Asbestos Canyon There is much of interest in this area and many routes. Asbestos is extremely isolated and difficult to reach except by going down the Red Canyon Trail and crossing the river above Hance Rapid. Reliable springs are found in both upper arms just below the Tapeats rim. The lower bed also has one good spring but some of the surface flow is mineralized, which often goes with Supergroup geology.
There is no difficulty, other than time and distance, contouring through the upper drainages above the Tapeats rim. The upper east fork can be entered either from above, descending a crevice providing access to the spring, or from below, bypassing the pouroff below the tower on the east side or using the access along the neck joining this tower to the rim. At least one access is available through the west side below the fork as well.
The overall complex structure of Asbestos relates to the Supergroup formations which greatly complicate travel and water sources, but both of these are favorable. The trail up from the river crossing is in generally good condition with some eroded sections and insecure trail conditions from the point-turn below the big mine and tracking along a ledge to gain the streambed just above the big drop to the schist rocks below. A few mining tools and historic artifacts are located in a small overhang on the east bank of the streambed and initial surface water here is highly mineralized. Walking the streambed leads to the principle mining camp adjacent to the Hakatai slope bend, with tent knee-walls, stoves, pans and bed-frames. A portion of the camp has been washed out and cut by high flows. A small seep near the camp is not really a water source, but there is a reliable spring below the Shinumo pourover within a short walk up the bed from camp.
The upper bed is dry again but a fairly long bendy hike following mostly rock-lined streambed leads to another nice spring at the Tapeats contact -- this upper spring offers the promise of a shortcut bypass of the much longer contour above the Tapeats.
Trails Mine works are located along the cliff overlooking the river and Hances old trail leads to the river at the north bank of Hance Rapid opposite Red Canyon. The remnants of early historic mining and trail are still present throughout Asbestos Canyon. The original ferry site was below Hance Rapid but the water is fairly swift and turbulent where the Supergroup formations rise up out of the riverbed. The main one here is Hotauta conglomerate at the crossing, with the miniing trail to Asbestos starting directly from here. These trails which are faint but discoverable include from the ferry to Asbestos Creek, from the main valley to the the upper streambed, and from the mining camp west following the Hakatai bench to a break up onto the Tonto east of Newberry Butte. See Hance Tollroad.
Routes From the saddle of a small hill on the Tonto to the west, an access goes directly down into the lower bed. Access to the east Tonto (southwest of Sheba Temple) can be found in the ravine on the east of the lower basin, but this looks quite steep. Breaks on both sides at or just below the fork make it possible to pass through the upper basin. Including the option of contouring above the Tapeats, this makes 3 possible ways to pass through. Going to the east is The Tabernacle; to the west is Vishnu Canyon. See notes on the North Rim Passage Trip.
A break in the headwall of the ravine between Asbestos and Sheba Temple provides a way to the top of the Redwall for climbing the group of major promontories here. The west slope of Tonto below Sheba is extremely steep and best avoided. Both shoulders of Sheba saddle have been reached, but the south side appears more accessible and connects with the ridge to the summit of Sheba.
1998 May - Camp 4 of Bright Angel to Saddle Mountain just above the spring in the upper east fork. Ample water at the east spring; some at the west. Early evening rainstorm; an overhang next to the bed provides shelter, but only if you are the first one in.
2011 March - Extensive exploration acess by packraft enabled by Chris. Days 2,3,4,6 exploring the trails with river-crossing and recrossing above Hance Rapid.