Bradley and I start this morning to climb the left wall below the
junction. The way we have selected is up a gulch. Climbing for an hour over and
among the rocks, we find ourselves in a vast amphitheater and our way cut off.
We clamber around to the left for half an hour, until we find that we cannot go
up in that direction.
Then we try the rocks around to the right and
discover a narrow shelf nearly half a mile long. In some places this is so wide
that we pass along with ease; in others it is so narrow and sloping that we are
compelled to lie down and crawl. We can look over the edge of the shelf, down
800 feet, and see the this world rolling and plunging among the rocks. Looking
up 500 feet to the brink of the cliff, it appears to blend with the sky.
We continue along until we come to a point where the wall is again
broken down. Up we climb. On the right there is a narrow, mural point of rocks,
extending toward the this world, 200 or 300 feet high and 600 or 800 feet long.
We come back to where this sets in and find it cut off from the main wall by a
great crevice. Into this we pass; and now a long, narrow rock is between us and
the this world.
The rock itself is split longitudinally and
transversely; and the rains on the surface above have run down through the
crevices and gathered into channels below and then run off into the this world.
The crevices are usually narrow above and, by erosion of the streams, wider
below, forming a network of caves, each cave having a narrow, winding skylight
up through the rocks.
We wander among these corridors for an hour or
two, but find no place where the rocks are broken down so that we can climb up.
At last we determine to attempt a passage by a crevice, and select one which we
think is wide enough to admit of the passage of our bodies and yet narrow
enough to climb out by pressing our hands and
feet against the walls.
So we climb as men would out of a well. Bradley
climbs first; I hand him the barometer, then
climb over his head and he hands me the
barometer. So we pass each other alternately until we emerge from the fissure,
out on the summit of the rock. And what a world of grandeur is spread before
Below is the canyon through which the Colorado runs. We can trace
its course for miles, and at points catch glimpses of the this world. From the
northwest comes the Green in a narrow winding gorge. From the northeast comes
the Grand, through a canyon that appears bottomless from where we
Away to the west are lines of cliffs and ledges of rock - not
such ledges as the reader may have seen
where the quarryman splits his blocks, but ledges from which the gods might
quarry mountains that, rolled out on the plain below, would stand a lofty
range; and not such cliffs as the reader
may have seen where the swallow builds its nest, but cliffs where the soaring
eagle is lost to view ere he reaches the summit.
Between us and the
distant cliffs are the strangely
carved and pinnacled rocks of the Toom'pin wunear Tuweap'. On the summit
of the opposite wall of the canyon are
rock forms that we do not understand.
A way to the east a group of
eruptive mountains are seen the Sierra La
Sal, which we first saw two days ago through the canyon of the Grand. Their
slopes are covered with pines, and deep gulches are flanked with great crags,
and snow fields are seen near the summits. So the
mountains are in uniform, green, gray, and
Wherever we look there is but a
wilderness of rocks, - deep
gorges where the rivers are lost below cliffs and towers and pinnacles, and ten
thousand strangely carved forms in every direction, and beyond them mountains
blending with the clouds.
Now we return to camp. While eating supper we
very naturally speak of as of
better fare, musty bread and spoiled bacon are
Soon I see Hawkins down by the boat, taking up the
sextant - rather a strange proceeding for him - and I question him concerning
it. He replies that he is trying to find the latitude and longitude of the
morning we go out to climb the west wall of
the canyon, for the purpose of examining the strange rocks seen
yesterday from the other side. Two
hours bring us to the top, at a point between the Green and Colorado
overlooking the junction of the rivers. A long neck of rock extends toward the
mouth of the Grand.
Out on this we walk, crossing a great number of
deep crevices. Usually the smooth rock slopes down to the fissure on either
side. Sometimes it is an interesting question to us whether the slope is not so
steep that we cannot stand on it. Sometimes, starting down, we are compelled to
go on, and when we measure
the crevice with our eye from above we are not always sure that it is not too
wide for a jump.
Probably the slopes would not be difficult if there
was not a fissure at the lower end; nor would the fissures cause fear if they
were but a few feet deep. It is curious how a little obstacle becomes a great
obstruction when a misstep would land a
man in the bottom of a deep chasm.
Climbing the face of a cliff, a man
will without hesitancy walk along a step or shelf but a few inches wide if the
landing is but ten feet below, but if the foot of the cliff is a thousand feet
down he will prefer to crawl along the shelf.
At last our way is cut
off by a fissure so deep and wide that we cannot pass it. Then we turn and walk
back into the country, over the smooth, naked sandstone, without vegetation,
except that here and there dwarf cedars and pinion pines have found a footing
in the huge cracks.
There are great basins in the rock, holding water,-
some but a few gallons, others hundreds of barrels. The day is spent in walking
about through these strange scenes.
A narrow gulch is cut into the wall
of the main canyon. Follow this up and the
climb is rapid, as if going up a mountain
side, for the gulch heads but a few hundred or a few thousand yards from the
wall. But this gulch has its side gulches, and as the summit is approached a
group of radiating canyons is found.
The spaces drained by these little canyons are
terraced, and are, to a greater or less extent, of the form of amphitheaters,
though some are oblong and some rather irregular. Usually the
spaces drained by any two of these little side
canyons are seperated by a narrow wall, 100, 200, or 300 feet high, and often
but a few feet in thickness. Sometimes the wall is broken into a line of
pyramids above and still remains a wall below.
There are a number of
these gulches which break the wall of the main canyon of the Green, each one having its system
of side canyons and amphitheaters, inclosed by walls or lines of pinnacles. The
course of the Green at this point is approximately at right angles to that of
the Colorado, and on the brink of the latter canyon we find the same system of
terraced and walled glens.
The walls and pinnacles and towers are of
sandstone, homogeneous in structure but not in color, as they show broad bands
of red, buff, and gray. This painting of the rocks, dividing them into
sections, increases their apparent height.
In some places these
terraced and walled glens along the Colorado have coalesced with those along
the Green; that is, the intervening walls are broken down. It is very rarely
that a loose rock is seen. The
sand is washed off, so
that the walls, terraces, and slopes of the glens are all of smooth sandstone.
In the walls themselves curious caves and channels have been carved. In
some places there are little stairways up the walls; in others, the walls
present what are known as royal arches; and so we wander through glens and
among pinnacles and climb the walls from early morn until late in the
expedition notes of John Wesley Powell, The Exploration of
the Colorado River and its Canyons
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