DetailsGrand Canyon Rim-Rim-Rim
~44.3 miles RT, 11000' gain
via S. Kaibab/N. Kaibab trails
Participants: Gerry & Jennifer Roach, Kevin Baker
leave S. Rim 5:43am MT
8 miles to Phantom Ranch, arrive 8am
leave Phantom Ranch 8:15am
7 miles to Cottonwood Camp, arrive 10:48am
leave Cottonwood Camp ~ 11am
7 miles to North Rim, arrive 2:10pm
leave North Rim 2:30pm
7 miles to Cottonwood, arrive 4:35pm
leave Cottonwood ~ 4:50pm
7 miles to Phanton Ranch arrive ~7pm
leave Phantom ~7:25pm
8 miles to South Rim, arrive 11:16pm
Total elapsed time including breaks: 17 hrs, 33 min
~2500 calories consumed, 10 Liters water/GU2O recovery drink
Pack weight: 17 pounds full of water at Phantom Ranch
The Ultimate Death March-Grand Canyon Rim-Rim-RimPics
Ever since I gazed upon the abyss of the Grand Canyon as a kid in the 80's, I always had the desire of someday hiking across it. A couple years ago I started reading trip reports of people actually hiking all the way across and back in a day. That sounded like the ultimate challenge for me, so I hooked up with Bob Dawson's group, many of which had done it more than once.
My training regimin for this absurdity was 3 long, flat hikes of 15, 22, and 26 miles. Bob assured me that I could survive if I made it through these long, boring hikes as the feet would be used to the pounding. This coupled with normal late winter peak bagging had me in decent shape, but not to the level of many in the group.
We all arrived at the Yavapai Lodge using various forms of transit and assembled for a traditional "Last Supper" before the hike. Here everyone discussed which trails they were taking and potential starting times. Bob somehow conned 3 others into starting their day via the Bright Angel TH at 9pm that night, hiking through the night with no sleep! What a gutsy idea! I wanted to take the shortest route across the canyon, which would mean starting with some fast guys I knew I couldn't hang with. We decided to leave the lodge at 5:20am MT so we wouldn't be in the dark long.
After a group photo at the S. Kaibab TH, we were off into the great abyss at around 5:43am. As I had remembered from a dayhike a few years back, this trail was heavily potholed from the mule trains going up and down every day. We started jogging right off the bat, which went against my plans as I was looking to conserve. The group pulled away after a mile or so and I was now faced with the thought of a solo 44 mile hike! I was mentally prepared though, so I set off in my own pace as Wayne checked in with me to see if I would be OK.
As I descended to the Jumpoff, I came across 2 hikers who were taking a break. Low and behold, it was Colorado mountaineering legends Gerry and Jennifer Roach! I knew they were hiking the same day as us, but didn't think we would hook up with them as they were planning on a 50 mile variation. They had just picked up the S. Kaibab via the Tonto trail and kindly invited me along! What a treat to hike with such legends.
As we made our way down to the river, the fastest group past us. They had started an hour or so after me. The sun finally popped out over the horizon and illuminated the awesome expanse. Before too long, we were approaching the final switchbacks to the suspension bridge crossing the mighty Colorado River. You cross the bridge after going through a nifty tunnel that is pretty dark in the middle.
A few minutes later we were at the friendly confines of Phantom Ranch, home to the many backpackers and mule riders who come down to spend the night. We said hello to the mules and refilled our water bladders for the next segment. There were quite a few folks already milling around on this beautiful day.
The next segment of the trail was a delight as it gently climbs around 1700' in 7 miles to Cottonwood Camp via the Box Canyon, a narrow slot carved by the fast moving Bright Angel Creek. We didn't talk much through here as the creek was pretty loud. A depressing sign acquainted me with the enormity of this hike, announcing over 13 miles to the north rim still! Gerry laughed, remarking that we now have a marathon to get back to this point. The trail meanders across both sides of the creek as there are quite a few bridges to keep things interesting.
A couple miles before Cottonwood camp, we came across Bob's group as they all seemed to be in good spirits despite the lack of sleep. We wished them well and pressed on to Cottonwood camp, where Mark Silas was enjoying the shade and patching up some blisters. He didn't feel that great, but decided to join us as he too was motivated by the Roaches.
The climb to the North Rim was probably the most beautiful part of the day for me, as it was more of a wilderness feeling since the road to the north rim is closed. The trail is spectacularly carved right into the cliff walls as it hugs Roaring Springs Canyon. Roaring Springs is a natural spring that flows abunduntly out of the rock and is a sight to behold.
The drops around some areas of the trail is amazing, but there is plenty of room to stay away from danger. Riding a mule with snow on the trail would be pretty unnerving in this section! Mark decided to wisely call it a day since he had already completed the RRR before and wasn't feeling well, so we pressed on to the north rim. As we climbed, we came across all of our group strung out over many miles on the trail. All were in good spirits and looked to be in great shape despite the long climb. Jeff Valliere ended up with a time of around 10.5 hours I think, which is awesome considering the heat down low. Gerry told me he once did the RRR in his youth in under 9 hours, an astounding feat! As we made our way up, a nice view of AZ's highest came into view, a peak that took me 3 tries. The rim continued to play with our heads as it seemed we had it bagged and then there was more. We finally topped out on the nondescript north rim at 2:10pm, happy for a nice break.
After a couple photos and a brief snack, it was time to head down and do it all over again. Gerry wanted to save his knees some pounding, so I decided to part ways and see how much I could jog. I felt great the first couple miles then the knees started throbbing, so I resorted to an occassional jog in the flatter areas. The day continued to heat up as I lost elevation, but there was a nice, stiff breeze blowing in my face to keep me cool. The journey back through the box canyon seemed to take forever, and I finally made it back to bustling Phanton Ranch for a well deserved break. I washed my feet off there in prep for the final 8mile/4700' out of this big hole.
The Roaches caught up with me at Phantom and we parted ways at the Bright Angel junction so they could complete the magic 50 miles. The initial climb above the river was depressing to say the least and I began to feel the effects of the long day. My GPS now became my close companion as darkness enveloped the canyon quickly. My new Petzl headlamp did great illuminating the endless switchbacks. I had 4 GU's on the way up to sustain some strength as my appetite waned. The Cedar Ridge sign finally came into view as the wind began to pick up and the temp dropped. It was still comfortable enough to hike in a long sleeve polypro and shorts as long as I kept moving. There were now a couple lights visible on the south rim, but they looked so far away still. A couple times I saw a headlamp, so I wondered if Mark was up there.
My spirits began to improve as I was now within 1000' vertical and I knew it was in the bag. A couple hundred feet below the rim, I met up with Mark and Danielle as we finished together at around 11:16pm MT. This was quite the challenge and will test your will, but is attainable with some long training hikes and some mental focus. What a day!