Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Rim to Rim to Rim Grand Canyon 50 Mile Day Hike

I had been talking with my good friend Dave Martin last fall in hunting camp about a hike he does in the Grand Canyon.  The group starts on the South Rim and hikes across to the North Rim and turns around and hikes back to the top of the South Rim all in one day (R2R2R).  Anything longer than 24hrs is considered just a two day hike in the Grand Canyon.  I have never done any really long hikes, marathons or anything like that but this trip sounded like something I wanted to take on.  I have lived in Arizona my whole life (35+ years) and have never been to the bottom of the Grand Canyon.  I have looked off of both rims but had never dropped off the top.  I made my mind up this was something I wanted to do and started training after hunting season was over on February 1st. 

I kept a log of my runs and hikes over the 3 months leading up to the trip.  My total was 215 miles.  I did two 20 miles hikes and a 30 mile hike.  Most weeks I would get in 20-25 miles for the week.  I had two hard training weeks where I was able to get in 40+ miles for the week.  All the training helped but nothing can prepare your body for a 50 mile hike with 20,000 + feet in elevation changes.

Here is my recap of the R2R2R

We all met inTusayan on the afternoon of April 29, 2011.  We got checked into the hotel and headed down to the conference room for a trip meeting.  The crew from Wilderness Athlete, Outdoorsmans & Western Hunter Magazine were there to give guidance and support for the hike.  Special thanks to Floyd Green, Chris Denham, Julie May, Coach Mark Paulsen and Jerod Fink for all the products, support and time you put into helping with this hike.  We all really appreciate everything you did.  Dave Martin started the meeting off by saying that he turned 50 last fall and he wanted to do a 50 mile hike while he is 50 years young.  The route they normally take is around 47 miles so Dave wanted to add another 3 miles to total 50 miles.  Nobody objected to much so the plan was set.  We planned to start hiking a little after midnight.  I left the meeting and headed to dinner.  After a quick dinner I loaded my backpack and laid out my clothes.  I got into bed at around 7:30 pm and tried to go to sleep.  My mind was racing even though I was very tired.  I finally fell asleep just before 10:00 pm and my alarm woke me from a deep sleep at 11:00 pm.  I ate a banana and a Wilderness Athlete Bar and drank some Hydrate & Recover mixed with Energy & Focus.  We loaded into the vehicles and headed to the Bright Angel Trail head.  We got to the Trail head a little after midnight and snapped a couple of pictures before starting down the South Rim at 12:30 pm.
Dave Martin giving his sales pitch for the extra 3 miles

Wilderness Athlete Goodies
The Wilderness Athlete Crew provided packs, hats, bars, gels, drink mixes and shirts for the hike.  Thank you!

Wilderness Athlete Founder Mark Paulsen jokes with Jeff Martin about his dye job.

Loading the essentials in my pack

Tony Leek, Jay Lopeman and I waiting in front of the hotel for our ride to the trail head

The R2R2R crew ready to get the trip started.

We started down the Bright Angel Trail at about 12:30 pm.  The dust was pretty bad for the first leg down to Indian Gardens.  I wore my headlamp and Kuiu neck gator pulled up over my nose and mouth to help with the dust.  Our first stop was Indian Gardens to fill up our water bottles.  After a quick fill up we headed across the East Tonto Trail over to the Kaibab Trail.  Once we reached the Kaibab Trail we turned towards Phantom Ranch. 

Quick water stop at Indian Gardens

Tunnel before Phantom Ranch
Bridge Crossing the Colorado River
We crossed the bridge over the Colorado River and could hear the roar of the water below.  Our next stop was at Phantom Ranch.  We arrived at Phantom Ranch at around 4:20 am.  We filled our water bottles and snacked.  We rested and ate for 15 minutes or so before hitting the trail again.  It was still dark as we left Phantom Ranch headed into a box canyon along Bright Angel Creek.  This part of the trail was relatively flat and we had around 7-8 miles to our next stop.  It was nice to be walking on a flat surface instead of going down hill.  As we broke out of the box canyon before Ribbon Falls it started to get light and I took off my headlamp.  We passed Ribbon Falls and Cottonwood Campground without stopping.  We stopped just before Roaring Springs to fill our water bottles, rest and grab a quick bite to eat before starting the long trek up the North Rim.
Water, Food & Rest at Phantom Ranch

Almost to Ribbon Falls

Looking back to the South Rim with no zoom

Looking back towards the South Rim zoomed in

Ribbon Falls

More water, rest & food just before Roaring Springs.  Next stop North Rim.

Jeff Martin filling up for the push up the North Rim

Starting the uphill climb to the North Rim

Roaring Springs

We started climbing uphill towards the North Rim.  Shortly after climbing out of the bottom we passed Roaring Springs.  The sight of the water rushing out of the rock face was amazing.  The climb from Roaring Springs through the Supai Tunnel was very beautiful and all uphill.  We reached the Supai Tunnel and had a couple more hard miles before reaching the North Rim.  I was feeling pretty good at this point.  I ate a Wilderness Athlete Gel at the tunnel to help get me to the top.  The last two miles seemed to take forever.

On the bridge before the Supai Tunnel

Richard Stewart & Dave Martin are all smiles headed up the North Rim.

Supai Tunnel

Looking back at the South Rim in front of the snow covered San Francisco Peaks.

Rest, water & food at the North Rim.

9.5 hours into the R2R2R we reach the North Rim.

Happy to be at the North Rim
We reached the top of the North Rim just after 10:00 am.  It took us around 9.5 hours to go around 26 miles and reach the North Rim.  We took some pictures, rested and ate.  We stayed at the North Rim for 15-20 minutes before starting the journey back to the South Rim.  I felt really good at this point and was ready for some downhill.  We strapped on our packs and started back to the South Rim.

Myself, Richard Stewart, Jeff Martin & Jacob Brown pose for a quick picture on the way down from the North Rim.

Supai Tunnel

Roaring Springs

We moved quickly down the North Rim stopping again by Roaring Springs for water, food and rest.  We made it back to Phantom Ranch around 3:00pm.  I sat down and rested and fueled my body.  My right ankle was really starting to hurt.  After sitting down for about ten minutes I got up to fill my water bladder and I was so stiff I could barely walk.  The guys were laughing at the way I was walking around.  I got some funny looks from some of the people staying at Phantom Ranch.  I am sure most of the people looking at me funny rode the mules to the bottom and had no idea how far we had come already and how far we still had left to go.  We packed up and started moving again towards the Colorado River.
Phantom Ranch

Bright Angel Creek

Our first look at the mighty Colorado River in the day light.

Crossing the Colorado River on the suspension bridge.

Our last look at the Colorado River before the climb to Indian Gardens.
We crossed the river on the suspension bridge.  The temperature was around 60 degrees as we started the climb out of the canyon towards Indian Gardens.  The climb up to Indian Gardens seemed to take a long time.  I just kept my head down and kept walking one step at a time.  My right ankle was really starting to hurt with every step.  We finally reached Indian Gardens.  I ate a Peanut Butter & Jelly sandwich, Wilderness Athlete Gel and popped 3 more Advil.  I filled my water bladder and tried to get my body moving again.  We left Indian Gardens and headed up the last 5 miles to the top of the South Rim.

The log and rock steps the last four miles were very hard to deal with.  The steps can be 12-18 inches tall and are spread out farther than you can step.  My ankle was really hurting and I would go around the steps whenever possible.  I usually walk 3-3.5 miles per hour.  Going up the South Rim it seemed like I was moving at a snails pace of 1 mile per hour.  I kept my head down and used my trekking poles as much as I could to help me climb up the South Rim.  Just as the sun set I reached a great view point looking back towards the North Rim and was able to take one last picture before it got dark.
Last picture before the sun went down looking at the North Rim in the distance.
Richard Stewart and I kept our heads down and pushed towards the top.  We reached one tunnel, then another.  Soon we could see the lights at the top of the South Rim.  We reached the top at 8:10 pm and snapped a couple of pictures at the Bright Angel Trail head sign.  Shortly after taking a couple of pictures my body began shivering from total exhaustion and being cold.  We quickly got into Dave Martin's truck with the heater on.  We made it!  We headed to Wendy's for some food then back to the hotel for some much needed rest.  The R2R2R hike was one of the hardest things I have done in my life.  I never once thought I was not going to complete the hike but it was very physically & mentally draining.  Our R2R2R hike lasted 19 hours and 40 minutes.
Back at the South Rim 19 hours and 40 minutes later.

The morning after breakfast.  10 of us completed the R2R2R and others hiked to Phantom Ranch and back.

Sweaty Wilderness Athlete hat from a long day.
 I  will be losing a few toe nails in the next few days.

Trip Notes
50 Miles in 19 Hours & 40 Minutes

 I want to thank my wife and family for putting up with my late night runs and weekend hikes trying to get in shape for the R2R2R.  Don't attempt the R2R2R without careful consideration.  The group I went with has done this trip many times and their knowledge and expertise played a major part in the success of our trip.  Thank you Dave Martin for letting me tag along on an adventure of a life time.  The sick thing is I am already thinking about next year and I still can't walk normally!  I kept track of the food that I ate and the calories I consumed during the R2R2R.  Total Calories 4,151
  • Peanut Butter & Honey Bagel with 2 strips of bacon  (670)
  • Peanut Butter & Jelly Sandwich   (400)
  • Romen Noodles    (300)
  • 2 Hard Boiled Eggs   (140)
  • 2 Wilderness Athlete Bars   (380)
  • Small Bean & Cheese Burrito  (225)
  • Bag of Wheat Thins   (200)
  • 3 Mini Snickers Bars  (240)
  • 3 Mini Twix Bars  (240)
  • 4 Wilderness Athlete Gels  (360)
  • Nature Valley Fruit & Nut Bar  (140)
  • 2 Packages Crystal Light drink mix  (60)
  • Cashew Nuts  (160)
  • Peanut M&Ms  (220)
  • Beef Jerky  (70)
  • 2 Wilderness Athlete Hydrate & Recover Packages (80)
  • 1.5 Packages GU Brew  (210)
  • 1 Cliff Shot Block  (33)
  • .5 Wilderness Athlete Energy & Focus Package  (23)

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