Slate Canyon One of the major canyons along the Tonto between Bass and Hermit. Most of the year there should be water either above the Tonto Trail crossing or downstream in the narrows below the Tapeats. The GCT-I route into the lower part of the canyon goes down an obvious break just north of a finger shape (saddle of a small hill) on the 15min USGS map; a little hand and foot work is needed. The area up the canyon runs though quite a narrow section shaded by Redwall cliffs.
GCT-I notes are slightly confused and now obsolete, suggesting that travel in either direction along the streambed is relatively easy, but this is not the case. Allow 3 hours to reach the river. Getting above the Redwall upstream will require serious climbing skills. Slate Creek is now quite often dry in the fall season between end of summer and late fall or winter rains.
Routes Access both up and down Slate Canyon; Crystal Rapids. Directly downstream from the trail crossing is passable with minor climbs past 3 drops. The descent route described in GCT-I is only slightly easier. For the best way down, continue north along the east side Tonto Trail until directly upslope from a ridge projecting from the east with a small Tapeats tower at the end. Walk down the slope toward the ridge and descend an easy break with cairns and obvious sign of travel. At the saddle of the ridge choose either the easy south slope to the streambed or the north slope, much longer and very steep (this option viewed but not traveled). Stream flow may be found in the bed at the base of the south slope and is often a good water source, but in 2003 this was dry and only bad water (salty or bitter) remained in the rock tanks below.
To reach Crystal Rapid from here: Downclimb a tricky slab at the next drop. Go up an easy bypass on the west leading to a large rock basin below the next fall. Two more drops are passable but the bed does not go through. Find a shelf of pink granite on the west slope next to the descent from the previous bypass and start up a very steep and loose all rock ravine. Go level north on a faint line above exposure to the saddle. From the saddle, descend north an easy slope and turn back into the steeper ravine directly below several cairns here. This descent is difficult and there are options, none particularly good and much loose rock to roll. From the bottom the remaining bed is easy and direct. At typical river flow there is not any beach at Crystal Rapid but a small platform to the west provides a camp if needed.
The optional north side of the ridge descent is the most direct way to the river avoiding the west side major bypass but this slope looks quite difficult and probably not much traveled.
1989 November - Night 5 on Bass to Hermit with Luis and Nancy. Essential water source in the bed at the bottom of the GCT-I route.
2003 October - Camps 2, 3, 4 with Gene. Arrive from Boucher and search for water. None above or below trail crossing. Dry or salty or bitter-tasting in rock tanks downstream. Gene locates small pools 1 hour upstream at the Muav (2 Redwall bays east side). Hike downstream to Crystal for 1 day. Upstream the next day attempting to reach Jicarilla Point. Blocked at head of Redwall. Climb to slot rim on south wall of west fork, but not a route for packs. Retreat and camp midway to Boucher for exit next day.