Regular Route 5.11d of 5.9 A2+

  • Currently 3.0/5

Grapevine Buttress

Grand Canyon, Arizona, USA

Trip Report
18 Days in the Grand Canyon - A climbing Trip Report
Friday August 8, 2008 3:41pm
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):

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.

  Trip Report Views: 6,598
Chris McNamara
About the Author
Climbing Magazine once computed that three percent of Chris McNamara’s life on earth has been spent on the face of El Capitan—an accomplishment that has left friends and family pondering Chris’ sanity. He’s climbed El Capitan over 70 times and holds nine big wall speed climbing records. In 1998 Chris did the first Girdle Traverse of El Capitan, an epic 75-pitch route that begs the question, “Why?”

Outside Magazine has called Chris one of “the world’s finest aid climbers.” He’s the winner of the 1999 Bates Award from the American Alpine Club and founder of the American Safe Climbing Association, a nonprofit group that has replaced over 5000 dangerous anchor bolts. He is a graduate of UC Berkeley and serves on the board of the ASCA, and Rowell Legacy Committee. He has a rarely updated adventure journal, maintains, and also runs a Lake Tahoe home rental business.


Just livin' the dream
  Aug 8, 2008 - 04:25pm PT
That group photo was great--but it totally blinded, 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
sawatch choss
  Aug 8, 2008 - 05:09pm PT
Standing Strong

Trad climber
snowshoe thompson history trail
  Aug 8, 2008 - 05:33pm PT


Social climber
Lida Junction
  Aug 8, 2008 - 05:42pm PT
thanks Chris

Trad climber
  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

  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...

Sport climber
Golf Wall, 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.

Gym climber
Small Town with a Big Back Yard
  Aug 8, 2008 - 09:26pm PT
Wow! Amazing trip! Really nicely put together in the TR, Chris. First rate.


Castlegar BC
  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.


Mudcat Spire
  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:


Random Nobody
  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!

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

Trad climber
Will know soon
  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

Sport climber
Almost to Hollywood, Baby!
  Aug 9, 2008 - 03:22am PT
Thanks for a great TR to open folks' eyes to the amazing possibilities in this world!

Social climber
  Aug 9, 2008 - 04:44pm PT

invite me next time kthx.

My twin brother's laundry room
  Aug 9, 2008 - 06:40pm PT
cool chris
Doug Robinson

Trad climber
Santa Cruz
  Aug 10, 2008 - 12:46am PT
Thanks Chris!

Finally, a definitive answer to, "Why don't you ever hear about climbing in the Grand Canyon?"

Gym climber
Paso Robles
  Aug 10, 2008 - 11:27am PT
finally a climbing/boating thread!
John Moosie

Beautiful California
  Aug 10, 2008 - 06:15pm PT
Yowzer, you live a charmed life. What a great trip. Thanks for posting it.

Trad climber
West Los Angeles, CA/Joshua Tree
  Aug 12, 2008 - 12:00am PT
What a dream trip. Sandstone, climbing, the river, the solitude, exploring, someone cooking great grub for you every night. Doesn't get much better than that.

Social climber
  Aug 13, 2008 - 04:13pm PT
Great TR, thanks!

Ummm.... did the river guide in the NBC video clip say that the granite in the Canyon is from a Billion years ago? What? Is that right?

  Aug 13, 2008 - 04:32pm PT
Badass grade six adventure!

Thanks for the rundown.

Trad climber
  Aug 17, 2008 - 10:20am PT
Pretty cool stuff. This is where I learned to climb. Lots of choss but interspersed with some amazing lines here and there. Thanks for sharing.

Sport climber
Boulder, Colorado!
  Aug 17, 2008 - 12:17pm PT
Cool. I was out of town when this was first posted so I missed it. Glad it got bumped back up - I would have hated to miss it completely. Very fun!

  Aug 17, 2008 - 02:13pm PT
Thanks for the TR. What a trip indeed!
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
  Aug 17, 2008 - 04:03pm PT
Sweet TR! Photo ops unlimited.....

Big Wall climber
Kalispell, Montanagonia
  Aug 17, 2008 - 08:17pm PT
Thanks Chris. I too was out traveling/hiking/climbing(TR to follow soon)and missed this and am glad to see it on the front page. So here is a bump and you are one lucky dude, great trip.

Trad climber
Boulder Colorado
  Sep 3, 2008 - 09:57pm PT
Excellent trip report.
scotty K

Trad climber
  Sep 4, 2008 - 11:52am PT
I have been wanting to do this for years....great pics,video and story I espeacilay like the cooking nothing like roughin it!!
Delhi Dog

Good Question...
  Sep 4, 2008 - 12:42pm PT
Fun times!
Thanks for sharing!

My wife's permit is for next July.
We're pyched.
It will be my 7th trip and her 5th, and most of those trips had climbing in them too. You got me jazzed!


Trad climber
  Sep 4, 2008 - 12:52pm PT
really nice TR

thank you for posting/bumping this...

Trad climber
  Sep 4, 2008 - 02:52pm PT

I'm a former Grand guide. I shared this link with a few other guides both climbers and not. The responses from all of us were "I've done that problem", "I've looked at that line", but mostly, "I don't give a f*#k who they are we would not be camping in the rocks at Grapevine"

Great job,

Brutus of Wyde

Old Climbers' Home, Oakland CA
  Sep 4, 2008 - 05:17pm PT
Sounds like it was an awesome trip. We always wanted to do the canyon with a group of climbers.

Nurse Ratchet and I did some climbing in the lower half of the canyon a few years ago. This was at Parshant camp.

(and that roof above me does go at only about 5.8!)

Trad climber
Living Outside the Statist Quo
  Sep 17, 2008 - 04:31am PT
Very Cool. Nice Alpinist write up as well! Thanks for sharing.

  Jul 16, 2009 - 04:42pm PT
Sounds like there was BASE jumping (and a fine) too... Any details on the jump? Was this in a wingsuit?

According to information from the U.S. Attorney's Office in Phoenix, Christopher C. McNamara, 30, of Marin County, Calif., pleaded guilty to illegally jumping in the Canyon while on a November 2007 river trip. The practice is known as BASE jumping, which stands for jumping from fixed objects such as buildings, antennas, spans or earth with a parachute.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Mark E. Aspey ordered McNamara to pay a $5,000 fine to be dedicated to protection resource monitoring in the Canyon. McNamara must also serve one year of probation and may only enter Yosemite National Park because of the civic work he does there.


Trad climber
  Jul 16, 2009 - 04:45pm PT
This is awesome man thanks.

Trad climber
Santa Clara, CA
  Jul 16, 2009 - 04:50pm PT
Ugghh....what a drag about the fine.
Slabby D

Trad climber
B'ham WA
  Aug 14, 2009 - 11:56am PT
If you had to blow $5k on a trip that looks pretty worthy.

Trad climber
  Aug 14, 2009 - 01:57pm PT
Hey Slabby,

If you did an off season trip, (October through April) you could get a 12 day trip for less than 1500 a person. I used to guide in the grand, and in 04 I planned a trip for 11 people in april. Granted it was with the company that I had worked for 9 years earlier, but they only charged us $1200 each for a 12 day trip.

Part of the reason is that the Park Service requires opperators to use some of their user days in the off season. These trips are hard to sell. If you were there just for the climbing it would be much better than doing the grand during peak season, but you'd want to stay dry for sure!

If interested send me a line.


Big Wall climber
  Aug 14, 2009 - 02:26pm PT
I'm gonna go with Alexander Supertramp here... $1500 to float down a river in a national park? hahahahahaha Stooooopid sh#t. Shouldn't have to pay anything but my entrance fee.

Trad climber
  Aug 14, 2009 - 02:52pm PT

That included 3 guides, all of our food, gear, etc. We'd paddle all day get to camp and start drinking or take a hike while they cooked, and cleaned afterwards. It was a hell of a bargin.


Trad climber
  Oct 27, 2014 - 10:36am PT
Bumpity for a cool area to explore. I'm starting to dream up a rafting adventure with the kids for summer 2015, and using this to fuel up the stoke and get ideas.
Grapevine Buttress - Regular Route 5.11d of 5.9 A2+ - Grand Canyon, Arizona, USA. Click to Enlarge
The route starts a little right then moves to the center of the buttress.
Photo: Corey Rich