Rappelling Down to Clean Up the Grand Canyon

With over five million visitors walking through the Grand Canyon trails, a sizeable amount of litter and trash is expected. Usually it’s due to the Grand Canyon weather blowing light trash off the rims of garbage cans, hats blown off heads, and other items that were accidentally dropped. While there are volunteer groups that clean up accessible areas of the Grand Canyon, there is a select few that have a little adventure when picking up litter in hard-to-reach areas.

Volunteers from the Arizona Mountaineering Club (AMC) are using their skills to clean up the Rims in the Grand Canyon National Park. Using rope and their mountain climbing gear, they rappel down the Rims to pick up discarded water bottles, hats, cell phones, and other lost items that were dropped down the edge. They even use metal detectors to pick up cans, coins, and other metal items hidden in the rocks and dirt.

The AMC does these trips a handful of times per year with a diverse group of volunteers. Their latest clean-up descent on September 24th had over 40 volunteers, from ages five to 63, rappel down and pick up areas along the South Rim. The AMC has been offering these services free of charge for the last 20 years.

John Gray, who has led this clean-up project for the past six years, says that this is a good way for search-and-rescue groups and experienced climbers to put their skills to good use.

“We have coordinated this as kind of a group effort where we can give back to the state,” says Gray. “We have a special and unique skill set where we can get to places that would otherwise be very dangerous to clean up and beautify the area. We love doing it because we’re able to provide a community service.”

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While their work is commendable and noble, it’s a labor of love. The volunteers get their own unique version of a Grand Canyon tour.

“We’re giving back to the community, but it’s also a lot of fun,” said Gray. “The Grand Canyon is a beautiful place to be in. Where else are you going to be, where you can just sit there on a rope and enjoy the Canyon from a perspective that nobody else gets to see?”