This past weekend, a few members of the Trail Runners Club and I embarked on an epic run across the Grand Canyon. This is commonly referred to as 'Rim-to-Rim' run, as in the North Rim to the South Rim, or vice versa.
In our case, we did the former starting at approximately 8,250 ft of the North Rim trail (where it was chilly with still a bit of snow), descending rapidly down a series of switchbacks and warming up a bit more the further we dropped. We passed a lot of hikers along this route (not to mention throughout the day) and most were kind enough to let us pass. All smiles and unable to put our cameras away, we spent a good deal of time snapping away the more our path came into view from the bay of the canyon we were climbing down and out from.
At the start.
Still some snow at the top.
Taking a pitstop for photos.
A fella can get used to this.
On the descent down.
A stop at Roaring Springs to top off our bottles and grab a quick bite, we again continued on North Kaibab Trail as the canyon continued to open up for us. It was further along this trail when my right foot caught a rock and I took a less-than-graceful spill. Fortunately, my water bottle absorbed the brunt of the fall and the only damage were these tiny, dried thorny leaves that covered the left side of my body.
Flattening out a bit.
Glancing back at the North Kaibab Trail.
Adam and Liz.
We were still descending but at a much more gradual rate and after passing through Cottonwood Campground, we hit a short detour in the road that led us to Ribbon Falls. Spent a bit of time hanging out, taking pics and then we came back out to the main trail and waited for others.
Once we took off again, fellow runner Art and I broke ahead from the pack and picked up the pace a bit. With him leading and me right on this heels, we ran in unison and mostly in silence as we entered a windy gorge where we ran alongside a small river, crossing a few bridges from one side to another.
After about 13-14 miles of running, we came upon Phantom Ranch where we ended up breaking for close to an hour waiting for others to catch up and to down some freshly made lemonade that the store there was selling. While I was eager to get going after a few minutes, I relished the camaraderie and the realization that it could be awhile before I end up where I was again. So I just took everything in, took my time refueling and mingled with some other hikers/runners before it was time to hit the trail again.
Taking a break at Phantom Ranch.
This final stretch (about 10 miles) to our end destination - the South Rim - I mostly stuck to myself as I wanted to mentally get myself engaged on the hardest part of our day. The thousands of feet of climbing as I'd come to find out, was no joke and probably the hardest stretch of trail I've ever run/climbed.
After Phantom Ranch, we hit the Colorado River and the huge suspension bridge to get us to the other side. This would be the lowest point of the rim-to-rim run at approximately 2,400 ft and all that remained were miles of up. There are two ways to get up to the South Rim: 1) Bright Angel Trail and 2) South Kaibab. We took the first one as it had more water stops along the way, although I believe it's the longer of the two.
The Colorado River.
The last significant rest stop was at Indian Gardens Campground at 3,800 ft and from here, it is 4.5 miles and 3,000+ ft of climbing up to the top of South Rim. And I'm not gonna lie - this part was hell. Pure hell.
Temperature at Indian Gardens.
3,000+ ft of climbing to look forward to.
The switchbacks became steeper and steeper and were seemingly unending. There was little to no running from here on out and it was just one foot in front of the other and sucking air during the death march. I saw many casualties (hikers and runners alike) sitting off on various shady parts of the trail trying to regroup and find strength to keep going.
Feeling strong early on in the climb (it didn't last).
Evil, steep, unending switchbacks.
A full view of the trail up to the South Rim.
Thankfully on Bright Angel Trail, there were several points to stop and fill up with water. I have to say, mentally I wasn't quite prepared for just how much climbing there would be. I ended up joining the list of weary hikers along the side of the trail at a couple of points to get my wits about me before proceeding. Finally/mercifully, I reached the top (after some 24+ miles) where it was windy and cold once again. I immediately went to the shuttle area to go to my lodge where all I wanted to do was eat, shower and sleep.
But all in all, it was a great day and truly an experience I'd recommend to any adventurous soul who wants to do an epic run in one of the most beautiful places on earth. And who knows, maybe I'll come back to do a Rim-to-Rim-to-Rim one day. Maybe.