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.
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.
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 us!
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 stand.
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 silver.
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 not palatable.
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 nearest pie.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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 afternoon.
notes of John Wesley Powell, The Exploration of the Colorado River and its
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