2007 would have represented the 100th birthday of the undisputed master of Grand Canyon hiking. Harvey Butchart began his illustrious career of backcountry exploration upon taking a post as a professor of mathematics at nearby Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff. Racing to and from the Grand Canyon any chance he could, it is estimated the Harvey spent over one thousand days hiking his beloved canyon. During these forays he pioneered, rediscovered, and otherwise covered thousands of miles of terrain—both on and off trail.
His accomplishments include summiting eighty-three Grand Canyon peaks and covering over one hundred sixty routes from rim to river. Harvey authored several of the first Grand Canyon hiking guides, drawing from his meticulous notes and journals.
I had the honor of interviewing Harvey in his Sun City, AZ, home when he was in his nineties, and fondly recall his razor-sharp memory and intellect. He came in equal parts of grace and tenacity. Dr. Butchart died on May 29, 2002, but his passion for the canyon truly lives on in the untold numbers of Grand Canyon enthusiasts that he inspired.
Authors Tom Myers, M.D., and Elias Butler have written a magnificent biography entitled Grand Obsession: Harvey Butchart and the Exploration of Grand Canyon.