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Rim2Rim2Rim (Grand Canyon NP)

Date: October 27th, 2007
Group Size: ~15
Stats: 46 miles, 10,000 feet, 22 hours
Difficulty: Badass!

There is a sign 1.5 miles from the start of the Bright Angel trail warning hikers not to hike to the canyon floor and back in one day. After all, it is 9.6 miles to the Phantom Ranch with 4300 feet of elevation drop along the way. We (this being a bunch of folks from the ODC) decided to heed the warning, and thus we hiked to the other rim instead. And back. All in one day. This made for a leisurely hike with a total distance of 46 miles and 10,000 feet of elevation gain. Piece of cake!

Hiking from one rim of the Grand Canyon to the other and back in one day is one of those things that most people don't do. There are many reasons for this (such as that most people are not insane), but as I am starting to think that I don't fall in the category of "most hikers", I was glad when Kevin organized this trip through the ODC. A friend from work, Mike Gorrilla, also joined me, and we arrived at the Grand Canyon around 7 pm on the Friday night. The smoke from the south California forest fires lingered almost the entire way to the park. We stopped for a dinner in a place called "We cook pizza and pasta", which, surprisingly, was a pizza and a pasta joint. Amy was already waiting at the campground. The campground next to us was being occupied by a south-bound R2R2R hiker, who after arriving at his half way point realized he would not be able to make it back. He thus constructed an emergency shelter from various branches, which he proceeded to burn throughout the night to stay warm.

We left the Bright Angel trailhead at 4:45 am. There were about 15 of us total. The trail to the river is quite smooth, and is also very gradual. It was built for mules, after all. Near the start of the trail we encountered a big horn sheep. Drinking water faucets are located every mile and a half for a good portion of the descent to the river, but some of them were already turned off this late in the season. The sun started coming out near the Indian Gardens campground, which is located on a large forested plateau. The morning was in a full swing by the time we reached the river. The cactus and various shrubs became the dominant plants down here.


The start: headlamps, moon light and one big horn sheep


Tom taking pictures as the first sunlight started hitting the canyon walls

Break for snackies. That's Yannick, Tom, Shirley, Kevin, Amy and Mike.


The bridge over the Colorado river

The Phantom Range

I think this shirt is making me look fat... 13.4 miles to the half way point.

After leaving the Phantom Ranch, the trail follows a gentle up slope for 9 miles, until the junction with the Roaring Creek trail. The scenery along this segment was quite pretty. There was plenty of water available, although the creek was inaccessible in many places due to a sharp drop off. I was down to a liter by the time we got to the bridge over the Roaring Creek, and so we pumped water there. Little did we know that there was a drinking water faucet located right across the bridge. Oh well, we carried the filter, so we may as well use it.

At one point the trail turned into a creek and so we took an alternate path through a swamp


Quite a spectacular scenery between the Phantom Ranch and the Cottonwood campground. The second picture is of the Rainbow Falls and the Manu Temple

A neat spider. Probably deadly poisonous...

View of the Roaring Springs, the start of the ascent to the North Rim.

The last 5 miles up the North Rim were quite steep, endless and really pretty. The trail criss-crosses a steep canyon, and in some places is cut directly into the canyon walls. The colors were truly spectacular. Near the top we noticed a little plume of smoke coming out of the forest on the east side of the rim. By the time we reached the trailhead, this little plume turned into one giant flaming inferno. A helicopter was circling the fire, but was not dropping any water on it. A notice of a planned controlled burn was posted at the trailhead. This controlled burn definitely appeared to be quite out of control!


The trail is pretty much carved into the canyon wall


A forest fire about 2 miles from the North Rim

Watch out! There is a crazy mule on the loose!


Alright, half way done! Just another 23 miles to go.

It took Mike and I 10 hours to make it to the North Rim. We were the last two to arrive there. We were not too far behind the others, as we crossed paths with the other groups near the summit. But the exhaustion and fatigue set in, and the second half took significantly longer. My feet were blistered, but the blisters did not bother me too much. The muscles were tight, but that was also quite manageable. The greatest difficulty turned out to be staying awake. The sun went down a long while before we made it back to the river. The trail wound its way through many twisty canyons before the Phantom Ranch finally appeared. Here we ran into Kevin, who was suffering from a bad knee pain. It looked like he injured his knee the same way I did on the Telecope Peak. Still, even with the injury, he managed to beat us to the finish.

Heading back from the North Rim

The Colorado river in the moonlight

The ascent back to the South Rim was quite an ordeal. Between Mike's achy feet and my inability to stay awake, our progress turned into a mile-an-hour crawl. The lights at the Bright Angel lodge indicated the remaining elevation gain, but the trail switch-backed too much to accurately gauge the remaining distance. I was quite dishearten when we came upon the "4.5 miles to the South Rim" sign at the Indian Cove. We reached the top around 2:45 am, 22 hours after setting off on this monster of a hike. The best time for our group was about 18.


Done! A late breakfast the "next" day in Cafe Tusayan.

Most of us wore trail-running shoes on this hike. The added ventilation prevented my feet from swelling up, but few times I came close to twisting my ankle. In the end, I think that ditching the boots was a smart decision. I went through quite a bit of water, despite very comfortable temperatures: it was about 40 at the rim in the middle of the night, and no warmer than 75 at the canyon floor during the day. It was quite overcast (or over-smoked?) so the sun did not bother us much. My daypack consisted of a light jacket (which I did not use), a light fleece, a hat, gloves, first aid stuff, three liters of water and a ton of food. I ended up eating about 4000 calories, much of which came in the form of various bars. Don't listen for a bit to the advertisements of great tasting energy bars. Even after such a long hike, energy bars were still hard to swallow. And yes, this includes the Cliff bar!