Grand Canyon - Rim to Rim
The Rim to Rim hike I did was from Grand Canyon North Rim, going down the North Kaibab trail, to Grand Canyon South Rim, going up the Bright Angel trail. Distance: 14.2 miles to the Colorado River and 9.2 miles from the river to the South Rim.
I was amongst the lucky hikers since for a few weeks there was heavy downpours every day all over the Canyon. Actually that very night, around 3 am, there was such a heavy rain, I felt sorry for everyone that slept in a tent. I was told later that day that starting with 7:30 am the morning I hiked, heavy rain lingered around North Rim for hours, discouraging lots of hikers to get on the trails. I was sorry for them. It actually did not rain in the canyon. I was there. So it only rain at the top of the rim. But I guess nobody knew there was absolutely no rain down the trail.
I started the hike at 5:20 AM. I got at the North Kaibab trailhead at 5:05 AM but it was pitch black out. I thought i would wait 10-15 minutes rather than carrying a flashlight with me 24 miles.(actually 23.4)
As a bit of light started to show on the East, I hit the trail like there was a prize waiting for me at the other end. In the first 2 miles I passed everyone that started the hike before me. From there down I did not meet any hikers until a few miles from the river. They were coming up.
The first part of the trail, probably 4-5 miles, it’s just steep downhill hiking. After that the incline is so nice, I think running would have been a better option for me. The sky was cloudy, so I was beautifully protected from the sun while rushing down the trail. I was concerned (although I trained the whole spring and summer for various hikes, including this one) that I will need 12 hours to finish. I didn’t. I got to the river in 4:20 hours. The middle part of this side of the canyon is more beautiful than I ever imagined. I hiked down in the Grand Canyon two years ago on South Kaibab and up Bright Angel, but that side was nothing compared in beauty to the North Rim. I really enjoyed the hike, the birds chirping in the first hours of the day, cool air and nice breeze in certain areas. I enjoyed all nature and scenery on the go. During this entire Rim to Rim I did not stop to rest for a single minute. I could have stopped at Phantom Ranch to drink lemonade or eat something, but I was neither thirsty nor hungry, I did not need water in my bottles and I was entirely concerned that if I stopped I would have had a hard time getting going again.
So I glanced at the Phantom Ranch while passing by it, I took a picture that came out fuzzy since I was moving, and I was on my way. As I passed the Colorado River over the bridge and got on Bright Angel trail, some serious rain started coming down. I thought that my luck was over and five minutes after I put my rain jacket on, the rain stopped. And that was the end of the rain until I reached the top. On my way up, about two miles from the Colorado River, another hiker, a younger man than I am, got behind me. I kept a very high pace going up, about 20 minutes a mile. He kept up with me but I was determined not to let him pass. This guy was in a very good shape himself and helped me going fast just by being 15 feet behind me. although we did not exchanged words, he followed me through the Devil’s Corkscrew up until almost the Indian Campground. When I got there I did not see him. There I refilled one bottle of water and hit the trail with less than 15 seconds delay. From there I did not see the anonymous hiking partner. I continued alone. From this point I had 4.5 miles to the top. Sun came out. In the beginning just here and there but in the last 3 miles the Sun hit everything in all its power. By this point I did not care. I had just 3 miles to go, so I was basically done. And getting a bit tired. And the trail was getting crowded with mostly annoying tennis shoes visitors that never give the right of way to up going hikers. But let's not get carried away because I might not finish my report here today.
Once I reached the top I finally got my wet t-shirt and shoes off and laid down on a bench enjoying the recovery Gatorade, my feet shaking like I just outrun a bear. I realized at that point that I did not check the time when I finished the hike. By now it was 1:20 PM. By estimating how much time I spent at the top already I concluded that it took me 7 hours and 45 minutes to hike Rim to Rim. I would say not bad for a first timer. Not even an hour after I got to the top, a heavy rain rolled in and made life miserable for all hikers and tourists. The rain lasted 2 hours and 30 minutes. I know that because although I crossed Rim to Rim on foot, my ride only made it from North Rim to South Rim 2 ½ hours after I got to the top. Annoying but that is life. I sat on a bench and watched the rain. And the unprepared tennis shoes visitors that were coming up the trail wet and muddy. Life is very fair after all.
Pros of this hike. There is water along the trail. There is a river - Bright Angel Creek - along the North Kaibab trail, Roaring Spring and lots of other potable water sources provided by the park: http://www.nps.gov/grca/planyourvisit/upload/North_Kaibab_Trail.pdf
However, the water from the river, due to all the rain I mentioned, looked like a flow of mud rather than water. I would have not drunk that water even filtered. It looked like red mud. I’ll try to post some pictures to get a clue. There is also water at the Phantom Ranch, and before crossing the river. Then from the river the first water source is at the Indian Campground, which is 4.5 miles from the last water source. From here, going up, there is potable water at mile 3 and 1.5. So there is no need to carry too much water. I had with me 3 bottles of Gatorede (I only used 2) and two bottles of .5 L water which I refilled once). So in other words I used 3 liter of liquid. That is actually the 100 oz everyone recommends of carrying while hiking this hike. The only difference is that I did not carry it all at once. Keep in mind that I hiked during a cloudy, humid day. A hike like this in the scorching Summer Sun would be a big difference. This is the reason I pointed out at the top tht “I was amongst the lucky hikers that day.”
As far as food I used 3 Hummer energy bars and one prosciuto and Brie sandwich. Although very tasty, that sandwich was an useless item to carry with me. It did not provide much energy. All in all my backpack weighted 12 lb. The only item of clothing I had with me was a gortex windbreaker which I always carry with me regardless of the hike.
If anyone wonders why I did not do Rim to Rim to Rim since everything was so well under control and felt so easy on me: I did not want to. R2R2R involves going down and up, or up and down, depending on where one will start, the North Kaibab trail. That means hiking 14.2 miles x 2 on the same trail. That would mean no fun to me. If there would be and additional trail from North Rim going down to the Colorado River, just like there are on the South Rim the South Kaibab and the Bright Angel trail, I would consider it.
Cons: visitors hiking down and up with no respect for serious hikers. Next time I'm going to get some mud on my hands and just touch their clean cloths if they bump into me. There.