Day 3 – Shinumo Wash (29.5) to Nautiloid (35)
River Miles: 5.5
Hiking Miles: <1
March 20, 2013
Day three dawned with a sense of ease and relaxation for me. The majority of the group would be canyoneering the Silver Grotto of Shinumo Wash for the better part of the morning, leaving the rest of us with some time to kill. In the planning stages of the trip I chose to opt out of the technical canyoneering options, and consequently did not bring the appropriate personal gear.
This left Doug, Amy, and Mike Burkley in camp with us – the rest of the group crowded into a few rafts to float down to the fence fault route and climb up to their point of descent. Yesterday Doug mentioned the option of hiking upstream in Shinumo Wash to meet the canyoneers. After the ladies washed their hair and we all had adequate time for relaxation, we had a look at the route into the canyon from the bottom.
The mouth of Shinumo Wash ends in a slick pourover of 15-20 feet. It looked remotely possible for someone with an extraordinary amount of skill and finesse to shimmy up it, though I took one look at it and didn’t care to try. Doug gave it a go but quickly abandoned the idea as I lobbied to explore for a bypass.
Soon we found a 10-foot vertical wall with solid holds on creek-right that looked promising. I went up first and Doug, Jackie, and Mike followed. This gave us access to a sloping ledge above the creekbed that led a short distance upstream before fizzling out. At this corner we were faced with a slick, steep slope without any holds to gain the bottom of the creek. It would require a controlled run or slide to get down it, and a nearby pourover presented a viable risk in this maneuver.
Jackie and Mike didn’t like the look of it and opted to return immediately, so Doug and I assisted them with the returning downclimb and went back to the dubious access point. I began making my way down the slope as far as possible, but got a little spooked and slithered back up to relative safety.
After some deliberation Doug not-so-gracefully (But successfully, and that’s the important part) slid into the creekbed. I stood for some time and considered giving the slide another try, but ultimately chickened out and returned to camp.
Back at the rafts I was mildly disappointed in myself for turning back. When Doug returned to the beach, he reported that he had a hard time continuing upstream out of the first deep pool, only to be immediately faced with a second pool that was more or less impassable in the upstream direction. I must admit that his lack of progress made me feel a whole lot better about not going up there for myself.
Eventually the canyoneering group returned to camp, all smiles and adrenaline. Everyone seemed to be on a high after the first off-river “adventure” of the trip!
Here’s more about their canyoneering trip down The Silver Grotto:
Josh Case says:
So on Day 3, we did the technical descent of Shinumo Wash aka Silver Grotto. 11 of the 16 of us loaded up in 3 rafts and headed downstream to the small beach where Fence Fault crosses the River. This is approximately 1 mile downstream from the Shinumo Wash camp. We then made the top of the Redwall and headed back upstream along the old dam(n)-builders trail to where it crosses Shinumo Wash above the Redwall Slot. The group then rappelled into the slot and back to the River. Since the water is so cold inside the slot, everyone either wore a drysuit or a wetsuit. Technical specs of the Canyon (per Grand Canyoneering): 4 raps. All about 50′, with a multi pitch rap in the middle. We took 2-150′ ropes for the descent.
Josh put together a fun video of their descent here.
Jeremy has a great video too!
And if that’s not enough, here’s Shannon’s take on it!
Thanks to Josh Case for this group photo. For more specific information how to rappel through the Silver Grotto of Shinumo Wash, check out Todd Martin’s book Grand Canyoneering.
Soon everyone was ready to float a few miles down the river to South Canyon, where the McCumbers with Chris Forsyth prepared tuna salad sandwiches for lunch. The big appetite of constantly being outdoors began to settle into the group. All of our lunches called for two packages of Pringles and a different box of delicious cookies – they were getting devoured faster and faster each day. We didn’t do any exploring at South Canyon, as it was already quite late in the day.
Spirits were high in the group after the canyoneering adventure. During lunch there was a lot of talk about the nearby attractions such as Vasey’s Paradise and Stantons’s Cave, popular hiking destinations at South Canyon.
Archaeologists carbon dated split-twig figurines found in Stanton’s Cave to be 4,000 years old. Think about it – that’s a very long time ago for humans to be creating things in North America… 2,000 B.C! Some driftwood was found there that’s supposedly 40,000 years old! I’d never personally visited this general area before, so it was neat to see it for the first time, even in passing.
At the end of lunch we gathered all the water containers and put them on Dave Nally’s boat. He stopped at Vasey’s Paradise to fill them up while the rest of us just cruised on by its cascading spring.
Riding down a short distance, a beautiful view is presented. The river turns sharply to the east and seems inclosed by a wall set with a million brilliant gems. What can it mean? Every eye is engaged, every one wonders. On coming nearer we find fountains bursting from the rock high overhead, and the spray in the sunshine forms the gems which bedeck the canyon wall. The rocks below the fountain are covered with mosses and ferns and many beautiful flowering plants. We name it Vasey’s Paradise, in honor of the botanist who traveled with us last year.
Vasey’s Paradise – it was hard to get a decent photo of it from the moving raft. This is the best I could do.
The famed Redwall Cavern awaited us, just around the corner from South Canyon.
The water sweeps rapidly in this elbow of the river, and has cut its way under the rock, excavating a vast half-circular chamber, which, if utilized for a theater, would give sitting to 50,000 people. Objections might be raised against it, however, for at high water the floor is covered with a raging flood.
The “cavern” is an iconic place for Grand Canyon river runners. Photos of it are seemingly everywhere, so an image of it sort of begins to define a river trip in people’s minds… especially for those that have never been down the Colorado.
Personally it felt awesome to be here, but also a little anticlimactic after the few years of anticipation on this dim evening.
The McCumbers, of course, immediately found something to climb.
Here’s the requisite, iconic silhouette shots from the back of the Redwall Cavern. The group was already being herded back to the rafts, so Shannon and I surprisingly had a little trouble gathering even this many people for the group photo.
The final leg of the day was just to float about a mile and a half downstream from the Redwall Cavern to our camp.
Relaxation leads to bumper boats. 🙂
Nautiloid was another wonderful camp within the scenic Redwall gorge.
I was free to enjoy my first evening of the trip without designated camp responsibilities, and had a really nice time. In fact the whole group was just ready to party and cut loose tonight.
The power-cook team of Bo Beck, Steph Nally, Brooke Nally, and Steve Nelson prepared an amazing dinner of beef and chicken fajitas with spanish rice and refried beans that may have been the best dinner of the entire trip… not to mention churros for dessert!
Meanwhile, Amy shook up some mighty strong margaritas that had us all feeling alright in no time. Somebody got some music going to further enrich our wilderness experience. 😉 We could have been anywhere but the bottom of the Grand Canyon… but there we were. Bo Beck as usual stoked up a roaring fire, together with the assisting vigilance of Dorothy the fire-goddess.
The night came to close when someone made a slip in their phrasing when referring to search and rescue personnel, by stating it’s their “duty” to come and help people. This set off someone else into quite a tirade about how it’s not the duty of SAR folks to get people out of trouble!
The heated argument that ensued between these individuals was quite entertaining, and forgotten the next morning.
It didn’t rain today.