Vishnu Canyon The geology is spectacular and the lower bed, in schist, is a difficult passage except to climbers. Water is reliable most seasons but may have to be sought for in a dry year.
The lower valley of Vishnu Creek is not easily accessed and so rarely visited, but worthwhile. On a mesquite flat on the east bank at the lower end of this valley yet another Hance cabin site -- the most complete and intact of four. This area is large and rugged, dominated by Supergroup formations, and going to the river and back would be a full day round-trip from the Tonto crossing.
Routes Tonto platform, from Clear Creek through Disappointment Canyon entering a ravine with a spring on the west side and crossing to go up on the east to Newberry saddle (exposed slope connecting to the saddle). Approaching from Asbestos Canyon on the east, the easier route follows the ridge from the north shoulder of Newberry saddle directly into the bed of Vishnu where a crevice cuts through both sides of the quartzite forming the inner rim, and connects to the ravine and spring on the west. Going directly up the bed, it should be possible to go over the Redwall saddle into upper Unkar. The route connecting Clear Creek with Vishnu is the crux of passing along the north side. See also notes on the North Rim Passage trip.
Downstream from the Tonto crossing there is really big and protected overhang camp on the west side of the narrows. Streambed travel continues easily for a short way to a big drop. The bypass goes up a ridge on the left and then contours a difficult slope to reach an extremely unpleasant and unstable descent ravine through the Quarzite band. The lower valley opens up below the Quarzite and is mostly dry until reaching the entry into the Vishnu section. There is a good spring near the Hance cabin and water flowing most of the way to the river.
Notes in Treks-I and Harvey's map show a couple long bypasses, but a hiker with some climbing skills and good friction soles can follow the streambed all the way. The first and largest obstacle has an easy track adjacent to the fall on the west. Altogether, I counted 6 notable obstacles and 3 of these could have stopped me without some help. One narrow chute is a good stem-climb down and up, 2 other chockstones are big, overhung, and slippery and may require more than unusual strength and skill. The stream joins the river in a backwater miniature estuary formed by a massive granite spine projecting into the current. The landing beach upriver can be reached by a very easy climb up quite a height over the top of the granite and down the other side.
Yet another interesting route to consider from the lower valley cabin-site is to go directly up from the cabin and contour south over a small saddle. From here continue up to the Tonto along the south slope of a Suprgroup ridge joined to the Tapeats rim. This must have been the burro track connecting the Asbestos Canyon mines to the cabin. See Hance Tollroad.
1998 May - Passing through: day 4. Critical water source; good supply.
2011 March - Tracing the John Hance tollroad around Newberry and down to the lower valley cabin-site, down-canyon and up-canyon and back over Newberry saddle -- days 4 and 5.