Grand Canyon Rim to Rim to Rim solo day hike
The Road to Rim to Rim to Rim
In 2011, I hiked a Rim to River to Rim (down South Kaibab up Bright Angel) in a very casual manner, in a total time of 9 hour and 15 minutes, with an actual hiking time of 7:30 minutes. That is a distance of 16.5 miles. When we popped up at Bright Angel around 5:15 PM I said toward my two beautiful hiking partners (wife & cousin) that I'd never hike Grand Canyon again, that it was stupid, ridiculous and pointless.
In 2013, I hiked Rim to Rim (down North Kaibab up Bright Angel), against everything I said the previous year. That goes to show what a "consistent" to my philosophy individual I am ... not. However, for this hike I trained well and I completed the 23.5 mile in 7:45 minutes non stop hiking. Solo hike this time. Again, when I finished I said that Rim to Rim to Rim is the stupidest idea especially that 28 miles of the hike are being done back and forth on North Kaibab trail. I said there is no variety, no diversity no fun. Whoever does it, doesn't have a life, or anything else better to hike. Little did I know what I was going to do a year from then!
One morning late August 2014 I woke up and I said: "I'll do it. I'll hike R2R2R. I'm ready! I feel in the best of shape! I never felt better." I told my wife and she said I should go and do it. But she also said she didn't want to have anything to do with it, like even visiting the Grand Canyon with me for the event. Not even staying on the South Rim, drinking coffee, reading a book and grabbing the binoculars once in a while to check where I might be.
I started training even harder for the reminder of the two months to the big day. I trained and I ran and biked and power trained and cardio trained and all sorts of supplements and boosters and everything that came my way I did, eat or drank. When the day came, I was ready! So I thought.
The Hike - Rim to Rim to Rim
I will admit from the get go that my performance was a disappointment to myself during this R2R2R. You be the judge.
October 29 was the day. My target time, as a novice when it comes to ultra sports events, was 18 hour for the 45 miles. I went down South Kaibab, up North Kaibab, down again on North Kaibab and finally up Bright Angel. Total car to car time: 24 hours for the 45 miles! A baby on a stroller would've passed me going uphill if he would've been allowed out at night in the Grand Canyon. I did not have a fancy GPS tracker so I do not exactly know the actual hiking time. By my estimate I think it was 19 hours and 30 minutes. The rest 4 hours and 30 minutes were breaks, all of these breaks being taken on the second leg of the trip (since on my way to the North Rim I did not take any breaks except for drinking water, and that while standing.)
What went wrong? I have no idea.
I started the hike at 6:30 AM. It took me 2 hours and 15 minutes to hike the 7 miles from South Kaibab trailhead to the river. At the river, at the intersection of South Kaibab, North Kaibab and Bright Angel trails, I stashed away some heavy clothing and trekking polls. I didn't need all that until I would be back here later on. I ate an energy bar, I used the restroom at Phantom Ranch and at 9:20 I started my hike up North Kaibab. Everything went great until 3.5 miles to the top: instantly I felt like someone sucked all the energy out of me. I continued slowly and I reached the North Kaibab trailhead at 3:25 PM. That is 9 hours to hike one way. I was done, I was finished, and I felt tired, the bottom of my feet hurt like crazy. I had no idea how I was going to go back. I rested, ate, popped the blisters, put band aids, changed the socks and at 4:15 I headed back.
The resting and food gave me a lot of energy and although the bottom of my feet and the little toes on both feet hurt me badly, I had a good pace for a while. At 6:30 PM was total darkness in the Canyon and I had to put the flashlight on. I was at Roaring Springs at this point. I was really hoping, before the hike, that the night will catch me at Cottonwood campground. Unfortunately I was 2.1 miles away from there. At the Rangers Pumphouse I stopped and sat down on a rock and eat an energy bar. I felt very tired and the bottom of my feet, plus my little toes were killing me. I continued down and reach the Cottonwood Campground by 7:30 PM. I laid down on a bench, not needing food or water but only rest. I turned off my flashlight and I admired the most beautiful starry night. The moon was long set and the night was the darkest I've ever seen in my life. With the flashlight off I could see absolutely nothing around me. Just the stars. At about 8:00 PM I decided to start again. I didn't want to, but down in the Canyon there is no bus service, no grandma to bring me cookies, no wife to tell me I'm up to nothing remarkable in life; you hike in, you hike out. I continued therefore in the darkness and made it to Phantom Ranch at 10:30 PM. So it took me 6 hours and 20 minutes to go up from Phantom Ranch to North Kaibab and 6 hours to hike back down. Not cool at all.
At Phantom Ranch I took my time again: visited the restroom, ate, drank water, ate some more, checked my blisters, put new band aids refilled with water, rested some more. But I still did not understand why the little toes were hurting me so badly, especially when the hiking shoes I was using were well used in other hikes before, with absolutely no issues. Of course, with the flashlight I had I could not see exactly what was going on. I rested for a long while, laying on a bench, while 10 feet away from me a deer decided to stop eating leaves and rather sat down and kept me company, looking at me as if I was going to tell stories or something. I didn't tell him a thing; I wasn't really in the mood of making nice conversation while I was in such condition. At 12:20 AM I decided to start again. That start was really painful. I was barely moving one feet in front of the other due to pain in my little toes.
I made it a 1/4 mile down and I picked up the stuff that I stashed away on my way up. The first thing, I drank the can of Starbucks double shot espresso I purposely brought with me to use at this point in the hike. The food I just eat, the rest I just had and this espresso shot, gave me a good boost. I also put in action the trekking polls without which I don't think I would've made it out of the Canyon. From here on I used my hands as much as my feet, maybe even more. I started my last 9.5 miles up Bright Angel trail at a better pace and I aimed for a speed of 1.5 miles an hour. I kept to it until I ran out of batteries somewhere on the Devils Corkscrew. I was prepared with another set, so in the pitch black night, using the tiny bit of light from my watch, I inserted the batteries correctly the first time. So off I went again toward the Indian Garden Campground. That is 4.5 miles from Phantom Ranch. I made it there at 3:30 AM.
Again, the first thing I did was to get some fuel in me and rest. I forgot to mention, but since I left the top of North Kaibab, at the top of every hour I had an energy gel and anti fatigue caps. I also had an energy boost pill at the half of every hour. I only had energy bars when my stomach asked for it. Without that regular intake I don't think I would've made it so far anyway. I rested at Indian Garden for 30 minutes and at 4 AM I hit the trail again hoping to hike the last 4.5 miles in 3 hours. I did. I was at the top at 6:45 AM.
24 hours and 15 minutes of continuous hiking and almost continuous pain. Before I started the hike, I cleverly parked my car only feet away from the trailhead. However, the 20-30 feet to the car was the most painful walk I ever did in my life on asphalt. At this point, walking uphill was much easier than walking level.
I first had to call everyone who knew what I was doing just to calm them down since I was supposed to check in 6 hours prior and everyone was freaking out by now. Then I drove right to the hotel. When I took my socks off and checked, my pinky toes had blisters on them like I have never seen. The blisters were wrapping around the toes doubling the size of the fingers! No wonder the fingers were hurting me so bad. I popped the blisters and now I had to deal with another burning pain, especially under the shower. But enough of that.
My initial plan was to hike South to North in 8 hours and North to South in 10. That didn't pan out. The blisters were one thing, but I don't understand why I ran out of energy only 7 hours into the hike? After 2.5 hours into the hike, I was constantly loading with gels, energy food and anti fatigue pills. Why the sudden drop in energy? I must have done something wrong in the days prior to the hike. Otherwise I cannot explain.
Regardless, I am not happy with how things turned out. I'm happy I completed the hike in one shot, nonstop, but the time is less than amateurish. I'll have to go back and improve on it. Until then, if you think of doing this hike, you better get the right socks. Cuz I think that was where my problem was. For hiking I always use toe socks but this time, reading the reviews about cold weather, I decided for regular wool hiking socks. They proved to be too thick for 60 degree temp.
Breakdown of distance
For convenience, I'll list here a breakdown of the distances:
South Kaibab trailhead to Colorado River/ Bright Angel Campground/ Phantom Ranch to - 7 miles
South Kaibab trailhead to Ooh Aah Point - .9 mile
Ooh Aah Point to Cedar Ridge - .6 mile
Cedar Ridge to Skeleton Point - 1.5 miles
Scheleton Point to Tip Off - 1.4 miles
Tip Off to Colorado River/ Bright Angel Campground/ Phantom Ranch - 2.6
Colorado River/ Bright Angel Campground/ Phantom Ranch to North Kaibab - 14 miles
Phantom Ranch to Ribbon Falls (trail split) - 5.6 miles
Ribbonn Falls (trail split) to Cotonwood Campground - 1.6 miles
Cotonwood Campground to Pumphouse Residence - 1.4 miles
Pumphouse Residence to Roaring Springs - .7 mile
Roaring Springs to Supai Tunnel - 3 miles
Supai Tunnel to Coconino Overlook - 1 mile
Coconino Overlook to North Kaibab trailhead - .7 mile
Colorado River/ Bright Angel Campground/ Phantom Ranch to Bright Angel Trailhead -9.5 miles
Phantom Ranch to River Resthouse - 1.5 miles
River Resthouse to Indian Garden - 3.2 miles
Indian Garden to 3 Mile Resthouse - 1.7 miles
3 Mile Resthouse to 1.5 Mile Resthouse - 1.5 miles
1.5 Mile Resthouse to Bright Angel trailhead - 1.6 miles