Harvey Butchart

Harvey Butchart

John Harvey Butchart (1907 – May 29, 2002) was a mathematics professor who was well known for his hiking exploits in and around the Grand Canyon. Over a period of 17 years Butchart hiked the entire length of the canyon, making him the first person known to have done so.

Butchart was born in Hefei, China, to missionary parents. His father died in 1920 and the family moved to Illinois. Butchart graduated from Eureka College in 1928 and received a masters and PhD from the University of Illinois in 1929 and 1932, respectively. Butchart began teaching mathematics at Arizona State College (now known as Northern Arizona University) in 1945.

Upon moving to Flagstaff in 1945, he began exploring the Grand Canyon. After hiking most of the main routes, he began to explore unofficial routes and animal trails. He was eventually credited with discovering over 100 rim-to-river routes within the canyon. In 1963 he completed the route along the entire length of the canyon. Later that year, Colin Fletcher would heavily rely on Butchart's observations in planning his historic walk through about 1/3-length of the canyon in a single journey.

Butchart kept a detailed log of his explorations, which would eventually reach over 1000 pages. He recorded 1024 days spent in the canyon, and over 12,000 miles (19,000 km) walked. He climbed 83 summits within the canyon, and scaled the walls at 164 places, claiming 25 first-ascents. NAU has over 7000 of his photographs on file.

Butchart retired in 1976, and continued hiking until 1987. He wrote three guidebooks to the canyon, under the title Grand Canyon Treks. In 1997, the books were published in one volume entitled Grand Canyon Treks: 12,000 Miles Through the Grand Canyon. At that time the Butchart, geologist Andy Zdon (NAU), the publisher and the National Park Service backcountry rangers edited and reclassified the routes according to the Yosemite Decimal system. For many of the listed routes, Grand Canyon Treks: 12,000 Miles Through the Grand Canyon and the earlier La Siesta Press editions are the only route references.

In 1997, Harvey Butchart wrote the foreword to his book, Grand Canyon Treks: 12,000 miles Through the Grand Canyon (Spotted Dog Press, first edition 1997, reprinted in 2006). The introduction to that edition was based on outdoor writer Wynne Benti's personal interview of Harvey Butchart and served as reference to later publications. Grand Canyon Treks: 12,000 miles Through the Grand Canyon includes the first three editions of Grand Canyon Treks I, II, III originally commissioned and published by publisher Walt Wheelock, La Siesta Press (Glendale CA). In 2007, a biography of Butchart was published, called Grand Obsession: Harvey Butchart and the Exploration of Grand Canyon by Elias Butler and Tom Myers. This book tells the story of Butchart and the story of foot exploration in Grand Canyon.

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