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Trip Report - December/January, 1998 - South Kaibab, Utah Flats, North Kaibab & Bright Angel

Another trip to the Canyon... and another wonderful visit. We lucked out as far as the weather went and the cold snap of the prior week vanished leaving in its wake temperatures that were slightly above normal for the time of year. We had one night up on the Tonto Platform, just above Phantom Creek, that was a little chilly and forced us to sleep in our clothes but apart from that it was pretty nice. Temperatures during the day were in the upper 50s and lower 60s and temperatures at night, in the bottom of the Canyon, were in the lower 40s. That one cold night was probably in the lower or middle 30s. This was originally supposed to be a 7-night trip but was cut back to 6 nights to avoid camping at Indian Gardens which would have been another very cold night. I talked with people on the rim that had camped there the night that we were supposed to and they said that they had ice inside their tents in the morning because the condensation that had accumulated on the inside had frozen. They claimed that the temperature had fallen to the lower 20s.

The trip was scaled back in a couple of other places as well. I did not make it as far up Phantom and Haunted Canyons as I would have liked to because we decided to start the hike back to Bright Angel Campground in the afternoon of what was supposed to be our layover day. We did this because of problems encountered with the steepness on the Utah Flats Route coming up from the campground and did not want to try to go down this nasty section of trail after hiking all the way back from Phantom Creek. Instead we hiked out of Phantom Creek and made camp on the Tonto Platform for one night and then finished the hike back to Bright Angel Campgound the next day. As it was the trail did not seem as bad going back down as I had expected. It was still pretty nasty but I expected it to be a lot more nasty than it was. Maybe coming back part of the way the day prior and being pretty well rested by the time we reached the bad section had something to do with it. Both ends of the Utah Flats Route have some pretty hairy sections though and I don't recommend the use of this route for any but experienced canyoneers.

Another area where the trip was cut short was up at Ribbon Falls on the North Kaibab Trail. I had hoped to hike up to Upper Ribbon Falls and was given the impression that there was a trail that went up there. I hunted around for it for a while but never found any sign of one. If anyone knows anything about a trail or route to Upper Ribbon Falls I would appreciate hearing of it for the next time that I am up that way. Ribbon Falls was still pretty awesome and we had the whole place to ourselves for almost two hours that we were there. As a matter of fact we only saw two other people all day on the North Kaibab Trail.

All of the photos taken during this trip were obtained with my new toy, a Nikon CoolPix 900 digital camera, which performed very well during its first trip in the backcountry and may be the only camera I ever take again. All of the images were captured in high resolution, 1280 x 960 pixel mode, and then reduced in size to 800 x 600 (large), 400 x 300 (medium) and 200 x 150 (thumbnail) for the web site. Most of the images were captured in "normal" compression mode while a few shots taken up at Ribbon Falls were captured in "fine" mode to reduce the compression.

This trip was also a little different in that it was the first time that we flew directly into Grand Canyon Airport. It always bugs me to rent a car and leave it sitting at a trailhead for a week while I am off hiking in the Canyon so this trip was a test to see how well we could get by without the car. It went pretty well but would probably be a lot better during the time of year when the shuttle buses are running. As it was we ended up doing a lot of walking between the lodges and Babbitt's whenever we needed to get something there. The weather was nice though so it wasn't too bad. Grand Canyon Airport was a little on the chaotic side on the day that we had to fly back to Las Vegas. The place had been invaded by hordes of Japanese tourists that were visiting the Canyon on day trips from Vegas and it felt more like Narita (the airport outside of Tokyo) than it did Grand Canyon.

Happy Trails

camera Photo map
Day 1 - South Kaibab trailhead to Phantom Ranch
Day 2 - Phantom Ranch to Phantom Canyon via Utah Flats
Day 3 - Day hike to Haunted Canyon & Utah Flats Route up to Tonto Platform
Day 4 - Utah Flats Route to Bright Angel Campground
Day 5 - Day hike on North Kaibab Trail to Ribbon Falls
Day 6 - Bright Angel Campground to Bright Angel trailhead
Day 7 - Some free time on the rim

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