Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Grand Canyon Rim to Rim in a Day

The Rim2Rim was a wonderful experience, I even bought a T-shirt. While most people take two days or more there were quite a number of folks who did it in a day along with us. My day was a little longer than I anticipated.

Alison's friend, Carolyn, and her husband, Gary, accompanied us on this trip. Carolyn running with us and her husband shuttling the car to the South Rim while we traversed. Gary's willingness to make that 3 1/2 hour road trip simplified the logistics considerably.

I'm a solid North Rim fan and am so glad we started there and didn't have to experience the commercialization at the South rim until we were done. The cabins surrounding the one lodge were old and comfy as was the lodge. Perched on the edge with its great windows and high vaulted ceilings it afforded us our first panoramic view of the canyon.

Arriving in the late afternoon we had time to wander around and even drink a beer on our little porch before meandering toward a sunset view and later dinner. 

The North Lodge's dinning area with its vaulted ceilings and sea of people was an experience in its self.  My stomach was a little queasy and I was concerned about what to eat. Gary carved his way through a beautiful prime rib and had I been up for it I would have gladly traded in my chicken quarter for just a couple of bites.

Up at 4:30 and on the trail at 5:35 with our headlamps on we descended North Kaibab trail in the 40 degree darkness with just a glimmer of light in the East. We were warned by the rangers that there was a washout on the trail that left a mere 10" wide trail that needed to be traversed by hanging on to a rope but it was daylight by the time we got there and the washout was only a few feet.

The descent in the morning light was full of grandeur as the sheer cliffs enclosed us. There were only a few places where the valley opened out before us, the trail hugged the side of an almost vertical wall and the other side wasn't that much farther away. There was signage regarding the different strata and the changes in color made passage from one epoch to another quite obvious.

The temperature was mild, just a few clouds in the sky and with the trial in the shadows, we ran where it was fairly flat and the footing good. The scenery couldn't have been better. Vast, huge and sometimes just a looming presence over us. Few people were on the trail feeling like we had the whole canyon to ourselves.

We passed Roaring Springs which is a river that flows out of a cave on the side of a cliff and took a side trip to Ribbon Falls before winding our way down to Phantom Ranch on the floor of the canyon. Alison's Garmin GPS pooped out at about mile 12 which was still a couple of miles from the ranch.

According to the Garmin our moving time was about 18 minutes per mile and even though the elevation drop from the rim to the canyon floor is listed at 5,700, the Garmin recorded a total loss including the ups and downs of the trail at 7,700.

We had lunch at Phantom Ranch including their world famous lemonade at around 11:30. Lots of happy but tired people there and hot too as the temperature had increased to the low nineties.

Crossing the footbridge over the roaring Colorado River was one of my highlights. Having just been in the mountains above Boulder the weekend before, I couldn't help but imagine that some of that raging torrent had fallen on me there and flood it's way downstream leaving a huge mess in its wake.

The trip up Bright Angel Trail was a tough pull.  On the way up after crossing the Colorado we were keeping up a pretty good pace, running in places that were level with good footing. Carolyn, the other gal that came with us was determined to do the traverse faster than I had expected but my desire was to keep the three of us together throughout the trip. So I pushed myself more than I should.

By the time I was willing to acknowledge I was in trouble I knew it would take some time to recover. I got overheated and had to stop to get my heart rate down. It didn't go down. Alison got concerned. It was really elevated. Carolyn was up ahead of us and kept going. We sent word with a passerby that we had stopped and for her to continue. 

Unbeknownst to us Carolyn had similar issues, she finished about an hour ahead of us but she required help from her husband who had come down from the South Rim. She was not a happy camper.

I had the salt tablets and she didn't. According to her husband she became somewhat disoriented and woozy, he worried that she might fall over the edge. She asked around for some salt tablets, nobody had any. Someone gave her sunflower seeds and she puked them up. She lost interest in drinking. Looking back at the situation I should have voiced my concerns, split up the essentials and hung back, listening to my body. 

I knew that I wasn't in peak condition. Having diarrhea for the week before didn't help much either. But for me it comes down to adequate rest, hydration and pacing. We didn't rest enough at Phantom Ranch, I didn't drink enough electrolytes before starting up and I started up at too fast a pace.

I can't tell you how long we stopped but it felt like a really long time, maybe a half an hour or more, but my heart rate finally did go down. I ate a salt tablet and drank ton of water and was able to finish at a slow pace, but finished. 

Alison and I are also still thinking about a few people we passed that were struggling a lot more than I was, wondering if they made it out before dark. The canyon we ascended had so many twists and turns and the cliffs were so shear, the trail, while wide and easy to follow was hard to find when looking up. And that rim for a long time seemed ever so far away.

When we finally topped out we looked back and were amazed at the enormity of what we had done. There was a cold wind blowing and all we could think about was finding the bus that would take us to our lodging. We had a kind foreign speaking gentlemen take our picture at the trailhead sign and high tailed it to the bus stop.

North Kaibab Trail is listed as 15.6 miles long. Bright Angel Trail up to the South rim is 9.6. With our little excursion to Ribbon Falls and a mile or so on the canyon floor we managed at 26+ mile traverse in a total of 12 hours and 15 minutes.

Would I recommend this trip? Yes. Would I do it again? You bet.