April 2, 2009
From a technical standpoint the Battleship may not be the easiest of Grand Canyon’s named summits, but I’d wager that it’s the most popular.
The peak is near-at-hand from Grand Canyon Village and the upper Bright Angel Trail. This makes it a favorite among the South Rim’s residents – an old Fred Harvey employee tradition that continues into the present day.
After climbing the butte on Horseshoe Mesa as my first Grand Canyon summit, the Battleship was set to be Number Two.
I hiked down the trail one day in early April to give it a try.
I grabbed a photo here at the 2-mile turn, marking the place to leave the Bright Angel Trail.
After you leave the 1.5-mile resthouse, the trail descends to the west for a full half-mile before making its next switchback – thus the local name for this turn in the trail.
Soon I picked up a cairned path that I was able to follow intermittently, all the way to the saddle in front of the Battleship.
On the return hike I’d locate a second cairned route that followed a lower elevation, hugging the lip of a low but consistent cliff in the Supai.
The lower route seemed to be faster and more direct, but on future hikes I’d often retrace this clockwise sequence in utilizing both paths.
From the saddle you can find a clear trail that leads directly to key break in the Battleship’s east face.
I was unaware of it on this first hike, and ended up using a lot of time and energy floundering about the Battleship’s eastern slopes. If memory serves, I ascended straight from the saddle, and ended up contouring for a long way along the slope until I found the path.
Once I found the crack that unlocks the route, the rest of the way was fairly straightforward.
Once I was up the chimney crux at the top of the crack, I proceeded very cautiously with each turn up the ledges. I was solo and still relatively inexperienced at this sort of thing.
I discovered this old rock shelter along the way. It’s found off the beaten path from the direct route to the top, and is therefore easily missed. The structure is said to date to the early 1900’s, when a proposed tramway across the Canyon was surveyed. It ultimately was never constructed.
This is the last significant obstacle of the climb, where an overweight individual would have an awfully difficult time squeezing through the crack.
The summit has 2 cairns. One is a big traditional pile (seen below), and the other is a fun Battleship-shaped cairn, pictured at the top of this post.
In my experience, there was no summit register until I placed one a few years later. The ammo box I bought at Peace Surplus in Flagstaff still sits on the summit.
A walk to the north end reveals the dramatic tower that lends to the overall Battleship appearance, coined by Emery Kolb.
The south end features numerous historical inscriptions. The one shown above may be my favorite, as it reads “Scranton, PA,” which is near to my hometown in Pennsylvania. There was also a “Fowler” family in my high school.
Most of the inscriptions date to the early 1900s, seen in the gallery at the end of this page.
After descending from the summit, I chose to explore the expansive red Supai plain to its northernmost point 5521. Upon arrival, I was mildly disappointed to discover that this wasn’t the true northernmost point. The Redwall rim holds that designation here, located almost 500 feet down an impassable cliff from this vantage point.
The views were still very nice.
I took this silly selfie of my legs hanging off the northernmost point. It strikes me looking back that I was wearing blue jeans! I suppose I didn’t own any proper hiking pants at the time, and figured jeans were better than cutting up my legs in shorts.
Someone built a cairn out here on the point, which in hindsight I view as rather unexpected. It’s relatively untraveled territory, as there isn’t much reason for anyone to come out here except to take in the view. I suppose the point serves as a consolation prize for those unable to attain Battleship’s true summit, too.
The hike back to the rim featured a huge gathering of turkey vultures in the late afternoon.
I imagine it was a windy evening as well, evidenced by the lenticular cloud in this last photo of the day.
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