MUIR Energy athlete Travis Soares traded approach shoes for oars in the Grand Canyon last month. Read all about his month-long adventure, plus the fuel that got him through it.
The Grand Canyon is a world of many wonders with cascading waterfalls, looming sandstone temples, mazes of slot canyons, and of course, The Colorado River. A great way to explore the depths of the canyon is to raft the Colorado River. The journey is 280 miles from Lee's Ferry to Pearce Ferry, and on December 13th I embarked on a 25 day trip with a group of friends.
Somehow I ended up as captain of an 18 foot boat, even though I had very little experience on an oar rig, but hey that's how you learn. The skill of navigating a massive craft through rushing whitewater did not come easily to me. After bouncing off rocks, hitting large holes, and surviving crashing waves, I slowly began to learn how to read the river. The heavy boats may feel awkward at first, but there are lots of subtleties to sailing the flows of whitewater.
Beyond the river, massive sandstone temples rise up into the sky. On our layover (no travel) days, I was able to explore the peaks of the canyon. My favorite outing was climbing Apollo Temple on the Winter Solstice, I thought it was ironic climbing the God of the Sun's temple on the day with the least daylight. The route begins by ascending a steep gulley of loose rock up to Ochoa pont. This is when I first got a view of Apollo, wow much farther than I thought! I had started later than expected because of our Winter Solstice party last night (oops) and now wondered if I'd have enough light to get up and back to camp before dark. Might as well try!
The route continues along a wild sandstone ridgeline with hundreds of feet of air below on either side. I traversed to the base of Apollo, and now it was time to find the Redwall break. The Redwall layer is a steep reddish gray monolith of limestone, it is often the most difficult layer to navigate in the canyon. Thankfully I had a bit of beta that on the northeast ridge of Apollo there was easier passage through the Redwall. I found the ridge and climbed, it was mostly easy but at the top the limestone steepened again. I found a passage of big holds and fun climbing for the final 80ft of the Redwall.
Before continuing to the top, I took a short break, ate food, and drank water. I only brought a cream cheese bagel and a handful of Muir Energy packets. I know the packets are enough to keep me going for hours. I always bring a handful of MUIR Energy packets in my pack to keep my body fueled with high quality sustenance. The break was brief, after all it was the shortest day of the year!
On top of the Redwall is the Supai Group layer. I navigated this mix of siltstone and sandstone and climbed through the Hermit Shale layer. The final 50ft of the temple was guarded by the tannish white Coconino layer. This is my personal favorite layer, it consists of the strongest rock in the canyon and oftentimes fun crack climbing. Soon, I was at the summit of Apollo Temple, and still had a few hours of daylight to get back! If I hurried I could get back without using my headlamp. But first I soaked in the view.
For the first time in a week, I could see beyond the Grand Canyon walls. Pearly white snow accentuated the maroon walls of sandstone and rainbow colored temples stood like sentinels above the jade green Colorado River. Even from here, 5,000ft above the river I could see waves of whitewater waiting to crash upon our boats tomorrow and I wondered what the river would bring beyond the next bend. What a wild journey it is to raft the Grand Canyon!