Brahma/Deva Saddle route to Clear Creek
Hiking with Jed Dryer
It seems like every time I am leaving the Backcountry Office with a permit in hand, I feel like running. I don’t know why- It is usually several days till the trip. Ah well, might as well let the budding excitement loose.
This time the permit was for a 4 day trip out into the Ottoman Amphitheater. For those unfamiliar with the canyon, this is the end of the Clear Creek Trail, an access point for Cheyava Falls.
I got off work at 1:15 PM and was on the South Kaibab trail by 2:09 PM. The usual “How’s it going?” question ensued for each of the hundred hikers that I passed on the trail. Maybe I’m a miser, but my greeting quickly deteriorates to a series of grunts for each hiker I pass. After 1 hour and 40 minutes I am crossing the Black Bridge. Ten minutes later and I am at Phantom Ranch freshening up outside the canteen. I decide to call up to the rim and brag. 2 Hours has gone by.
As I was throwing my pack on to continue on to Cottonwood Campground where I was scheduled for the night, I spotted a rancher friend (Reuben). Come to find out, there is a party tonight. Art Expo 2010. Free food is promised, so I headed down to the rancher house. Met up with another friend, David (Phantom Ranch Manager) and I spent a couple hours hanging out and eating food and generally feeling like a dork. Will say the art stuff was pretty neat, they had a photo journey of Phantom to Nankoweap, a Tecate House, and numerous other items – Definitely worth a trip by itself. Finally the time came to leave, since I had another 7 miles till I could camp that night.
It was now dark outside, but I had my new headlamp. First thing I noticed on the North Kaibab was the glowing amber eyes of a Ringtailed Cat. He didn’t appreciate the camera flashes and disappeared before I could get a good picture. Just beyond Asinine Hill I came across a hiker who had rolled his ankle on a Rim to Rim to Rim hike. He was still mobile, but I gave him some ibuprofen to ease the pain a little bit.
The unfortunate part about hiking the North Kaibab at night is that you can’t see the beautiful creek running alongside the trail. You can hear it though- a continuous dull roar that reminds you that it is a strong flowing stream.
After what seemed like forever, Cottonwood Camp finally came into my beam of light.
I woke early and was on the trail by the time the first light was on the buttes and rim around me. I dropped the pack at the bridge to Ribbon Falls, and walked over to it. After getting lots of pictures of the waterfalls, I filled up my water reservoirs and headed for the redwall break enroute to Brahma/Deva Saddle.
I headed straight up through the Tapeats and cut across the Bright Angel Shale till I got to the limestone. I kept to the base of the Muav Limestone for a little while, but then began to cut up through the Muav to the Redwall base. I reached the base of the Redwall at the break. I quickly discovered that the easiest travel was in the middle of the break up the dry creek. There were lots of cairns marking this portion of the route, and it was a quick and straight-forward route to the top of the redwall.
At the top of the redwall, there was a slide to the left (east) that would likely get you all the way up to the correct Supai layer with ease, but I chose to go straight up the center of the fault to the first saddle.
There was a little tricky spot that involved a 20 – 30 foot climb and towing the pack up behind me with the webbing. It was a good adrenaline boost.
The view from the 1st saddle (not the Brahma/Deva) was incredible, looking back towards the Manu Temple and south towards Hattan Butte and the Brahma Temple. Just to the SSE the true Brahma/Deva Saddle loomed ahead. A short contour to the Brahma side and then up a short slide and I was on top of it. This was also an incredible view, and from this point I believe that it is about 45 minutes fast walking to summit on Deva. I chose to continue on my planned route because I didn’t want to get stuck above the Redwall after dark.
The route travels through the furthest of the three fingers of the Redwall break. It involves a series of obstacles including one that requires being “reborn”. There is a small hole under a boulder that you slide through in order to get down a pouroff. I went around this boulder using it and the cliff face as a chimney, but it would be much easier to go under it.
Finally I made it all the way through the Redwall and was making time towards Clear Creek. The views from the Ottoman Amphitheater are incredible. Angels Gate, Wotan’s Throne, Deva Temple, Brahma Temple, and The Howlands Butte are the significant summits all around. Also very neat is Clear Creek. A deep Tapeats rimmed gorge that commands the attention of its guests. Zoroaster Temple is just beyond Brahma, but was out of my sight because of the sun glare and position.
Unfortunately, traveling the creek-bed all the way to Clear Creek is not possible. At the rim of the Tapeats, a huge pouroff forces a route change. From here go right till you meet up with Clear Creek Trail. There is a break about ¾ of the way to the trail which allows access to the trail, but it is easiest to stay high till you meet up with the trail.
I went down to the bed of Clear Creek and filled up my water. There was a group of hikers that I chatted with for a few minutes. It was nearing sunset by now, so I dug the headlamp out.
I wanted to get out to the Tonto Plateau above the river around Demaray Point and camp there so that I could catch a sunrise from there. Tonto dusks/dawns are the best I know, and I always attempt to camp at Tonto level. I got into camp about 7:30 PM, I had found a spot about a half mile from the trail. It did not overlook the river, but it had an excellent view all around.
I woke before Sunrise and had the camera ready. There were not many clouds, so it didn’t promise to be that interesting. I got a little bit of color, but the majesty of the outlying terrain more than made up for it.
Looking back towards the Isis Temple (my favorite summit) I noticed some low clouds getting colored and the trademark purple haze that occurs on the horizon. It made for an awesome view. Unfortunately, the camera cannot always capture what the eyes see.
I finished packing, and headed for Phantom Ranch and Bright Angel Campground where my last night was scheduled. After about 30 minutes, I ran into a group of women who turned out to be rather avid canyon hikers. One had done the Brahma/Deva route before, and they were coming from Upper Phantom.
There were some puddles in the various drainages below Zoroaster, and I was soon back in the comfort of the Phantom Ranch Canteen. I got a Lemonade (I maintain that the best lemonade in the world is at the bottom of the Grand Canyon), and a candy bar.
Finally in Bright Angel Campground, I put my pack on the pole and headed out to the river to relax. I got bored pretty quick, and headed back to the pack. As soon as I got back, I decided to finish the hike to the rim.
Bright Angel trail was the route, and I took the entire Old Devil’s Corkscrew up. I was getting pretty tired by the time I reached the rim, and was having to stop and rest for a few seconds.
It was an excellent trip to say the least. Not nearly as remote as one would have hoped, and the Brahma/Deva route showed evidence of lots of travel in portions, but when it comes to the Canyon it’s always worth it.
You can follow Jed’s hiking adventures at http://jedc4xer.blogspot.com/