Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Incident Command: GCNP

I just spoke with Bill Van Bruggen, Incident Command on this search. They have 2 helicopters and 4 teams on foot searching the Royal Arch area. Nothing so far to report.

He mentioned that updates would be posted on the website below (but I don't see any press releases on this search just yet):

The best thing we can do (remotely) is to try to get more information:

  • Did Iris and Alan know any river guides that might have been on the river this week? Does anyone have any contact information for those guides?
  • Were they going to meet with family (in Prescott, AZ) on a certain day after the hike? Or were they just going to drop in sometime after the trip?
  • How long were they planning on being gone?
  • What supplies did they have? GPS? cell phone? first aid? how many days of food?

I'm not sure where to begin to get the info ... so any help would be greatly appreciated.

Detailed description of the Royal Arch route

Mileages are as follows (round-trip):

Approximately 45 miles from South Bass along Esplanade to Royal Arch, back to Elves Chasm and return via Tonto to South Bass.

Rim - 6646'
Colorado River - 2140', 4506' below rim

ACCESS: South Bass Trailhead Point Huitzil Route, Apache Point Route and Colorado River

15 Minute Havasupai Point Quadrangle.
7.5 Minute Explorer's Monument Quadrangle.

WATER AVAILABILITY: Esplanade (Seep Spring) see note at end of description. Royal Arch Creek, seasonal potholes along the Esplanade and Tonto Colorado River. Garnet Creek is salty but drinkable. Copper Creek has water seasonally.

CAMPSITE AVAILABILITY: Elves Chasm is a day use area only and is closed to overnight use.

TRAIL DESCRIPTION:SOUTH BASS TO ROYAL ARCH: Follow the South Bass Trail down to the Esplanade. Cairns mark the junction of Bass and Esplanade trails. The Esplanade trail is indistinct in places. Seep Spring is located above the Esplanade, at the base of the Coconino, between Chemehuevi and Toltec Points. Some maps show a trail, starting East of Chemehuevi Point, leading up to Seep Spring. This trail is now overgrown and it is suggested that access to Seep Spring should be from directly below the Spring, i. e., from the Esplanade, go up the drainage located directly below the Spring. Sometimes water can be found in the center of this drainage, about water about 100 feet above the Esplanade. Note: this route is steep and the surface is unstable.

Royal Arch drainage is accessible through several of the forks. If the East arm of the creek is followed several pour-offs will be encountered along the way. 'These can easily be by-passed on one side or the other. Just before the junction with the West arm of Royal Arch Creek a large drop blocks the way. This can be passed on the left side via a trail with some exposed climbing. A belay may be desirable. The remainder of the route to the arch follows the drainage with much scrambling past waterfalls and dropoffs Lower in the drainage several deep pools can either be waded or bypassed high on the left side with a bit of climbing. Just below the arch the access to Elves Chasm is blocked by a 200 foot waterfall.
ROYAL ARCH TO COLORADO RIVERThe Colorado can be reached by backtracking up the Royal Arch drainage about ½ mile to a point marked by large cairns. A steep trail leads out of the drainage on the east side and contours out to the Tonto Once on top of the Tonto there are two trails, upper and lower, the upper trail is more easily traveled. Follow this fairly distinct trail about two miles.

Before the trail reaches the next side canyon that runs NW of Toltec Point (Toltec Drainage) to the East, look for the cairns which lead toward the Colorado River. The trail goes down through a cliff band and requires a short rappel (a So foot rope is needed). Beware of old rotted ropes and slings at the rappel point. The remainder of the trail to the Colorado is steep but easy.

COLORADO RIVER TO ELVES CHASMThe route to Elves Chasm is not far but time consuming. Either hop boulders near the beach or follow the high trail above. Elves Chasm is beautiful but requires some moderate and exposed climbing. Elves Chasm is a day use area only and is closed to camping.

TOLTEC DRAINAGE AT COLORADO TO SOUTH BASSFrom the beach at Toltec drainage there are two trails. The lower trails involves boulder hopping until the next drainage to the East and then you must climb up to the upper trail The upper trail begins in the Toltec Drainage, about 100 yards up from the River The upper trail begins to ascend slowly until it tops out on the Tapeats in Garnet Canyon. The water in Garnet is salty but drinkable. If there is any water in the drainages to the west they are too salty to drink. The Tonto trail essentially begins at Garnet Canyon and is usually dry to the South Bass trailhead

COMMENTS:Royal Arch is considered one of the more difficult routes in the canyon and requires much scrambling and climbing skills. A length of rope (50 feet), webbing (20 feet), rappel ring (optional) are needed for a rappel and some hikers may want a belay in places. Water availability is often a problem on the Esplanade and the Tonto Plateaus. Leather gloves strongly recommended.

Trail description and directions to trailhead courtesy of National Park Service

Article from the National Parks Traveller

A search is under way in Grand Canyon National Park for two Salt Lake City residents who are thought to have headed into the western portion of the park for a 45-mile backpacking trek.
Alan Humphrey and Iris Faraklas were reported overdue on Sunday after failing to arrive in Prescott, Arizona, as planned. The two were thought to be headed to Prescott after spending a week in the park.

Late Monday afternoon rangers tracked down a friend of the couple who said they had planned to backpack the Royal Arch route—a difficult, 45-mile-loop. At the same time, rangers learned that Iris had maintained her maiden name, Faraklas, and may have obtained a permit under that name. Searchers immediately rechecked backcountry permits for this second name and found a permit issued for May 17 – 23 in the name of Iris Faraklas for two people to travel the Royal Arch route.

With that information in hand, rangers last night found the couple's vehicle parked at the South Bass trailhead. This morning search and rescue rangers flew the southern portion of the Royal Arch route, focusing along the rim and on areas known to be more technically challenging. During this initial hasty search the couple was not found, but hikers along the trail were contacted and interviewed to determine if any hikers in the area had seen or made contact with the pair.
After refueling, search and rescue rangers flew the remainder of the Royal Arch route, as well as other high probability areas, without locating the couple. Two teams of rescuers are now searching the Royal Arch route on foot.

Rangers described Alan P. Humphrey, 39, as standing 6-foot-1, weighing 190 pounds, and with blond hair and blue eyes. His wife, Iris Faraklas, is 35, 5’10” and 150 pounds with brown hair and blue eyes.

Anyone with information about Alan Humphrey or Iris Faraklas are being asked to contact Grand Canyon’s Emergency Dispatch Center at 928-638-7805.

Iris Faraklas and Alan Humphrey - Missing

What we know so far:
  • Iris and Alan had a backpacking permit to hike the Royal Arch Route in the Grand Canyon from May 17-23.
  • They were supposed to meet up with family in Arizona on May 25 but they never did.
  • Their car was found at the South Bass trailhead but there was no sign of them.
  • Search and rescue teams flew over the southern portion of Royal Arch route near the rim, but did not locate the pair. Monday afternoon, rangers searched the remainder of the route without spotting them. Two rescue teams are also hiking the route and talking to other hikers.