Navajo Mountain, Mounument Valle, Grand Canyon


By: Bill Banks



I took the opportunity while on a Caltech Geology Field trip recently to do some climbing and exploring as well. The first day out I viewed the Canyon from the South Rim at Hopi Pt., Yaki Pt., and Shoshone Pt., Each time I see the Canyonland I'm convinced there's no greater experience. Only this time each strata of the Canyon, its origin, the history and topographic features in the National Park area and in the canyon of the Little Colorado River was explained to me by the world renown geologist, Dr. Eugene Shoemaker.

For DPSers I invite them to explore the Tower of Ra, Confucius Temple, Isis Temple, and Zoroaster's Temple. They rival anything we have on the list. The second day we traveled through the Tainted Desert and viewed dinosaur's tracks and a petrified forest area. On the 3rd day, however, I took a lone detour to Navajo Mtn. The area is beautiful and the climb was enjoyable, however, dwarfed by later climbs in the Monument Valley and San Juan River areas. In Monument Valley the next day I hastily attempted Agathia (El Capitan) and Owl Butte. They alone with the other pinnacles of the Monument Valley are simply other-worldly in their stark prominence and beauty. They are definitely 4th class climbing at best. I settled for "near ascents", whatever that counts for since I had neither the hardware, rope, nor the partner to assist me.

The groups destination was the San Juan River of southern Utah from Bluff to beyond. At Bluff we launched our river rafts. Before departing, however, we had a day in camp and I took the opportunity to climb several unnamed but impressive buttes on the north side of the San Juan. The view of the snow-capped Henry Mtns. to the northwest was quite spectacular and beckons to a DPSer. Finding a high 3rd class route to the top of the buttes is challenging as they present vertical walls on all sides. However in a slot, I found the buried remains of a Desert Bighorn with the hooves and wool coat barely sticking out of the shallow grave. Later on top of the butte was the largest rack I've seen with 3 curls. Being alone in a place like this makes one understand the religion of the Navajos whose reverence for this land made it sacred to them. I too would rather die upon it than surrender it to commercial despoilers or abandon it for the reservation ghetto.

The next two days and a half were spent on the San Juan River. We stopped to hike to distant Pueblo cliff dwellings of the 12th century. At the base of one cliff was the corpse of a fallen Bighorn. (Evidently they don't always survive their phenomenal climbing antics.)

Mexican Hat is a short climb but novel. The Gooseneck area leaves one without words for what is timeless in its beauty and makes one feel the irrelevance of all Men to Nature, especially those who would "conquer" Her.

At every landing there are climbs to be made up buttes and canyon walls. Indian campsites are abundant and the river flows on and on into timelessness. Finally, on our way home we passed the San Francisco Mtns. (Humphreys and Agassiz). They were even more snow-covered now than when I'd climbed them three years ago. I envy the climbers in the Flagstaff area. They have quite a few DPS spectaculars right in their backyard.

For DPS climbers, however, a week in this area is only time enough to begin a survey and to sample a spectacular desert area.

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