cross - a riffle looked like it might make the crossing challenging, but it ended up being a snap. Back to hiking clothes, then the hike up and around to the head of Silver Grotto, where Shinumo Wash enters the Redwall. Darn YOU Grand Canyon! Every hike, even the short ones, tends to be longer than short. Two hours, we took, to get up there.

Finally in the canyon - yeah!!! Suited up, we started down. Nice place, this. Scrambled to the first rappel; anchor was a mess, as usual. Good anchors really, but sloppy rigging. I insisted on cleaning it up, then we rapped and swam the pool. Repeat at the second rappel. By this point, we were starting to get cold... well, at least I was. So the third messy rappel anchor I just took a picture and then stuck the rope through the ring. Then the "olympic swimming pool". Then the slide-in spot, where we rappelled over the edge past the pool. Then the standard Silver Grotto hiking destination, the run-around spot. Water was high and clean, mostly. Alas, a fixed rope was hanging there from an anchor 100 feet up. A fixed rope as in litter, that we could not remove from below. Down we went, some people using a handline off the fixed rope. Nobody fell in the drink.

Below the run-around spot are a couple of swims. Cold swims. Almost to the end, we ran into a river trip coming UP the canyon, drysuit clad. They did not take the hints about the beer supply, so we wandered out to the beach and started blowing up our boats. There was considerable up-canyon wind, which concerned us a bit, but turned out to be a non-issue. The only actual rapid between us and camp was the Fence Fault riffle, which Bill and I were definitely avoiding. Cassy and Rick were psyched to run the mighty waves, so they did, both making it look easy. The float down to camp took a bit more than half an hour and was pretty blissful. We pulled into camp a half hour before sunset. The wind was up. We made some din din, and...

And the battle began. We had shifted camp to a nook down the beach looking for cover, and for dinner it seemed to be working. We spread out all the wet gear, pulled out the sleeping stuff. Spread stuff out just in time for the wind to come up and move it all over the place. I set up my fancy new tarp to shelter Cassy and me, then did it again, found big rocks to put on the stakes, adjusted lines again. Etc. We went to bed, awash in sand. The tarp flapped. We took it down. Two hours later, it started to rain. I pulled the tarp out and spread it over us. The wind played with it. I set it up on poles in a tight form. It sprinkled briefly. I slept, briefly. The wind came up, the tarp came un-hitched and was flapping wildly. I took it down and buried it in my pack. Climbed back into my sandy sleeping bag, cinched the mouth down to a 3" circle and huddled away from the wind. The hours passed. A nice thing about going to bed at 7 pm is that by 7 am, even with battling the wind, I probably got 7 or 8 hours of sleep.

Up in the morning and packed. We were going out the longer (and therefore less steep) South Canyon route/trail. It sure seemed like a good idea, as I was very clear that my legs were unlikely to get me up the steep UPS route. We climbed the gully, again, up to the top of the Redwall. Walked the top of the Redwall to where it drops into the South Canyon wash. Then we boulder-hopped up that. Ugh. The pack seemed to be 10 lbs heavier than the first day. The group spread out. I was the slowest, so I settle in to my place at the back. Rick was kind enough to keep track of me. Boulder-hopping up the canyon, the Supai!, was tedious. Lots of little boulder problems; too rugged for easy walking. FINALLY got to where the trail climbs the impossibly steep side of the canyon.

That last bit was a relief, actually. There was a trail, a good trail. Sure it was steep, but each individual step was not so big. And looking up, where the trail could possibly get through the cliffbands was a mystery, a mystery solved by slowly plodding upwards until the trail revealed itself. There were a few boulder problems, but at least they were steep enough that I could use my hands effectively. And we were definitely getting there. Rick stayed with me for a while, and it was good to have the company. Eventually we got to the Kaibab limestone, which had more little rock climb bits, then hiked up a gully to make the rim. Wonderful. A few minutes later I was hiking towards Jenny holding out a cold beer. Thank you dear.

Now four days later, my knees still hurt. Mostly from the UPS route entry, I'm sure. Great little trip. Will likely do another one next year.