Tuesday, June 14, 2011

South Rim to North Rim to South Rim

Start and finish.
South Rim to North Rim:
First off, I forgot to stop the watch so my time was 11:44 instead of 12:44. I started at 4am and finished before 4pm. The distance I covered was 21.98 miles but there were times that I lost satellite reception. The elevation change is over 5000 feet and I burned 3648 cal.

My moving time was 8:48:53 which means I was not moving for three hours. My average pace was 30flat and my average moving pace was 24:04. The min elevation was 2413 and max was 8247.

North Rim to South Rim:
  • Garmin Stats HERE 
On my return trip, my moving time (8:35:34)  and non- moving time (3 hours) were very close. My distance was longer do to double backing from Phantom ranch to find Lyndi and give her their first aid kit. The elevation change is over 5000 feet. I burned 3736 cal and my average pace was 29:39 and  my average moving pace was 22:08.

I moved from Georgia to California in the summer before my 8th grade year (1976 I believe) and we drove across the country to do it. This was the only time I have ever been to the Grand Canyon and I remember very little of it. It was only in the past decade that I had even heard of people hiking across it in one day.

I heard that the Bagels and Blenders runners did it and figured someday I might give it a try. Then in 2010, Diana and I started talking about doing the Rim to Rim and began planning for it. Soon others decided to join us and in the end nine of us made the trip of a lifetime.

My journey began at 4am when I awoke on Saturday for our journey to the Grand Canyon. we were meeting at Diana's at 6am but I was wide awake and decided to get my infamous endurance breakfast at Del Taco. For some reason their steak and egg burrito is a great pre race meal for me so I am sticking to it. So I got one and then headed to her house to read my kindle and wait for Frank and Evy to pick us up.

A little after 6, we headed out to Arizona
The ride was not that bad and we only stopped a couple times to eat. I expected the 8 hour plus drive to be an ordeal but it really was not. The view was mostly desert but there was little traffic and it was an easy drive. We got to the Grand Canyon area and needed to find a room and got lucky and got one only a half mile from the trail head.
Our first view.
After we checked in, we headed over to see what we were taking on and it was amazing looking and I started to have real concerns about our plan to Rim to Rim to Rim in two days. The canyon is gigantic and the trails were steep but my crew was more optimistic then I was. For the rest of the evening, I was pretty quiet and was preparing myself for the days ahead.
Frank and Evy.
Our room was nice on the South Rim but I did not sleep much and before I knew it, it was time to hike.

Last minute gear check.
We got to the rim and started our hike at 4:08am and the weather was great. Plus it was light enough that I did not need my headlamp. The first miles were mainly downhill and we only saw one hiker who said he been out since yesterday looking for his friends. This is not a story one wants to hear starting out on a long hike.
  • mile 1 at 3127 up 343 down 1046
  • mile 2 at 2833 up 99 down 761
  • mile 3 at 3052 up 0 down 662
  • mile 4 at 2850 up 104 down 813
  • mile 5 at 2503 up 0 down 397
  • mile 6 at 2301 up 234 down 602
After the first water stop at 1.5 miles, I decide to hike on ahead of the others. In knew I was coming back the next day and I wanted to complete day on as fast as possible and with as little effort as possible. Often walking at a pace that is slower then your natural one is more draining and so I just went as I felt. Sometimes when the trail was good, I even ran parts of it.

From miles 2 to 5, I saw quite a few backpacking groups and they looked very tired going up the trail despite most spending the night before on the trail. The idea of going back and forth in 2 days seemed ambitious when I saw how bad these people looked but I figured I could do it and at least i was not backpacking.

When I got to Indian Gardens, it was time to refill the Camelbak and eat a little. There were a number of people at this water stop and it was a good place to get some intel on what laid ahead. It was nice to be in this green oasis and having the creek nearby was nice and I saw a number  of mule deer as well.
Indian Gardens
After leaving the Indian Gardens, I veered to the left and went done a pretty good hill with a number of switchbacks. Here there were a lot of hikers going up and down so it was nice to have the company and i I picked up my pace. I also mentally noted that this was going to be a bear of a climb the following day.

Backpacking never looks fun! Day hiking is the way to go.
Almost to the river.
Once down the switchbacks, it was pretty flat and the canyon narrowed and then it opened up to an amazing view of the Colorado River. It was fast moving and I bet ice cold. The color was unexpected as well.
View from the bridge.
In about a 10k, the trail dropped from 6200 feet at the South Rim to 2500 feet at the Colorado River. Plus the temperature really went up. It started around 50 and was 90 by the time I got to the river. Despite the beautiful view, this stretch of trail was not pleasant. It was hot and very sandy and looked like you were in the middle of the desert somewhere despite having the river so near.
So weird.
This section was the only time I was delayed by the mules too. It was just a ranger with 5 or 6 mules and they were by in a flash. I have often heard the mules trains are a pain and they leave lots of droppings but I saw very few of either.
Looks like a light load.
While hiking through the desert, I could see the bridge that lead to Phantom Ranch and I had a half marathon to go. After crossing the bridge, I entered the Bright Angel Camp (6.4 miles / 2400 ft) and walked right passed several mule deer who were so tame, my noisy camera did not bother them at all.
Mule deer.
The next section to Phantom Ranch was nice in that it was shady and walked along a nice creek and there was a campsite there as well. It is nice to walk along with people around for a change.
  • mile 7 at 2459 up 80 down 719
  • mile 8 at 2556 up 360 down 481
  • mile 9 at 2456 up 184 down 260
  • mile 10 at 3608 up 214 down 23
When I got to Phantom Ranch, it was pretty sleepy. It was 8am and the cafe had just opened and most of the campers were just getting up. I went inside and looked around for about ten minutes but did not get anything. For some reason they had beer, wine and tea but know soda. So I chatted with the worker for a bit and refilled my Camelbak, ate some Pringles and it was time to go do the final half marathon of the day.

PR is at 2560 and the North Rim Trailhead is at 8250 so that is 5700 feet of climbing in the next 13 plus miles.
Mule Stop
The next section was longer than the whole southside walk. It is 7 miles from Phantom to the Cottonwood campgrounds and one climbs about 1500 feet. A lot of this hike was through a large canyon with a creek flowing through it but then the second part was a more open valley that was very desert like. Through this section, I did not see many hikers and the ones I did were moving slowly.
  • mile 11 at 1600 up 1363 down 1239
  • mile 12 at 1956 up 525 down 281
  • mile 13 at 2231 up 1795 down 1631
  • mile 14 at 2426 up 357 down 109
 As you can see, the elevation change is really messed up in this area due to satellite problems. But I believe my pace is pretty accurate because i was moving along pretty good and caught the few people who wee out there.
Backpackers always look miserable.
But soon things would get ugly and it was time to climb. In fact, one climbs over 5000 feet in the last 7 miles from Cottonwood to the North Rim. My pace went from mid twenties to high thirties and beyond over the last miles.
  • mile 15 at 3705 up 353 down 0
  • mile 16 at 3305 up 366 down 135
  • mile 17 at 3326 up 314 down 49
  • mile 18 at 4101 up 488 down 16
  • mile 19 at 3749 up 730 down 94
  • mile 20 at 3902 up 1684 down 1035
  • mile 21 at 8728 up 2549 down 973
  • mile 22 at 9247 up 627 down 15
Again the elevation was messed up and I forgot to turn off my garmin when I finished so the time is off by an hour. I was lucky that a couple caught me going up the last 5 miles or I would have gone even slower.
Big thanks to this two for helping get up this beast.
After I left the ranger station with 5 miles to go, I was moving slow and was glad I had some cloud cover. As I was looking at the waterfall the couple caught me (they were the only people who caught me all day) and i was glad to see them. The husband was stronger than us and he went ahead while we struggled up the never ending stairs and inclines.

Looked like we were going straight up.
When we got below the above photo, we finally saw so other people on the trail. The climb up to the tunnel was hard but it was nice to see fellow hikers. It seems that many like to hike down to the Supai Tunnel (mile 19.1 / 6840 feet) and close by is the last water stop on the trail.
A happy new bride!
Light at the end?
At the water stop, there was a mule team saddling up and I ended up having to walk behind it. But they were a lot faster then me. Unfortunately the mules really tore up the trail and it was very sandy going up the last mile. I left the husband and wife at the water stop but was able to follow a young teacher from Chicago up most of the last miles.
Only aw two mule teams in two days.

She was with a large group (ten plus) that was planning on backpacking across the Canyon over the next couple days. We chatted about what was ahead for her and her group and I also found out she taught at York which is a world famous cross country school. They have won over 25 state titles.

Finally I saw the end and it was pretty anti-climatic because it was just a trail head with a couple people hanging out waiting for friends or the shuttle. They did give me a little cheer when Miss Chicago told them that I had just completed the Rim to Rim.
One last view of the climb.
I finished before 4pm and decided to wait for the others. While sitting at the trailhead, I found that a number of people were taking a long time to come up from much shorter hikes. By 5pm I was feeling really good and decided that at 6pm I would walk down the trail and look for Diana, Evy and Frank. I ended up walking to the overlook rock and hung out there awhile hoping to see them.

I stayed there till 6:30 or so and decided to walk back to the trailhead and wait. But by 7pm, the bugs were out and they were biting. I also knew if I did not eat, I would have a hard time hiking the next day. So I reluctantly left and hike to the hotel that was 2 miles away. I hoped my phone might work there as well and I might find out what was going on.

After a really long walk to the hotel with some great kids from Phoenix, I finally made it to the hotel and ate. Everything was expensive so I ended up getting two slices of pizza, a bag of chips and Dr. Pepper. This was my first real meal since 6pm the day before and it was good. I drank about six glasses of Dr.Pepper and then I set out to find my other hikers to tell them the others were still out there.

By now it was after 8pm and I was concerned because it was getting dark . The good thing was they were going up hill so you can not get in too much trouble but still hiking in the woods in the dark is not fun. So for the next hour I spoke to the hotel staff and asked them to be on the lookout for them. Finally after 9pm they arrived via some French hikers who gave them a ride from the trailhead.

Diana, Frank and Evy finished the South Rim to North rim hike but after eating and getting to our cabin, they decided to take the shuttle back the next day. It was almost midnight before we all got to sleep and I was meeting the gals at 5:30am the next morning and the shuttle left at 7am.
My North to Southers!

5am came quickly and it was time to hike again. I grabbed a bagel with the gals and we took a shuttle to the trailhead where it was chilly. We spent some time filling our camelbaks and rearranging our packs and then it was time to head out at 6:22am. The first miles went quickly because from the North Rim  to Roaring Springs, one drops 3000 feet in five miles.
  • mile 1 at 2539
  • mile 2 at 3808
  • mile 3 at 2152
  • mile 4 at 3253
  • mile 5 at 2124
At the Springs I decided to head off on my own because the gals were taking their time and my other group was waiting for me to get done.
Just before I had to leave them.
From the Springs to Phantom Ranch is about 9 miles and it is mostly downhill. Often I was able to jog a little and so these miles went by faster then they did the day before.
  • mile 6 at 2219 up 60 down 576
  • mile 7 at 2343 up 0 down 308
  • mile 8 at 2428 up127 down 371
  • mile 9 at 1830 up 0 down 311
  • mile 10 at 2144 up 46 down 250
Very runnable.

Despite being downhill, it was a lot warmer too. It was at least 10 degrees warmer throughout the hike.
80ish and it was still early in the day.
  • mile 11 at 1910
  • mile 12 at 1704
  • mile 13 at 2036
  • mile 14 at 4600 (moving was 2019)
Besides being warmer, there were fewer people on the trail. I caught a few and one guy caught me. He had hiked over the day before with his wife and was running back with some detours to waterfalls etc. So we ended up leapfrogging each other throughout the day.
Les Krew.

When I got to Phantom, I realized I had the girls first aid kit and since they had a couple falls early on, I figured I better give it back to them. I took my time at camp but they still had not shown up so I decided to walk up the trail a bit and see where they were. About a half mile up I ran into the German with the camera and he said they were up the trail a half mile frolicking in the river.

This was good news because I ended up seeing them in a few minutes. I gave them the kit and took so photos and headed off. My detour took an extra 26 minutes and an extra mile of hiking but it was good to see them. I wish I could have stayed with them but I knew I needed to keep moving. I also figured some of them would catch me because there was a mile of climbing in the last 7 miles and it was getting hot.
Colorado River Bridge
When I got to the Colorado River, it was really hot. It was easily over a hundred and the trek along the river is very sandy and desert like. This part was the worse part of the hike and I was all by myself in the noon day sun.
Rafting is fun but going on shore must be really hot.
  • mile 15 at 2148
  • mile 16 at 2250
Despite the heat, I was moving pretty good but I knew that the last 5 miles were all uphill (2480 to 6800) and would be lonely. When I turned up the canyon, I was glad to dunk in the creek because the sun was blazing.
So wanted to sit in the creek for awhile.
The next miles were not that steep but it was more of a climb then I remembered from the day before. Plus the day before I went through this part at 7am and now it was 1pm and it was hot. Plus I knew there was an ugly climb ahead before I got to Indian Gardens.
  • mile 17 at 3459
  • mile 18 at 4413
  • mile 19 at 3519
  • mile 20 at 3439
These were fugly!
Going up the switchbacks in the photo is where my runner friend past me again. It was nice to get up those because Indian Gardens is a nice oasis. Once you get there it is 4.5 miles and 4000 feet to go.
Canyon leading to Indian Gardens.
When I got to Indian Gardens, I was surprise to have caught a couple ultra runners that I had seen at Phantom Ranch hours ago. They were doing the R2R2R like I was and it was nice to have some company. They were a lot faster then me but they spent a lot of time at each water station.
Almost a hundred in the shade at Indian Gardens.
  • mile 21 at 5916
  • mile 22 at 3707
  • mile 23 at 3736
Besides having my ultra friends over the last miles, I had lots of tourist to pass. It is amazing how out of shape even fit looking people are. As I plodded up to the South Rim, I was heartened by catching and passing people who had only walked a mile or two down the trail. The only bad thing about these people is they got in your way quite a bit.
Ultra buddy  

During the last half mile, I felt great and was really proud of my accomplishment. To be a 240 pound 48 year old man and hike the Rim to Rim to Rim in a little over 48 total hours was a great results. I did the South to North transit in under 12 hours and then came back the next day a little faster. Some day I hope to come back and do it even faster and maybe do it all in one day.
Almost to the top.