Cheops Pyramid, A Grand Canyon Classic

Where: Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
When: November 2006
Partners: Mike Cressman
Route: Northwest Ridge (Class 4)
Mileage/Gain: 22/9,000

Cheops Pyramid from the east

Mike Cressman had made some 35 trips down to the Colorado River before. I'd never been.

Rising on a cold November morning about 2 a.m., we started down the South Kaibab Trail toward the river. Within 15 minutes, my headlamp batteries died. Fortunately, Mike had spares to pass on. Continuing, we stashed some water behind some rocks a bit above the river, and then reached the surprisingly wide flow and its spanning bridge at first light.

Crossing, we soon passed the cabins, filled up a bottle or two of water, then continued up the trail toward Phantom Ranch. Leaving the trail at the bridge, we followed a weakness through the cliffs above and soon found ourselves at Utah Flats. There, for the first time, I was able to view our objective. Okay, so not as big, as intense, or as awe-inspiring as Zoroaster or any of those, but a fine-looking objective in its own right - and it felt great to finally be in the Grand Canyon backcountry!

With some minor ups and downs, I eventually approached the northeast base of the mountain, traversed to the Cheops-Isis saddle, and I, well ahead of Mike by this time, solo climbed the enjoyable ridge to the top, passing a large arch along the way. On the flattish summit, I found a register and some horns.

Downclimbing the ridge, I reversed my route along the northeastern base of the mountain and headed back down to Utah Flats. I passed Mike heading up about this point. Bidding each other farewell, he continued on toward the summit as I headed out.

Easily finding my way back to the trail system, I made fine time, despite the longishness of the day. Finding my stashed water on the way back up the South Kaibab, I chugged a bit and proceeded.

Groaning on as I made my way up the never-ending trail, I returned to the trailhead a full 2.5 hours before sunset and 11.25 hours after starting out. Sweet! Mike arrived at last light, also achieving the summit of Cheops, but ultimately beaten up from the day's effort.

An effort indeed - some 22 miles and 9,000 feet of gain, a fair chunk of it cross-country. Nice dayhike!

Photo by Mike Cressman