Monday, May 14, 2012

Elves Chasm

Elves Chasm, Grand Canyon

Perhaps 95% of the people who visit Elves Chasm only visit the main falls and don't go any higher. Most likely that figure is even higher and that is just fine with me. A thing of such beauty should only be seen by those who can physically make it because in my experience, they are the ones who are likely to leave it the way they found it and not those who simply ride in on horse back or drive up it in their vehicle. Getting up and around the main falls requires sure-footed legs and no fear of big exposures. At times, my legs trembled at the prospect of only being six inches away from a huge drop onto rocks below but with patience, I was always able to persuade them to take another step. Further up it required a belly crawl on an overhung ledge giving one a real sense of what it is like to be a snake. I remembered Edward Abbey writing about doing this very same belly crawl at this point and I was honored to have been in the same spot, perhaps choking on the very same dust that was being kicked up during the slither.

Eventually, the few of us that made it this far, came to what appeared to be a dead end in a hollowed out section of rock with a huge boulder leaning against it. But where that boulder meets the cliff some eight feet in the air, there is a narrow opening of sorts. By standing on my tiptoes and reaching up through the opening, I was able to get a good handhold and pull myself up by brute strength alone. Only five of us, three of them crew members made it past this obsticle. Further up the canyon, I was forced to blindly reach around a boulder perched on the top of a thirty-foot drop off to find another handhold. With my arm essentially belaying the rest of my body, I leaned back to get enough pressure on my feet to friction walk the shear face around a corner and to the safety of another ledge. Definitely not for the faint of heart. Had it not been for the crew members who had been here before and could talk us through where the "holds" were, I wouldn't have made it this far.

The last obstacle, which wasn't really an obstacle, was a "doorway" formed by huge bolders obscuring everything beyond. Bronco paused briefly to say that it is tradition that no words be spoken beyond this passageway and once inside in what has been called the "green room" or "weeping wall," I could see why. There, your route is once again rimmed in by a half bowl ledge of red rock over which the water spreads out some fifty feet and seeps over the lip to fall and trickle down thirty feet of moss and wildflowers to the green pool below. Yellow columbine and red monkey flowers were everywhere. Magical is the only word to describe a place of such beauty. For twenty minutes, I sat completely entranced watching the hummingbirds flitting around sipping nectar from the scarlet monkey flowers. I sat in silence, never blinking, never moving, never enjoying myself so much as I was then. As if on cue, we sensed that our time in this sacred place had run out and we silently made our way back to where we had left the group. Only later after we found them did I realize that I hadn't taken one single photograph of the weeping wall. Its beauty had been so great, it had lulled to sleep my photographic instincts.

Elves Chasm, Grand Canyon


R. Sherman said...

Very cool.

I agree about making it difficult to see certain things to protect them. Having a pristine lake a few miles down a trail keeps them solitary for the rest of us. You don't have to get too far off of a National Park's road net to see the human impact drop off significantly.


kymber said...

oh wow...i have never seen anything so natural, high and big...that is just beautiful!

your friend,

Ed said...

R. Sherman - I have found that factoid to be fairly common even in hugely touristy places like Yellowstone or Glacier. I just dread when the masses discover what is beyond a few miles down the trail.

Kymber - And you haven't even seen a picture of the upper falls/green room that few people get too. A google search only turns up one picture and a very poor one at that taken from a distance with no water flowing.

PhilippinesPhil said...

Did you ever see this video of our visit to Portabaga Falls located in the north of Luzon in Cagayan Province? It was embedded also in this post about our trip to Pagudpud to get our dive tanks refilled at the Terra Rika Resort. It wasn't a really large falls but it sure was a pretty one, and LOUD too.

Bone said...

I have to say on this one, your description makes it sound even better than the picture.

Seems evermore rare to find places seemingly untouched by humans these days.

TC said...

I'm a consciencious hiker, stay on trails and don't litter, but I couldn't do this one. I don't "rock" climb :)

Ed said...

Phil - I have seen that video and it is a pretty place though I hate that it has been developed up.

Bone - And my description doesn't begin to do the place justice.

TC - I wish falls like this one were accessible to only conscientious hikers and not just those physically able to reach it. Those two groups don't always coincide.

PhilippinesPhil said...

Portabaga Falls is already in a developed area, so what it is really is a picnic site for the locals. I'm sure there are waterfalls up in the mountains that aren't developed but it would be sheer hell getting to them.

sage said...

Wonderful country!