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Backpacking in the Snowy Grand Canyon

telepathic stuntman

Creative Visualization by Keven Siegert

telepathic stuntman header image 2

Backpacking in the Snowy Grand Canyon

February 14th, 2016 · 3 Comments

Note: Because of the air clarity, many of the shots in the post look fantastic full screen! Be sure to click on some of them.

It’s February and snowy in the North Country, so why not try a backpacking trip to the bottom of the Grand Canyon?

looking back from near indian garden

tree silouette                         mathers point

mathers point view into canyon  mathers point pano

heading out snow ws      heading out snow              dawn at gc alt

 

 

It sounded a bit mad, but it was absolutely wonderful weather for hiking! There were six of us on this trip and the plan was to arrive at the South Rim in the afternoon, check out Hermit’s Rest, Powell Memorial and a few other viewpoints, try some jib shots with the new Kessler Jib, and enjoy a quiet evening of star gazing before heading down.

powell monument

powell monument mcu

kev jib

We enjoyed a fantastic meal at El Tovar and then headed out to see what we could see in the evening sky. Unfortunately it was a bit cloudy, so we bagged it early and prepared for a predawn start the next day.

About an hour before sunrise we packed up and headed out to see if we could spot the five planets: Mercury, Venus, Saturn, Mars and Jupiter all in a view simultaneously – something that was last seen more than a decade ago. (Photo by Elliot Herman)

planets

It was a chilly 17 degrees and the window of opportunity was tight – too early and we wouldn’t see Mercury rising over the horizon – too late and the light of the sun would wash it out… but there it was! All five planets lined up in the twilight! It was a cool way to start the hike.

At the Bright Angel trailhead, we stopped to put crampons on our boots – the trail was completely covered with snow and ice. As the sun started to peek over the far horizon, we began the descent down.

beginning the descent

 

The morning air was still and quiet, with the snow muffling all sounds.

sunrise peeking through

 

matt and george at start

There was no one else crazy enough to be out this early so we had the canyon to ourselves. The air was crisper and clearer than I had ever seen it. The sun kissed the top of the canyons plateaus as we made our way very, very carefully through the slickest sections. It was quiet and meditative but at the same time, a bit scary and required full focus of every step.

trio

After about the first two hours of hiking we had made it past the snow and ice section and were about to remove the crampons. From here we made good time all the way to the bottom, crossing the Silver Bridge across the Colorado River to the Bright Angel Campground, where we would stay for the next two nights.

century plant

quartzlike spheres

 

Bright Angel Campground is an idyllic oasis near Phantom Ranch. The delightful Bright Angel creek runs along all of the campsites and the sound of the bubbling rapids was a very nice accompaniment to our time spent there.

bright angel campgrounds

bright angel camp

bright angel creek2
After setting up camp, we wandered over to Phantom Ranch – they had beer! Cold Grand Canyon Amber Ales on a sunny afternoon in the bottom of the most amazing place on Earth – sublime!

group

phantom ranch chalkboard

 

phantom ranch mules

In the evening, we all cooked up dinners (I made “Deconstructed Lasagna” washed down with some Green Spot Irish Whiskey) and then hiked down to the beach where George led a fascinating and ultra informative star gazing session. The sky was super clear and the stars were impossibly bright – probably the best I’ve ever seen!

stars w tent

stars w cliff by beach

 

We saw Orion, the Charioteer, the Twins, the Big Dog, the Little Dog, the Bull, the Hare, Perseus, Cassiopea, Cepheus, the Big Dipper, the Little Dipper, Virgo, Scorpio, Leo, and the Herdsman, which contains Arcturus.

group below stars

In addition, we saw shooting stars, satellites, the Milky Way and the moon even participated in the show by emerging up over the ridge, just a sliver but with Earthshine illuminating the dark side. It was phenomenal and THANK YOU GEORGE for the excellent information you imparted to us over those three nights.

stars w cliff light

It was a great night for sleep, with the temperature only getting down to 32 degrees, and we rose to another absolutely beautiful day. Bright, clear and cloudless – perfect for a day of exploring. After a breakfast of Whiskey Bacon Pancakes and coffee, we loaded up minimal supplies and headed out on the Clear Creek Trail – a superb trek that climbed high above the Colorado River and then followed it north toward Zoroaster Temple.

 

matt and george w deer

black bridge

blue buds

 

clear creek trail vista 2

Along the way we spied many deer, ravens, coyote, scrub jays and canyon wrens.

greg heading toward zoroaster

yucca

purple prickly foreground

brittlebush foreground

The following morning we made breakfast and prepared for the long and arduous climb out. It was extremely challenging but made much easier by the spectacular scenery. It was a Sunday and we were now starting to see more people. As the first of the two arches on the Bright Angle trail came into view, I knew the adventure was coming to the end. I shot a few final photographs from near the top and then emerged to the trailhead and civilization.

final arch

final vista

 

 

An absolutely stunning trip with a wonderful group of guys!

silver bridge bob

rock face

silver bridge craig

prickly pear vista

silver bridge looking south

Tags: Camping · Cooking · fauna · flora · Landscapes · Weather · wildlife

3 responses so far ↓

  • 1 CJ Downing // Feb 14, 2016 at 12:48 pm

    Phenomenal photos

  • 2 Greg C. // Feb 15, 2016 at 2:10 pm

    Kevin – great summary of a unique trip. Enjoyed your company along the way. The star shots are amazing. Hope to hike with you again.

  • 3 Marty // Feb 15, 2016 at 11:15 pm

    Beautiful, makes me want to hike the canyon. Thank you for sharing.

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