Through the Devils Asshole: Havasupai 2016

Never in my 20 odd years of backpacking have I ever questioned whether I'd make it out or not. I mean, there was that one time with the mountain lion, but we weren't backpacking.

Everyone says it's hot down there - in the Grand Canyon. Well there's hot. Then there's hiking out of the grand canyon with a 60 lb backpack on in 110 degrees. There's just something about that inescapable sun that just beats you to death out there.

I know extreme weather, I'm from Colorado after all, where it can go from 80 degrees and sunny to 32 and blizzard in a matter of hours. Where there is less ozone to protect you from the sun. Where there is less oxygen than most places in the country (esp. on top of very high mountains). Where the elevation of our plains is higher than what many states consider mountains. Wanna get high? You could go buy some weed. Or you could just go climb a 14er and start laughing. You'll have a hard time stopping, I promise. It's great.

And since I "know extreme weather" so well, I did't think that heat sounded very bad. It regularly pushes 100 degreess in Colorado in the summers so I didn't see what the big deal was.

What you don't think about is that "pushing 100 degrees" - let's say 98 degrees - is still below body temperature. So even though it feels hot outside, it doesn't cause you to overhead unless your exerting yourself. Well in 110 degrees, > 10 OVER body temperature, overheating happens without much physical exertion. So hauling a 60 lb backpack out the remaining 3000' (which happens in the last mile), is fucking brutal.

When I returned home I was surprised to read that an average of 12 people per year die out there. That number might sound high, until your out there questioning to yourself whether or not your going to make it out.

My question is, how many people require rescue every year?

My cousins had to take the helicopter out because one of them twisted her ankle on the way in.

Normally I can take the heat and the exhaustion but this time I had a knee issue. It comes and goes, but after the first 8 miles on the way in, it was killing me (read: I couldn't bend it). And those last two miles are all downhill.

What I needed was to spend an entire week down there to let my knee heal up a bit. But we didn't have a week down there. We had 1 day, that was it. We hiked in Friday morning (~5am) and we started hiking out on Sunday morning (~3am). Yes you do have to start that early. And with a busted knee, 3am was too late. I should have waited out the extra day. I should have just paid for the heli or a mule or something. But I didn't come to Havasupai just to take a chopper down. I came for the experience. And that's exactly what I got.

#havasupaifalls2016 beyond exhausting but well worth the trip

A photo posted by Justin Gibbs (@gibbsjml) on

What I got was nothing short of the greatest adventure of my life. I mean, I've had some good ones, but this one had it all: Misadventure, the feeling of being in an exotic land (even though it's a shore 16 hours from home), indigenous people, repeatedly getting the car (2013 Chevy Cruze) stuck in the mud, taking the wrong dirt roads through unmarked private hunting grounds, opening a ranchers gate at 3am when we realized that we were actually on the inside, and finally the joy of finding he parking lot. And the elation of, after two full days of travel, finally arriving at Havasu falls.

We had the wrong car. We had the wrong directions. We were idiots.