My Conclusions (As in, did I learn anything at all?)
So I’ve now spent more than a little time at the supposed site of the Kutz Canyon Stairway and possibly have been to spots no one else has for many hundreds of years. My thinking at this point? Maybe there was some sort of “stairway”, but from what I was able to see it seems far from definitive.
• Based upon the sherd and lithic scatter locations it does seem a reasonable conclusion the spine served as some sort of travel route. How travelers actually made the descent is not obvious. It is not possible to safely traverse the route today.
• There appears to be no significant presence of artifacts on the surface.
• The underlying soil material is highly erosive and it’s possible today’s topography is somewhat different than what existed 800 years ago.
• The presence of scattered wood fragments, tending to be somewhat linear and atypical of that produced any of the area vegetation, could suggest the remnants of a structure of some sort.
• The spine location lines up well with an identified segment of the Great North Road and the Chacoans have displayed an obsessive love of straight line travel.
• The “chute” area I explored via my rappel on the easterly nose still strikes me as the most probable place for any structure, possibly ladder-like.
• The traversing ledges I observed on the easterly slope of the spine were most likely areas of irregular erosion rather than tail remnants.
• The shrine site just on the easterly side of the spine would have been visible for some distance to anyone approaching from the south, and could have served as a marker for something, including a “stairway” site.
• The relatively early radiocarbon date for the wood sample, circa AD 800s, predates any of the pueblo building booms of the region. One would expect any stairway or other structure to be present during pueblo peak construction so this doesn’t mesh well.
• The spine area really can’t be safely explored without the use of fixed ropes or some type of safety belay and so probably hasn’t been adequately surveyed by professionals.
At this point I’m inclined to think there was likely some sort of route down this spine for an extended period of time. But to call it a “stairway” now strikes me as a somewhat romantic overstatement. At the very least there would have had to have been ladders or some other assistive structures for some portions of the route as it’s otherwise impassable. All that said, it’s a site that would benefit greatly from the examination of professionals. Professionals on ropes, that is…..
So, to close out this project, here’s an image that pretty well sums up where I went and the majority of what I found. Oh, and just so you don’t get the wrong idea, the lighting in this image sorta makes it look like it might be climbable. Um….no friggin’ way……
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