|Doing a Rim to Rim to Rim once is a memorable experience. Doing it more than once is just something that one does to better oneself physically and mentally. |
It is hard for me to believe that I felt in love with this grueling trek of crossing the canyon twice in a day. Everybody that ran or hiked a RRR knows what a great feeling of accomplishment one has after having such a great performance under one's belt. Of course, one can put this on Facebook but who is going to give a thumb up of sincere congratulation? Someone who ran a 5K? A friend that can drink a 12 pack a day?
Then who is going to congratulate a RRR runner/ hiker? In my opinion, only other runners or hikers that know what it takes to be in the baking Sun, eat dust and drink hot water for hours on end.
A small piece of advice to everyone that wants to try this: push the envelop just a little bit at the time and get used to the unique environment. No matter what a determined hiker or marathon runner you are: this is a different run and a different hike. It is true that nobody ever made history by making concessions of taking it easy, but dying doing what you want is a very small consolation. Miserable one would feel at times during a RRR, but finishing to tell a good story is where history is made. Try starting with a Rim to River to Rim or Rim to Rim and take it from there.
I will not tell play by play story of this year's RRR. I am just happy that I finished 6 hours faster than last year (2014), in spite of the distance being 4 miles longer. I will post the statistics, as recorded by my GPS, and make some comments about the hike, which I think, could be helpful.
Day: September 30th 2015
Route: Bright Angel trailhead to North Kaibab trailhead and back
Total Distance: 49 miles
Actual Duration: 15:50 hours
Duration car to car: 18 hours
Avg. speed: 3 mph
Max. speed: 5.5 mph
Estimated calories burned: 4,900 (it is estimated that people burn in average 100 calories a mile regardless of walking or running.)
Lowest temperature: 48°
Highest temperature: 119°
Total hiking time South to North including all of the breaks – 8 hours and 15 minutes
Total hiking time North to South including all of the breaks – 9 hours and 10 minutes
- South to North
Bright Angel TH to Bright Angel Campground – 2 hours and 30 minutes
Bright Angel Campground to Roaring Springs – 2 hours and 35 minutes
Roaring Springs to Supai Tunnel – 1 hour and 30 minutes
Supai Tunel to North Kaibab – 1 hour
- North to South
North Kaibab to Supai Tunnel – 35 minutes
Supai Tunnel to Roaring Springs – 1 hour
Roaring Spring to Phantom Ranch – 2 hours and 30 minutes
Phantom Ranch to Indian Garden – 1 hour and 50 minutes
Indian Garden to Bright Angel TH – 1 hour and 55 minutes
- Going from South to North
Bright Angel Campground – 15 min
Roaring Springs – 20 min
Supai Tunnel - 10 min
North Kaibab TH – 40 min
- Going from North to South
Roaring Springs – 20 min
Cottonwood Campground – 20 min
Phantom Ranch – 45 min
Indian Garden – 10 min
As a side note, the day of my RRR the water was turned off on North Kaibab trail at Cottonwood Campground and Pumphouse Ranger Station. There was tap water at Phantom Ranch/ Bright Angel Campground and there was also water at the Roaring Springs Resthouse (although the signs said that tap was turned off, but it was not.) The only issue with the Roaring Springs is that it is a .25 mile out of the way. In total, adding to the fact that I also rested and ate for 20 minutes each time, that side hike alone added a mile and an hour to my trip. There was also water at Supai Tunnel and of course at North Kaibab TH. There are 9.3 miles from Phantom Ranch to Roaring Springs. I made that with a 24 oz bottle of water. When I got to Roaring Springs, at 8:20 AM, it was the first time the Sun laid rays on me that morning. It was a different story when I went back from Roaring Springs to Phantom Ranch, in the hottest part of the day (the official temp was 101, the thermometer at Cottonwood Campground was 119 and in direct Sun it felt like sitting next to a fire). I ran out of water very quickly but I was able to use creek water without any issues.
The most important aspect of a RRR endeavor is water. It is not only important to have water at hand at all times, but it is also important to actually drink it. Most of the people in the Grand Canyon were dehydrated not because they ran out of water hours ago and kept hiking in the Sun and heat, but rather because they did not drink enough at the right time. The heat, dry air and effort will keep a hiker so focused on traveling, that he will forget to actually drink plenty of water. Plenty is the big word; hikers drink water, just not enough.
Luckily for everyone, there is drinking tap water on all three main trails in the Grand Canyon. However, depending on the time of the year, some water stations are closed for the winter (usually from late October to May 15). Also, as the NPS website states, the water main is old and breaks many times during the year, therefore causing unpredictable water closures. This link should be checked prior to any hike in the canyon:
http://www.nps.gov/grca/planyourvisit/trail-closures.htm#CP_JUMP_140503. Since the website is maintained in a bureaucratic fashion, I strongly suggest, just before starting to hike down the trail, to visit the Backcountry Information Center and check any last minute water main closures. If the office is closed, they would have a note on the door listing the issues. If it is one of those days where water is available at all stations, then you are a lucky hiker.
In addition to the tap water, there is plenty of water in the canyon, from various creeks or springs. It is strongly recommended to treat the water. I don't know why it is "strongly recommended", since there are no farms, ranches, or runoffs from anywhere. But it is recommended, most likely for a good reason. If you are from Europe or Latin America, you'd probably drink the water right from the creeks and think it is the best you ever had. If you are from Asia or the US, than you better treat it because the placebo effect will get the best of you and you will get sick. I drank untreated water directly from the creeks and had no issues. I did not drink, and would no attempt to drink, untreated water from the Colorado River. However, keep in mind that, during the monsoon season, all the water in the canyon is absolutely muddy and totally undrinkable. It has to be filtered and treated.
For convenience here is a list of the distances between the water stations. The distances are listed in the direction of South to North, but could easily be read any each way. Here is also a link with details of these distances and the facilities associated with each location:
South Kaibab Trailhead – water year-round
South Kaibab – Phantom Ranch/ Bright Angel Campground – 7.5 miles
(There is no water, either tap or creek, on South Kaibab trail.)
Bright Angel Trailhead – water year-round
Bright Angel TH - Mile-and-a-Half Resthouse – 1.6
Mile-and-a-Half Resthouse - Three-Mile Resthouse – 1.5
Three-Mile Resthouse - Indian Garden – 1.7
Indian Garden (water year-round)
Indian Garden – Phantom Ranch/Bright Angel Campground – 5.1
North Kaibab Trailhead - water only from Mid May to Mid October
Phantom Ranch/ Bright Angel Campground – water year-round
Phantom Ranch/Bright Angel Campground - Cottonwood Camp – 7.2
Cottonwood Campground - Manzanita / Pumphouse Rest Area – 1.4
Manzanita /Pumphouse Rest Area - Roaring Springs - .7
Roaring Springs - Supai Tunnel - 3
Supai Tunnel - North Kaibab TH – 1.7
This endurance run has become my new groove. If anyone read my previous posts from the Grand Canyon, they could see the change in attitude. After my first hike in the canyon, a Rim to River to Rim, I said that I will never hike the Grand Canyon again. Ever since, my hikes become longer and more sophisticated each time. Now, I cannot wait for my next hike. The 2016 hike will be a RRR of only Kaibab trail: 42 miles round trip. Shorter than the hikes I did so far, but with an added challenge. An acquaintance suggested a 12 hour limit. I don't know about that. That would be nice. But a 14 hour time target seems reasonable for me. And I will most likely run it at night, starting probably at 3-4 PM.
The challenge in particular would be to stash away some bottles of water at the right intervals when going down on the South Kaibab trail, to use on my return. This trail has no water on that 7 mile stretch (from the trailhead to Phantom Ranch.) Most hikers use this trail for a fast descent into the Canyon. Going down would be no problem; I can make it to Phantom Ranch on a 24 oz bottle. But going up I'd probably need at least 2-3 .5l bottles, in addition to the water I get when I depart Phantom Ranch on my return from the North Rim. I have a whole year to think about it.
Keep it moving!