18 Days in the Grand Canyon - A climbing Trip Report


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Chris McNamara

SuperTopo staff member
Topic Author's Original Post - Aug 8, 2008 - 03:41pm PT
Good friends are the best. Especially when your friend Corey Rich invites you on a 18 day climbing trip down the Grand Canyon!

The Team
Corey and Blaine Deutsch from Corey Rich Photography organized the trip. Corey was team photojournalist and all photos below are his. Tommy Caldwell and Beth Rodden were the stars. I was the aerial reconaisance specialist. Peter Mortimer from Sender Films and Josh Lowell from Big Up Productions were the filmmakers. Bert Jones, Orea Roussis, Matt Duperrault and Kevin Thompson were the guides from Outdoors Unlimited.

Day 1 - 10/31/07

Glen Canyon Dam is a faucet that turns the Colorado River up and down every day based on when they need to generate power and how much water they can use. I always laugh at the October Yosemite Tourists who ask "When do they turn the waterfalls on?" But in the Grand Canyon its not a joke. They really DO turn the water up and down. Because this was a drought time, the river was low and slow. Perfect for our crew who probably had a combined experience of a dozen days rafting.

Mile 4.5 - we passed under Navajo Bridge which is 480 feet tall.

Mile 10 - 10 Mile Rock. 20' tall. Tommy and Beth did a v6 on the tip of the rock on the upriver side. You have to get the boat stuck to do the problem then downclimb 5.6 on the downriver side... or jump in.
Here is Beth doing the problem

We then abandoned Tommy. "Uh Guys. Who has my spot?! Serously, guys!"

Day 2 - 11/1/07
Mile 20.5 - We left our camp and headed up North Canyon and after 0.3 miles Tommy and Beth Climbed this cool dark sandstone boulder. There was a cool V1 that Tommy is climbing below.

Then tommy did this spicy V7/8:

Beth then found this cool mellow boulder.

Then Tommy found this epic splitter crack. He only went 100 feet up and it got pretty sandy. If somebody wants to spend a little time on this it would yield a great first ascent.

That evening we took on some rapids. I stayed dry in the back but Beth got hammered by one:

That night we camped in this awesome cave that is marked "cave" on the USGS map just after Mile 26. There is a 80-foot-long V6 roof problem that starts in the back of the cave and climbs to the front. Totally horizontal. Biggest holds you will ever fall off of. There was also a cool V6 that traversed the lip of the cave. Kevin did some cool fire dangly things inside the cave.

Day 3 11/2/07
Mile 26.1. Tommy worked on freeing this 5.13+ limestone route which started in the cave described above. First he sorta aid free climbed. Then he tried to lead it with the gear in place (no bolts were placed) but he fell when a hold broke near the top. Would be a proud send. The rock is ok limestone. Not super sweet. Made for some great photos.

Day 4 - 11/3/07
Mile 28. Beach on the right side followed by a good looking 60' cliff above water. Would have been a sweet deep water solo spot but we had to keep going.

We camped just before Mile 32 and Stanton's Cave on a great beach. There is some cool canyoneering to do here. At the end of the day Beth and Tommy found some great Verdon Limetrone Style Bouders near Vaisey's Paradise. 6-8 problems V1-V7. Sandy landings.

Day 5 - 11/4/08
There was a bunch of cool looking trad climbs on the right side of the river between Mile 32 and Redwall Cavern. Two Indians Kissing looked like a fun 80' free standing pillar. Maybe 5.10. Would have climbed it but we were focused on Redwall Cavern. One of the biggest coolest bouldering caves ever!

We all bouldered and Tommy Beth and Josh did some V8-V9 really long hard problems. Because this is a big stop for rafters, using eco chalk that matches the color of the rock is a good idea. Endless bouldering potential. Sport climbing is probably not a good idea both because the rock gets crapyer and blanker higher and because its not a good place to leave bolts or slings unless you can make them invisible.

Day 6 - 11/5/07
Mile 35.5 - From our camp there were some pretty good looking trad routes. Pete and I climbed a 5.10c that was a little too loose to recommend. But Tommy and Beth scored a classy 5.12D. They used one lost arrow they fixed and otherwise led on thin gear including a tri-cam. You can climb a 5.6 to the right to set up a toprope.

Beth on the first ascent:

There were some other good looking FA's in the area but they would have required cleaning and we were off to... mile 38.5. Where we set up camp on a great beach right under an overhanging diving board 800 feet up.

Day 7 - 11/6/07
Because of our slow progress so far, we made up a lot of time on the river. Camped at mile 59.

Day 8 - 11/7/07
Explored a mile up the Little Colorado. Surreal green/blue water. Awesome.

Pete covered himself in mud. Corey took a photo. And it became the most widely published photo that Marmot (who sponsored the trip) is using from this trip.

Camped above Hance Rapit. Dan Duane hiked down from the south rim and joined the party.

Day 9 11/8/07
We all hiked up a drainage to a cool boulder. Had a few tall V2's and a few tall V8/9's. There some ok volcanic crags above this.

That night we camped at the base of the Grapevine Buttress. The Bert, Orea, Kevin and Matt went all out with Filet Mignon and hand-made pumpkin ravioli. Best camping meal of my life.

Days 10 and 11
The Grapvine Butrress was what we really wanted to get up in the Grand Canyon. Its a remarkable 800-foot infusion of kinda flakey brown/orange granite amidst some real crumbling choss. Here is a view of it with our boats for scale. Yes, river people will be shocked to know we camped in those boulders for 2 nights.

There was an A4 aid route put up in the 80's that we wanted to free climb. Other than team aerialist it was my job to aid climb through this section so that Beth and Tommy could find a free line.

Ok. You what time its? Ahh, Yeah. That's right. Its Business Time.

The first two pitches were 5.6. Then, I psyched myself up, got on the Sharp End and took the A4 crux head-on.... Well I free climbed half of it at 5.9 then did some hook and beak placements. A2+ by modern standards. Beth then led the pitch free at 5.11 using my beaks for pro.

Tommy then onsighted the crux 5.11d pitch. After a day of posing down for video and photos, Tommy and beth sent the route in a few hours. The upper 4 pitches were 5-9-5.10.

The rock quality was not awesome but it was still a good route in a great location. See a topo here (scroll to the bottom): http://www.supertopo.com/topos/yosemite/obscurities.html

Night 11 we camped at Mile 87 and Tommy climbed another cool boulder.

Day 12 - 11/11/07
Stopped in phantom ranch. Made up lots of miles on the river. Tommy saw some crags he liked at mile 91 but not enough time to stop.

Day 13 - 11/12/07
Mostly river floating with not much climbing. Ill throw in some floating shots because i have been forgetting to:

Me taking a wave to the dome:

at mile 116 Tommy and Josh saw a lot of limestone cliffs they liked. We walked up to them and the rock seemed too sharp. Nearby was Elves Chasm where Burt did a little climb/walking:

We then stopped at Deer Creek where Tommy did some climb walking

Day 14 11/13/08
Camped previous night at a great cave at mile 135.5. Great that is for sheltering mice! Seriously, most fearless little mice ever. Tommy found a way to get away from them:

Days -15-18
Had to make up lots of time. So didnt climb much. A bunch of stuff that looked good, but nothing that really grabbed us.

This trip report is winding up fast so i better get in the mandatory group photo. We had the most tan members of the team take their shirts off

And the line of the trip came from Bert before each meal: "If you like food, you are going to love this shit!"

All photos above by Corey Rich.

Flat-faced Buddha Cat City
Aug 8, 2008 - 04:25pm PT
That group photo was great--but it totally blinded me...those...er...tan, buff bods...

Hey Chris,

Thank you so much for this incredible TR! eKat's been talking about the beauty of the Grand, and yeah, I've seen all the calendar photos...but dang--your iPhone shots out did them all! (OK, OK--I know they were Corey's...just teasing you.)

I'm a huge fan of canyoneering, caving, climbing and river rafting, so you just put me in the land of bliss for at least a week. One of the best TRs ever.

Thanks again. Looking forward to more.


Gym climber
Otto, NC
Aug 8, 2008 - 05:09pm PT
Standing Strong

Trad climber
sunlight on the surf
Aug 8, 2008 - 05:33pm PT


the gray bands
Aug 8, 2008 - 05:42pm PT
thanks Chris

Trad climber
New York, NY
Aug 8, 2008 - 06:02pm PT
That looks FUN!!! Really great photos with the beautiful red stone. I can't wait to see the film.

I love the photo sequence with Beth about to get smacked by the wave and Tommy grinning in anticipation, and then the after shot.
the Fet

Knackered climber
A bivy sack in the secret campground
Aug 8, 2008 - 06:14pm PT
I'm jealous. Looks like too much fun!

Social climber
Aug 8, 2008 - 08:58pm PT
hey there chris!!! ... wow, this is REGAL!... thanks for the great stuff!!!

i WILL come back and see more of this... god bless.. nice to hear from you, here...

Trad climber
Durango, CO
Aug 8, 2008 - 09:19pm PT
Cool! What a great looking trip. Float trips are so much fun. And I always spend so much time looking at the rocks and all their potential.

This is a great example of making your living (your life) from your fun.

Social climber
My Inner Nut
Aug 8, 2008 - 09:26pm PT
Wow! Amazing trip! Really nicely put together in the TR, Chris. First rate.


Social climber
Aug 8, 2008 - 09:28pm PT

The guides went all out with Filet Mignon and hand-made pumpkin ravioli. Best camping meal of my life.


Sweet TR.


I drink your milkshake!
Aug 8, 2008 - 09:30pm PT
bump for an actual TR
nick d

Trad climber
Aug 8, 2008 - 09:41pm PT
Wow! Thanks for that great TR. I missed it on NBC, have to try to see the film fest.
Scott K

Trad climber
Olathe, KS
Aug 8, 2008 - 09:47pm PT
Which one is Chris Mac in the group photo? Sounds like a great trip.

Aug 8, 2008 - 09:59pm PT
great trip report chris! sounds like a really great time

if you haven't seen the video, it's streaming on the front page here:


Social climber
Flatland, Ca
Aug 8, 2008 - 10:00pm PT
Truly amazing TR Chris!

We need to see more of what you do for fun!

Aug 8, 2008 - 10:00pm PT
the best part is when Chris takes a hook to the dome!

Trad climber
Aug 8, 2008 - 10:02pm PT
Thanks for the TR Chris,
Isn't it beautiful down there.
Oh yeah,
Lynne Leichtfuss

Social climber
valley center, ca
Aug 8, 2008 - 11:45pm PT
Just Outstanding,

You've included a little of everything in the trip. The conversation topic under all the pictures pulled us right into the scene so we could be a part of it.

Super and Thanks! Lynne

Stoked OW climber
San Jose, CA
Aug 9, 2008 - 03:22am PT
Thanks for a great TR to open folks' eyes to the amazing possibilities in this world!
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