Monday, October 29, 2018

Clear Creek Rim to Point 3,814' overlooking Lake Powell

Essence: The Escalante River and its tributaries are bound by Waterpocket Fold on the east and the Kaiparowits Plateau on the west. The colossal Aquarius Plateau and region-wide and high Boulder Mountain both contribute to the southbound waterway. The erosive power of this river system has exposed an immense realm of Navajo Sandstone, the most prominent rock formation on the Colorado Plateau. Clear Creek is but one in an elaborate collective of both broad and slim tributary canyons. While it is possible to walk some distance down the Clear Creek gorge it ends in an impassible pouroff. Therefore, this hike goes overland along the Clear Creek rim from Hole-In-The-Rock Road to the Escalante arm of Lake Powell at Point 3,814'. It passes above Cathedral in the Desert, unfortunately out of view. The immersive slickrock experience follows fluted stream paths, passes by chains of deep tanks, skirts around clusters of Moqui balls, and offers navigation puzzles. After the hike visit Hole-In-The Rock at the end of the road. This hike is within the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area.
Travel: The Hole-In-The-Rock Road bears southeast from UT-12 at mile marker 64.4 east of Escalante. 4WD with high clearance is required. The road is impassible when wet with keeper mud holes. Pass the turnoff for Dry Fork Coyote, Dance Hall Rock, Sooner Rocks, and Cave Point. Northeast of Fiftymile Point the road descends a 150-foot hill and crosses a sheet of Navajo Sandstone just west of BM 4,315'. This is Davis Gulch, 51.4 miles from UT-12. (Your mileage may vary.) There are several excellent primitive campsites nearby east of Davis. The track degenerates. In another 1.2 miles, Hole-In-The-Rock Well will be on the right with its green pump and stock tank. At about 54.4 miles (3.0 miles past Davis), just over the top of a hill, park on the left in front of an orange flexible post preventing vehicle access. This is about 0.3 mile east of BM 4,422'. Allow two and a half hours from UT-12. The bottom of Hole-In-The-Rock Road is another 2.6 slow miles. Come supplied with plenty of fuel, water, and food in case you get stuck on the road.
Distance and Elevation Gain: 11.5 miles; 1,400 feet of climbing
Total Time: 5:00 to 7:00
Difficulty: Off-trail; navigation moderate; mild exposure; carry all the water you will need.
Map: Davis Gulch, AZ 7.5' USGS Quad
Reference: Canyoneering 3: Loop Hikes in Utah's Escalante, by Steve Allen.
Date Hiked: October 29, 2018 
Quote: It should not be denied... that being footloose has always exhilarated us. It is associated in our minds with escape from history and oppression and law and irksome obligations, with absolute freedom, and the road has always led West. Wallace Stegner

From the rim of Clear Creek, overlook its submerged confluence with the Escalante River. Deep blue shimmering Lake Powell contrasts with tawny Navajo Sandstone and the porcelain-colored high-water mark. A buoy lends perspective. (Thomas Holt Ward, photo)

Route: From Hole-In-The-Rock Road walk northeast down the fall line into the dry headwater basin of Clear Creek. When the arroyo trenches, walk on the west rim passing above Cathedral in the Desert and the Escalante River confluence. Continue northeast to Point 3,814'. Double back roughly as you came.

From the small parking pullout, elevation 4,400 feet, the Straight Cliffs are behind you to the west and Navajo Mountain is southwest. Start out on the abandoned road crossing a blackbrush flat. We saw rabbit tracks and very old footprints.

Near the top of a shallow rise at 0.2 mile, leave the track keeping a northeast bearing. Very soon you will be looking out over Clear Creek canyon and the three blocks of the Henry Mountains. Descend the sandy hill stabilized with ephedra, grasses, yucca, and feathery sage. (THW, photo)

Transition to sandstone at 0.4 mile. The canyon gathers water from a broad region and it's not immediately clear where the main channel lies. A stone funnel is a good indicator we are enroute.

While still in a broad basin at 1.0 mile, waterpockets are plentiful and rim-full after autumn rains. In this image I have turned around to mentally register Point 7,567' on the Straight Cliffs as my landscape marker for the return trip.
(THW, photo)


Sand captured by shallow depressions lie in ephemeral wave patterns.

Waters coalesce and by 1.7 miles, Clear Creek is trenching. Transition to the west side of the watercourse for the remainder of the hike. Steve Allen writes that the gorge is accessible for awhile and then progress ends abruptly at a dramatic pouroff (1:30 to 2:00 from the trailhead). On this day walking downcanyon would be a wet proposition and we stay on the rim. One of the many compelling features of this hike are the chain-linked rainwater tanks.

At 2.0 miles a substantial side canyon must be bypassed.

 Walk 0.3 mile northwest, head it at a ruble field, and return toward the rim.

This area was especially appealing with irresistible sandstone billows and rolling ridges to walk upon. In this image notice the pink dunestone covered in white liesegang. We went to its left only to discover we could have walked over the top.

Walking is dreamlike, tranquil and unimpeded by obstacles or navigation conundrums. In just one-and-a-half hours, at 3.0 miles, we were standing above the lake and Cathedral in the Desert. NASA's Earth Observatory scientists commented on the prolonged drought in the American Southwest. "Combined with water withdrawals that many believe are not sustainable, the drought has caused a dramatic drop in Lake Powell’s water level." On October 29, 2018, the lake level was elevation 3,590 feet, 110 feet below full pool. The lake is down 38 feet from one year ago. Clear Creek's grand alcoves are emerging. (THW, photo)

The Cathedral in the Desert cannot be glimpsed from the west rim. Boats access Clear Creek canyon by traveling about four miles up the Escalante River from its submerged confluence with the Colorado River. It's not quite two miles up Clear Creek to the Cathedral.

Steve Allen visited the Cathedral in 1968 as Lake Powell was filling. He climbed a row of Moqui steps up a vertical wall into the upper grotto. He writes, "And what a wonderful place it was! The tan Navajo walls, streaked with a thick patina of brown-and-black desert varnish, curved skyward in Gothic arcs that nearly met at the top, leaving just a thin slit of sunlight to illuminate the small stream that ran down from the chancel, through the nave, and disappeared under a wall beyond the narthex." David Brower once said, “Cathedral in the Desert was the ultimate magical place in Glen Canyon."

A small lateral canyon crosses our path. It is a fluted sculptural affair with interlocking potholes. Cross it effortlessly on a bridge of stone.

At the next lake overview we can make out the junction of Clear Creek with the Escalante River. A free-flowing confluence is both obvious in its location and a place of power. Under the stilled waters of the lake, not so much.

At the mouth of Clear Creek we stand upon the vertiginous brink at 4.6 miles. Given the sheer drop to the water dark and deep, the exposure seems extreme and the primal self urges caution. 

The image below was taken approaching Point 3,814', the slickrock dome, image-center-right. The landscape is a little chaotic and we searched around for access to the lake as documented in Steve Allen's book. First we searched the rim on the left (off-image) but got cliffed out. We were repelled by the right side as well. We found passage between the domes.

We descended on sandstone bedding planes.

At 5.8 miles, elevation 3,780 feet, we were as close to the lake as we dared go, still 190 feet above the water. This was a gorgeous location and I recommend you venture here. (THW, photo)

Steve's book was published in 1997 and he reached the lake at Point 3,814' via a "steep slickrock descent." Presumably the lake level has dropped considerably since his book was published. I'm not convinced his route is still viable, but I know him to be much braver and more skilled than me. It gave me the heebie-jeebies just capturing this image.

We backed out and climbed easily to the top of Point 3,814', a worthy destination for its vista of unadulterated elements: sky, water, rock, and color.

If you prefer loops, consult Steve's book for directions on locating the abandoned Clear Creek Trail. The path has long been erased but any land that once held a trail will accommodate the navigation savvy. Steve describes a second route to the lake west of this location near the slickrock ramp, shown. (THW, photo)

Point 3,814' looks out over exquisite bare stone islands. The Escalante River thalweg does a sweeping hook in front of them. We intentionally varied our return course to see new terrain but essentially we walked southwest back to the start. Next time we will extend our "footloose" probe. A lifetime of exploration awaits in this whorling landscape imbued with peaceful pandemonium.

Hole-In-The-Rock
It is 2.6 miles from the parking pullout to the end of the road at Hole-In-The-Rock.

Called by Brigham Young in October, 1879 to colonize the Utah Territory and the Intermountain West, 230 people volunteered for the San Juan Mission. Stretching for two miles, the wagon train set out from Escalante and made for the southeastern corner of Utah. The Hole-In-The-Rock Expedition was the last wagon train in America and the only one to go from west to east.

On December 16, work began at the Hole-In-The-Rock Crossing while the pioneers were encamped at Fiftymile Spring. The drop down the crevice to the Colorado River is 1,200 feet with several 45 percent pitches. On January 26, 1880, after eight weeks of hard labor, the first of eighty-three wagons rolled down the chute and was ferried across the river where a dugway had been constructed up a 250-foot sandstone wall.

East of the river, the country was unscouted before the mission rolled out. The territory was wild, conditions harsh. Progress on the promised "shortcut route" was slow. The pioneers had been instructed to carry six weeks of provisions and yet the journey consumed six months. Remarkably, everyone survived to settle in their new home in Bluff City on April 6, 1880.

According to Kumen Jones, a member of the San Juan Mission, "In making the 125 miles from Escalante the company had traveled 260 miles and had made 210 miles of new road through the most difficult country wagons were ever taken through in all America."

Stewart Aitchison chronicles the perilous journey in, A Guide to Southern Utah's Hole-In-The-Rock Trail (University of Utah Press, 2005). In this slim volume, Aitchison documents historic accounts and details how to follow the trail by vehicle and on foot.

Steps were carved at the entry into the Hole. At the bottom of the stairway the scramble becomes serious with an initial ten-foot drop. Bring a rope if you want to make it to the lake. Most of the pioneer fill material has washed away and large boulders have exfoliated from the cliffs into the crack.  

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Davis Gulch: Glen Canyon National Recreation Area

Essence: This essay describes the overland route from Hole-In-The-Rock Road into Davis Gulch via an old stock trail. It is the only non-technical route into Davis, located near the Escalante arm of Lake Powell. Overlook Bement Arch, a bulky tunnel-like structure drilled through the canyon's northwest wall. Following Davis Gulch at rim level is an orienteering challenge. The landscape is fabulously convoluted with fields of sandstone domes, fins, and steep side canyons. There is an uncommon amount of ups and downs on friction pitches. It takes hours, patience, and an instinct for slickrock developed over time. We attempted to reach Bement Arch from the canyon floor but the riparian habitat is so over-grown we conceded. A brief discussion follows about travel to Bement via both the stock trail and the upper canyon slot. This is a classic slickrock hike within the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area.
Travel: The Hole-In-The-Rock Road bears southeast from UT-12 at mile marker 64.4, east of Escalante. 4WD with high clearance is recommended. The road is impassible when wet with keeper mud holes. Davis Canyon intersects the track in approximately 50 miles; allow two hours. When you pass the sign to Dry Fork Coyote you have gone half the distance. Travel by Dance Hall Rock, Sooner Rocks, and Cave Point.  Northeast of Fiftymile Point the road descends a 150-foot hill and crosses a sheet of Navajo Sandstone, just west of BM 4,315' (on the Davis Gulch quad). That was 51.4 miles from UT-12 for us but your odometer may vary. There are several excellent primitive campsites nearby east of Davis. Come supplied with plenty of fuel, water, and food in case you get stuck on the road.
Distance and Elevation Gain: 10.5 miles roundtrip overland to the floor of Davis Gulch; about 1,400 feet of climbing. Your mileage will vary. It is another 1.8 miles upstream to Bement Arch.
Total Time: 5:00 to 6:30 for the overland segment.
Difficulty: Off-trail; navigation challenging; mild exposure descending into Davis Gulch. Perennial water in Davis.
Map: Davis Gulch, UT 7.5' USGS Quad
Reference: Canyoneering 3: Loop Hikes in Utah's Escalante, by Steve Allen. He writes, "Davis Gulch was named for the Davis brothers, George and Johnny, both early residents of Escalante. They ran sheep above the gulch." For a detailed description of the slot consult, The American Southwest, Slot Canyons, Davis Gulch.
Date Hiked: October 28, 2018
Poem: 
Oh but the desert is glorious now
With marching clouds in the blue sky,
And cool winds blowing.
The smell of the sage is sweet
in my nostrils,
and the luring trail leads onwards. Everett Ruess

Everett Ruess inscribed "NEMO 1934" on a wall near Bement Arch, shown. Davis Gulch was his last known campsite. The overland hiker will traverse over and around slickrock features while peering into Davis Gulch and looking afar to Navajo Mountain, the Straight Cliffs, and Fiftymile Point. (Thomas Holt Ward, photo)

Route: There are typically a few vehicles parked at Davis Gulch. The difficult Class 5.2 slot in upper Davis is renowned for near-vertical walls, pools, and ten-foot drops over chockstones. In the second set of narrows a 15-foot slide into a deep pool is irreversible. We arrived on a chilly day after recent rains and opted for an overland trek.

This hike hovers near the canyon rim for five miles. Stay on the west side of the gulch while bearing north-northeast. Drop to the canyon floor on an abandoned stock trail. On the return, you may walk further from the canyon on a blackbrush plain, heading southwest back to the start.

The hike begins at the intersect of Davis Gulch and Hole-In-The-Rock Road, elevation 4,300 feet. First, get your bearings. Southwest (behind you), locate Hole-In-The-Rock Arch and its relative position on Fiftymile Point. It is rather small in this image but the arch will be visible for most of the hike. This is your landscape marker for the return, or worse case, if you get disoriented at any time.

The soft but dominant Navajo Mountain dome is in the south. Walk northeast toward the three blocks of the Henry Mountains, shown. The low-slung red mesas off to the sides are composed of the Carmel Formation. It overlies buff-colored Navajo Sandstone, the most prominent rock formation on the Colorado Plateau and the home ground for this hike.

Davis Gulch slots up almost immediately. Pull out onto the canyon's west side, keeping it in sight throughout the journey. Progress is slowed and complicated by twisting and swirling globular petrified dunes cut with small drainages. Come with an innate sense of direction and a knowledge of how Navajo Sandstone tends to lay on the land. This hike will appeal to those who enjoy solving navigation puzzles.

At 0.3 mile, jog west to skirt a minor side canyon. Water pockets are rim-full after autumn rains. Sand island gardens are tucked in recesses of rock. Deer tracks wind around snakeweed, rabbitbrush, yucca, sage, Indian ricegrass, and prickly pear.

A deep rift slices across our intended path at 0.6 mile. Ascend west and head the incision. Moving northeast once again, climb 100 feet and top a small brush-covered hill (elevation 4,360 feet) at 1.0 mile. This is a good place to form a strategy for maneuvering through the giant field of dunestones stretching out before you. We decided to aim for the blackbrush flat, image-center. A large cairn sits on the hilltop and subtle rock stacks led us down a somewhat tricky drop from the little butte.

Encounter another side canyon at 1.6 miles forcing a bigger westward go-around above the precipitous slot.

Then, bear intentionally northeast toward the canyon rim. Gnarly concretions rest inexplicably on baldrock and pea-sized Moqui balls gather in clusters.

By about 2.7 miles you will be walking on the canyon rim with excellent views of the floor. Davis is at its broadest here (between two tight passages) with cottonwoods growing on sandy bottomland. Travel quickens on whaleback fins through a soft-flowing, inter-connected fossilized dunescape.

Deep, massive alcoves are chain-linked. (THW, photo)

Bement Arch is just coming into view left of center in this image. At the time I didn't realize the best view of the arch might be captured from the upstream side.

Bement Arch Overlook
At 3.7 miles we arrived at the downcanyon arch overlook. This is located at the "v" in Davis on the quadrangle. The massive and bulky arch is located on the west wall of the canyon. The span has a long interior sidewall. Sun alights on discarded boulders and adds a brilliancy to the vibrant green grass mats on the benches.

We had every intention of walking up to the arch from the stock trail. Steve Allen writes about features near the arch. He notes that toward the end of the slot just upstream of the arch is an Everett Ruess memorial plaque etched with the poem sited at the beginning of this post. Bement Arch is known locally as Nemo Arch.

We wondered if we could access the arch from the rim. Steve writes that there are three sets of Moqui steps downstream of the slot. The steps, downcanyon-left, do exit the canyon but they are rated Class 5.7 and cannot be protected. Expert climbers only!

Old Stock Trail
The constructed cattle trail is the only non-technical entry into Davis Gulch. At about five miles, look across the canyon and locate a Carmel mesa, Point 4,512'. Notice the deep vertical crack in the Navajo Sandstone at the contact point between the two formations, shown just left of image-center. The stock trail begins across from this feature. Two draws lead into a bowl. We went down one and came up the other. Both are marked with small cairns (which may or may not be present).

Descend on comfortable friction slabs to the inner canyon rim. Upon nearing the edge walk downcanyon on a lateral for about 0.1 mile. In this image I am moving from the bottom of the bowl onto the traverse. There is mild exposure here. (THW, photo)

Tread on the historic route, a foot-wide chiseled cowpath.

Below is an image of the lateral looking downstream.

A series of chiseled steps lead down onto the canyon floor at 5.3 miles, elevation 3,740 feet. As Steve Allen points out, the entry point is between "l" and "c" in Gulch on the topo. A broken log fence rests at the foot of the trail, a distinctive marker should you travel from here. (THW, photo)

Bement Arch is 1.8 miles upstream and we launched out on a trail. The path devolved and within a tenth of a mile it was nonexistent. Apparently, there are not enough people walking from the lake to the arch to keep the trail viable. We were completely entangled in all manner of riparian vegetation: willows, cattails, horsetails, and vines that tripped or trapped us. It was both mentally and physically demanding. By our agreed-upon turn-around time we had progressed just 1.3 miles in 1:45. There is a human in there somewhere.

Davis Gulch seen from the occasional bench is quite beautiful. The perennial stream harbors a lush habitat of maple trees, grasses, fern-lined seeps, sacred datura, and gamble oak. The tiger-stripped wall below is located across from the trail out. (THW, photo)

At full pool, elevation 3,700 feet, Lake Powell is just 0.2 mile downcanyon from the stock trail. On October 28, 2018, lake level was elevation 3,590 feet, about a mile downstream. If we had a margin of time we would have gone to the lake.

Below is a shot of the stone steps leading out of the canyon.

On our way back we returned to the Bement Arch overlook and then swung away from the canyon onto an extensive blackbrush plain. We held a southwest bearing, aiming for Fiftymile Point. This shaved both time and distance.

The region in and around Davis Gulch is varied and beautiful. There is no way to capture its essence in just one hike. We will return to explore the slot, to get a better angle on Bement Arch from the northwest rim, and to walk downcanyon to Lake Powell.

Friday, October 19, 2018

George Benchmark, 7,289': Capitol Reef National Park

Essence: Hike to the end of the popular Golden Throne Trail and then launch off-trail onto Navajo Sandstone for the remainder of the approach and climb. Good navigation and map reading skills are required to summit. The crux is a 150-foot steep friction pitch with decent features. George is the tallest prominence in the region with superb near and distant views. The USGS quadrangle simply refers to the peak as George. A backcountry ranger called it George Point. I've settled informally on George Benchmark (VABM 7,289').
Travel: From the Visitor Center and UT-24, drive south on Scenic Drive. Pass by the campground, the Grand Wash turnoff, and go over the Slickrock Divide. In eight miles, Pleasant Creek Road branches to the right and the paved road transitions to graded dirt. Upon entering Capitol Gorge the road is squeezed between constricted towering walls textured with tafoni. As you enter the large parking lot at 10.2 miles, the Golden Throne Trailhead is on the left. During busy times this lot will fill by mid-morning. Pit toilet and picnic tables but no water.
Fruita Campground: This idyllic, shady campground is adjacent to the Fremont River, tucked amongst historic fruit orchards. In 2018, the campground initiated a reservation system. The 71 sites are first-come, first-serve November through February. There are bathrooms, fire grates, picnic tables, and water.  Campground information.
Fee Information: Park facilities are open year-round.
Distance and Elevation Gain: 9.7 miles; 2,200 feet of climbing 
Total Time: 5:00 to 7:00
Difficulty: Trail, off-trail; navigation moderately challenging; Class 3 with moderate exposure on the west slope of George
Map: Golden Throne, UT 7.5' USGS Quad (available at the Visitor Center)
Latest Date Hiked: October 19, 2018
Quote: The horizon may shift and change around you, but underneath it is the heart from which we move. Joy Harjo

There is not a lot of space to move about on the summit of George. From the airy perch the climber is rewarded with a full-circle horizon. To the southeast is the Golden Throne, Waterpocket Fold and the Henry Mountains.
(Thomas Holt Ward, photo)

Route: From the Golden Throne Trailhead, hike roughly west-northwest to the end of the trail. Head north along the west side of Golden Throne and then up a sandstone ramp to the west end of a knobby ridge and Point 6,694'. Walk north in a sandy drainage and then cut over to the west slope of George. Climb steeply east on Navajo Sandstone to the north ridge. This is the crux and route tolerance is exceedingly narrow. From here it is "just a walk" to the east slopes of the summit block.

The Golden Throne Trail and the Capitol Gorge Trail leave from different locations in a shared parking lot, elevation 5,420 feet.

The hike begins in the Kayenta Formation, a ledge-forming sandstone. Fortunately for hikers, the tilt of the shelves render a gradual, consistent ascent. The well-engineered path rises high above the road. (THW, photo)

Pass through a cluster of gigantic fallen Navajo Sandstone boulders. One of the defining characteristics of this route is its scalloped nature as it winds in and out of three, sheer-walled slash canyons, little more than water-bearing cracks. If you have time, prob into these dark recesses to the north. Golden Throne comes into view for the first time at 0.9 mile. (THW, photo)

Watch on the bedrock surface for Liesegang banding, coloration on sandstone seen throughout the American West. Living on the ledges are piñon-juniper, roundleaf buffaloberry, and two species of ephedra. Blooming in the spring are Utah penstemon, rockcress, paintbrush, puccoon, cat's eye, and woolly milkvetch, a mat astragalus.

The Golden Throne trail ends at 1.9 miles, elevation 6,140 feet. The overlook rests on a sheet of Navajo Sandstone. We will be in that formation from here on. Look deeply into Capitol Wash and southeast to the Henry Mountains. With its smooth vertical walls cloaked in yellow the Throne is a marvel. To its north are three flat-topped, cliff-bound buttes. The first two are unnamed and unnumbered. George is the most northern, image-left.

The first navigation challenge is to reach the west end of the knobby ridge shown below, image-left. Backtrack 0.05 mile and locate a faint social trail going north. Typically, it is blocked with a line of rocks. Do your very best to stay on the track and avoid stepping on cryptobiotic soil. The path hugs the western base of the Golden Throne.

In just 0.4 mile, 2.35 miles from the start, the track enters the wash above a distinctive pouroff and pool.

Cross over the top of the barrier fall on fluted sandstone. (THW, photo)

Walk up the drainage about 50 feet and then take a few steps up out of the wash onto an appealing slickrock ramp. Sometimes this exit, just past a dead juniper on the left, is marked with a cairn.

Holding a westward bearing it is possible to stay on the stone ramp all the way to the end of the ridge. It is as simple to follow the bedrock as it is to cairn hop. If you find yourself mired in dirt and boulders unravel your mistake and head back onto the threads of rock. (THW, photo)

Reach the west end of the ridge (near Point 6,694'), at 3.0 miles, elevation 6,600 feet. This is yet another exceptional vantage point. (THW, photo)

This image shows the end of the knob-topped ridge and George. There are no cairns, trails, and likely no tracks hereon. It is one mile to the base of the climb. Walk north and in 0.2 mile enter a sandy washbed.

At 3.3  miles the wash splits, shown. Either branch works fine. For the approach we stayed in the main channel (the route to Fern's Nipple). We returned via the tributary that runs along the west base of George.

Leave the drainage at 3.8 miles, 6,680 feet, at a side wash. Avoid cryptobiotic soil by walking in rivulets. Walk northeast toward the white checkerboard on George's western slopes. It is a bit of a cactus minefield. Keep watch and you should be able to weave through the pesky plants.

Locate an old growth leaning ponderosa, pictured, at 4.0 miles. The approach is over.

From the tree walk north into the relatively uncluttered cleft between the outcrop, image-left, and the west wall of George. The cleft tops out at 6,780 feet and then goes subtly downhill. We started our climb up the sandstone at the top of this first rise. If you don't like this initial friction pitch it may be possible to continue in the cleft a short distance and punch up from there. However, you will have to double back onto this very specific route to avoid getting cliffed out.

The next objective is the north ridge. Climb east and enter a beautiful sandstone bowl with a line of tanks, shown. Climb the shallow interior ridge left of the tanks.

The 150 foot crux is shown below. Spend some time locating the safest route up the slope. I thought it was a little dicey, the exposure unnerving. For me, downclimbing was more comfortable because I had four or five points on the rock. Looking at the image below, we initially climbed to the short piñon on a platform half way up the pitch, image-center.

Iron concretion nodules protruding from the sandstone were dependable hand and foot holds.

At the top of the crux continue climbing--it is safer now. Upon gaining the north ridge at 7,100 feet, a minor outcrop blocks travel. Climb up and over it, west of the top knob. The summit is at skyline image-right.

This image looks back on the north ridge outcrop, image-center. We are already higher than Fern's Nipple, 7,065'.

Unexpectedly and amazingly the north ridge is literally covered with Moqui balls. I have never seen this many in one place. Please leave every one of them here where they belong.

On the east side of the butte platform is an orange block.

This distinctive feature is a good landscape marker for locating George from afar. For example, this shot was taken from the Notom Road. The Golden Throne is image- left and the orange block is on the right.

Mount the east slopes to the summit, reaching it at 4.8 miles. You will find a benchmark placed in 1952 but no peak register.

Movement is restricted to the small, precipitous summit ridge. In this image I am looking over Waterpocket Fold to the Henry Mountains, off-image. So far above familiar features in the park, it feels like I am flying. (THW, photo)

Below is the wash we walked up and off in the distance is Boulder Mountain.

Descend on your proven upcoming route. This image looks down on the north ridge and crux from the summit. It is located in the center of the image toward the left side.

This is a good depiction of the steepness of the crux.

Upon reaching the small cleft, relocate the leaning ponderosa. On our return we walked down the drainage along the base of George's west wall. It is just 0.1 mile longer and quite pretty with ancient juniper and ponderosa.

The streambed makes a lot of tight turns with a couple of incoming side drainages. The most significant requires a 90 degree turn to the right 0.3 mile before the main wash. Retrace your steps back to the Golden Throne Trail. After a few hours of welcome solitude you will be overlooking the busy parking lot.

All four Navajo Sandstone structures in this lineup are encircled by cliffs. George is the highest and the only non-technical scalable prominence. It was a glorious climb and we felt grateful for the gift of access. (THW, panorama)