August 21, 2009
It was late in the afternoon when I decided to do this hike. On a spur of the moment decision, I threw some things into my day pack and drove out to Lipan Point and descended into the Canyon.
The photos on this hike were shot with a new (at the time) Nikon D60 camera. I got it to replace my trusty Nikon D40 for an upcoming thru-hike of the John Muir Trail in September of 2009. I took the D60 on this and one other Canyon hike, but ended up reverting to the D40 for the JMT. When set in the auto “P” mode, the D60 had a tendency to make an image either extra warm or extra cold.
Escalante is the highest of 3 buttes that rise from a ridge along the upper Tanner Trail, seen with the white-capped sandstone in the photo above, on the left. The middle summit is officially unnamed, and the last summit to the north is Cardenas Butte.
These are all touted as relatively easy, 3rd class climbs, because the majority of the route is simple off-trail, Grand Canyon scrambling. The final pitch to the summit of Escalante Butte requires a bit of finesse – it’s definitely the most difficult of these 3 peaks.
It was late in the evening, so I had to hurry.
The Palisades of The Desert shines at this hour.
From a location just to the north of Stegosaurus Rocks, I left the Tanner Trail and scrambled to the crest of the ridge that leads west.
Following this ridge to the south and west led me to the upper reaches of Escalante Butte. In the Coconino it was necessary to traverse to the north slope, but the route is very straightforward. It was a good, steep workout, especially since I was trying to make good time.
There’s two primary summit blocks, divided by a deep, treacherous crack. The block seen to the right, the true summit, is the higher of the two.
Scaling the lowest of the blocks only requires one simple move – from memory I’d consider it a mantle. Once on top of it, however, it’s necessary to make a bold leap across the (pictured) chasm to reach the true summit.
I opted out of the true summit, solo here at the end of the day. It’s technically an easy jump of only about 3 feet, but psychologically terrifying… especially given the prospect of sticking the landing. Maybe I’ll go back someday and give it another try.
I took some time to relax and enjoy the views from the lower block.
I didn’t leave the summit until after sunset, so much of the hike up the Tanner Trail was done by headlamp.
There in the high switchbacks of the Kaibab Limestone, I had my first encounter with a rattlesnake in the Grand Canyon. I caught a glimpse of it sliding off the trail, into the brush. Then I heard it shake its tail as a sort of afterthought, but never got a good view of the snake through the darkness.
I wasn’t about to go looking for it.
Lipan Point was always a windy, chilly place to me, even on this starry August night.