I shot two panoramas at this location on February 1, 2009, one looking off to the east and down at the descent through the Redwall, which is shown above and is available in the project. A second view shot about a hundred yards away looking to the west may be added later. The following is a transcript of the narration for this panorama. To listen to the narration, enter the project at this location and press the play button.
The South Kaibab Trail, and we, have now reached the end of Skeleton Point, and the top of the Redwall Limestone cliffs. I wandered a short distance off the trail to reach this panorama spot, so that we can see nearly all of the switchbacks that carry you through the Redwall. I count over a dozen switchbacks cutting back and forth and down the slope that forms one of the rare natural breaks in the Redwall.
For a long time I wondered where the name for Skeleton Point comes from, imagining that some hapless, unprepared hiker met his or her end somewhere around here, and years later someone found a pile of bleached bones. Turns out though that the origin of the name is uncertain, but its commonly believed that there were indeed bones involved, but they were the bones of mules. Some years ago, somewhere around here, a mule slipped and went over the cliff, dragging the entire train of mules it was part of to their deaths. Mules in a pack train used to be tied together tightly nose to tail, but that accident brought that practice to an end. Today mule trains are tied together much more loosely, so that one hapless mule will fall to its death alone.
What we don’t see from here is the section of the trail at the top of the descent that the trail builders carved directly out the face of the Redwall cliff. The hikers you see here are just above that section, and here, down below, we see the trail emerging out from it. For several hundred yards the trail has its usual four foot width with its usual moderate but steady grade, but take a misstep too close to the down slope side, like that hapless mule, and you’ll be dropping several hundred feet to your death. It is the one stretch on the South Kaibab Trail where I watch my feet very carefully.
And just to distract you while you pass through that exposed stretch, the trail sneaks just far enough west to get a brief view of the Colorado River and the Bright Angel Campground at Phantom Ranch. From our panorama spot here, we also do finally see a bit of the river, but Phantom Ranch is again out of view behind the very end of Skeleton Point. It will not appear again until we get our first expansive view of the inner canyon at the Tipoff.
Looking off to the northwest, through the notch and just above our bit of river, we seem those same purplish splotches of Hakatai Shale that we first spotted higher up. Geologically this is a very interesting area, where a sequence of Grand Canyon supergroup rocks, the Bass Limestone, the Hakatai, and the Shinumo Quartzite, jut up through and past the Tapeats Sandstone, forming what geologists call Shinumo Island. The Utah Flats route, which I have marked here along with several panorama points along it, goes up to and though that area. The route begins right at the end of Bright Angel Campground, but requires a tricky scramble up a crumbly, very steep slope. You won’t want to take it on unless you are a very experienced Grand Canyon hiker.
Off to the east, our expansive view of the eastern canyon is starting to fade away. Vishnu Temple, the main sentinel of the east, is beginning to be eclipsed by Wotan’s Throne. But in exchange other features are now jutting on up. Zoroaster Temple is continuing its rise to prominence.
Heading up the trail from here, we follow gentle slopes up to a nice panorama spot on top of the narrow neck at the start of Skeleton Point. Heading down the trail, we first pass though that nasty, exposed section at the top of the Redwall Descent, and then travel half way down through the switchbacks to a small platform right on a rock boundary, at the base of the Redwall, above of the Muav Limestone, and with an unusual guest in between.