Grand Canyon in May

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Grand Canyon in May

by daw37 » Sat Jan 15, 2011 3:21 am

I have applied for and got a permit for the Grand Canyon in the first week of May - but have had a letter back saying they think my route is dangerous because its too long. I've tried to get through to the rangers to discuss it but just get the engaged tone and wondered what people thought:

Day 1: South Kaibab to the Colorado and up to Cottonwood CG (13.2 m and 1,600 ft up)
Day 2: Cottonwood CG to the North Rim(7m and 4,000 ft up)
Day 3: North Rim to Bright Angel CG (13.2m)
Day 4: Bright Angel CG to Granite Rapids CG (15m and 2,000 ft up + up/down along the Tonto Trail)
Day 5: Granite Rapids CG to Hermit TH (10m and 4,200 ft up)

Its days 1,4,5 I'm a little worried about but have previously hiking 13-15 miles in Canyonlands / Arches in a day in August 2008. Also completed the JMT in 15 days back in August 2010 and have regularly done 15m+ with a backpack in the UK. Am I over stretching? Should I consider changing it to come straight up the Bright Angel Trail on Day 4?

Any thoughts useful from those who have been into the Canyon. Thanks - David

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Re: Grand Canyon in May

by Wisdom » Sat Jan 15, 2011 4:47 am

Ambitious trip. I've never been in the canyon in early May, but I've been in a few areas during the third week of May prior to the Memorial Day weekend. At that time, it gets hot. That counts rim-to-rim-to-rim hikes similar to your day 1,2,and 3; and the North Bass and Thunder River Trails. In the late May heat, you're on the trail at 0500 to cover as many miles as you can before it gets too hot. I don't know what early May temps are like, but you could still complete that rim-to-rim-to-rim hike and it will feel like you've accomplished something. The next time you're there you can drop down the South Kaibab, take the Tonto to Indian Gardens (and get water), and go over to the Granite Rapids (never been there myself). And you will have a better idea on the wear and tear you'll go through. In your current itinerary, I think your easiest day is day 3.

I think the rangers may also be concerned if you are doing a solo hike. If you had more people with you then it increases the chances that someone would recognize when a hiking partner was having trouble. If you are by yourself, then it's up to you to recognize your condition, and depending on experience it can be difficult to self-assess and take appropriate action. That's not as much a problem on the corridor trails due to the traffic, but as you move into less trafficked areas the rangers want to be comfortable with your experience base. After all, they are the ones that could have to recover you.

For what it's worth, I was just in the canyon on 12/18-21 with my daughter (21), son-in-law (25), and son (30). It was a shakedown cruise for my son-in-law and was a return trip for my daughter (corridor loop trip when she was 10). Our original plan would have had us at Cottonwood on the 19th, with a long hike to Indian Garden on the 20th. But we had snow at Mather Campground on the 17th and the South Kaibab trail conditions weren't going to be the best - so I changed the itinerary and stayed 2 nights at Bright Angel campground. It turned out that we were slower than expected going down the South Kaibab, so the itinerary change worked for us. The two bucks did the day hike to Ribbon Falls while I had quiet time! It's better to be flexible and safe than to push into your gray zones.

- Wisdom

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Re: Grand Canyon in May

by Day Hiker » Sat Jan 15, 2011 5:50 am

For night 2, I assume you already know the North Rim facilities will still be closed then. I'm guessing this includes the campground store. No big deal, unless you were planning to buy something.

daw37 wrote:Its days 1,4,5 I'm a little worried about

I won't comment on days 4 and 5 because I'm only familiar (very familiar) with the Main Corridor trails. But I wouldn't worry too much about day 1. South Rim to Cottonwood isn't too extreme. Days 1, 2, and 3 are not unreasonable, provided you're up for those distances with what I assume will be a heavy overnight pack.

On day 4, you always have the option of altering plans, like you wrote, and going up BA, skipping the Hermit trail, camp, and extra day. You can make that decision based on how you feel that morning at BA Camp. Or you could even wait until you get to Indian Gardens (3800 ft) to decide, since that's the last point common to both options.

In the first week of May, the heat shouldn't be too much of a problem, unless you're sensitive to warm temps (profile says U.K., haha). It generally doesn't get hot until the second half of May. Average highs in the lower elevations for your dates are in the 80s F, and it won't be humid in May except maybe after recent rain.

Note the nighttime temps on the North Rim. Average lows are in the lower 30s F. No worry, as long as you have the right clothing.

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Re: Grand Canyon in May

by daw37 » Sat Feb 05, 2011 8:50 pm

Thanks both - a lot of help!

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Re: Grand Canyon in May

by ShinLV » Fri Feb 18, 2011 5:02 pm

I have done similar backpacking trip last year.
We did South Kaibab to Cottonwood CG on day 1. Then Day hike up to the North Rim then back down to Bright Angel CG on day 2. Then back up to the South Rim on day 3.
It was end of March. The last 1,700 ft to the North Rim was Fully coverd with snow. But, colorado River area was warm.

I also did Hermit trail (down to hermit rapids) on end of May 2010. It was kind hot, but not too much.

So, I think your plan is not bad. Actually, I like it. Its 100% duable.
If I are you, I won't bring tent for this trip unless weather forcast doesn't look bad.
I will bring 40 degree sleeping bag. (Actually, I didn't use my tent on last May trip)
And make your plan in 4 days (just combine day 2 and 3)
.... or ...
Day 1 : South Kaibab to Cottonwood CG
Day 2 : Day Hike to North Rim (up and back)
Day 3 : Cottonwood CG to Indian Garden CG
Day 4 : Indian Garden to Granite Rapids CG or Hermit CG
Day 5 : Granite Rapids CG or Hermit CG to Hermit TH

I think the key of this hike is 'wake up early and gain the distance and elevation as early as possible before it gets hot'

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Re: Grand Canyon in May

by daw37 » Sun Feb 20, 2011 3:25 pm

Thanks - I'm planning to go ahead with the trip and I'll decide at Indian Garden what I want to do!

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