What: Grand Canyoneering
When: 8 p.m. Thursday
Where: Neptune Mountaineering, 633 S. Broadway
More info: neptunemountaineering.com
The photos at the Thursday-night slideshows at Neptune Mountaineering are often vivid, stunning. But in this week’s show, some of the pictures of the Grand Canyon will jump right off the screen.
Todd Martin, author of “Grand Canyoneering,” a guide to technical canyoneering in Grand Canyon National Park, will be at Neptune on Thursday to talk about his exploration of the canyon over the past five years. His friend and canyoneering companion, John Hart, will present a series of 3D images of the canyon as well.
Martin, of Phoenix, caught up with us ahead of the show to talk about first descents, canyoneering prep and the best seasons to go exploring in the Grand Canyon.
Q: How did you get started canyoneering in the Grand Canyon?
A: This particular project started probably five years ago, and it was spun because I would see these photos by river rafters of just these beautiful places that could only be accessed from the river, by boat. But boat trips are kind of expensive, and you need weeks of vacation to participate. I got the idea that I wanted to see the same places that these river rafters got to see, but I’m going to do it from the rim, as a hiker.
Q: Did you get lost in the Grand Canyon while exploring?
A: Yes. I’ve never been lost for very long. The hardest part is, you know where you want to go, but it’s finding a route to get there. As you might expect, Grand Canyon is very vertical, with all of this stair-stepped geography, so you have to find ways to get through these large cliff bands, and so that’s probably the hardest navigational trouble we’ve had, trying to figure out how to get through the different layers to get where we want to be.
Q: What are your favorite routes into the canyon? The most remote ones?
A: As part of doing this book, we did the first descents of many of these routes. Because there’s such a history of exploration in Grand Canyon, and Native Americans lived in Grand Canyon for thousands of years, it’s difficult to known if you’ve done a first descent, but it’s a small community.
Q: What’s the best season for caynoneering there?
A: Spring and fall. Winters are very snowy, because it’s at a high elevation — on the rim it’s about 7,000 feet — and summers are brutally hot.
The spring runoff provides higher flows as the snow melts off the rim. They canyons are wetter in the spring, but there are perennial waterfalls in the Grand Canyon.
Q: How can people prepare for a canyoneering trip in the Grand Canyon? Start with a little canyon?
A: Yes. Canyoneering in Grand Canyon requires a mix of skills. It requires off-trail hiking and backpacking, it requires technical skills relating to rope work and rappelling, and some of the trips require pack rafting on the Colorado River. So I think it helps to start off slow and develop each one of those skills individually before putting them all together to do a more expedition-style canyon.
Surprisingly, Grand Canyon, even though it’s one of the (early) national parks in the U.S. and one of the most popular, it’s amazing how few people actually leave the populated corridor trails and how much of the canyon still remains unexplored.