The night before our trek, I wrote some thoughts:
Tomorrow/in a few hours we traverse the Grand Canyon. A 48ish mile trek from South Rim, to North Rim, and back to South. Confusing weather will be both cold and comfortable. Snow/ice patches but mostly nice trail.
What am I thinking this adventures eve?
– I’m about to spend a solid and long day with a group of people who will be hard to leave at the end of this. A group of people I didn’t really know at all.
– I’m not sure how I got here. 1 month ago I had no plans of the Grand Canyon. Just a testament to great friends and opportunities. And just saying yes, and letting things happens.
Thank You Rochester Running Co!
We started at 4am going down the Bright Angel Trail. Starting in traction due to a solid covering of snow and ice until about 1.5 miles down. It was in the 30s. And expected warmer down in the canyon.
We planned on having two groups. A lead group, and slower group. Our fearless leader Greg was sticking in the back, and planned to be the last out of the canyon for the finish. I was sticking with the lead group. Greg and I each had Garmin Delorme’s in case of emergency.
Grand Canyon trails are not all that challenging. They are smooth and groomed. And starting on a down hill and switch backs is amazing. Once in the canyon – It’s basically an awesome trail run. With real bathrooms every few miles! and water. Got it pretty good there. I was tempted to stay forever and be a homeless canyon dweller.
Things changed as we got closer to the North Rim. We crossed the RedWall Bridge, and soon after were getting showered by little waterfalls (from snow melt). As well as crossing over a bunch of rock slide sites. Many places had the paths washed out, and we had to hop over little boulders.
Soon after we reach the Supai Tunnel. As we approached we start to see snow for the first time since the start. And immediately after going through the tunnel – we were trudging through snow.
We had heard there would be snow on the North Rim. But assumed the trail may be broken by the time we got there. It took us a few hours to get from this tunnel to the Rim. We found ourselves breaking trail and post holing up to our hips.
Our original plan was to turn around at 1pm – no matter where we were. We wanted to make sure we would finish this thing today. And also make sure were making safety a priority.
We kept looking at our watch. We were so close. 1pm passed. We saw the other half of our group still following. So we kept going. I had no idea we were the ones breaking trail, till I took the lead, and half my body was buried. 1:30PM passed. We had one switch back to go. But I was stuck in a hole, and called the turn around. This was stupid.
It was not worth this massive effort. And also frozen feet. We were there – we just didn’t touch the sign. It would have taken another 30 minutes to go .2 miles. At this point – it had taken us 10 hours to reach the North Rim.
Relieved to be heading back. But also slightly worried about the next 10 hours if my feet didn’t warm up.
I was too cold to get any photos in the deep snow. I wish I had some tho. It was a mix of epic, hilarious, and frustrating.
Our groups stayed together most of the day. Re-grouping when we needed water at Manzanita. It would be about 8 miles till the next water – and food at Phantom Ranch. We ran this whole section. I was impressed.
At Phantom Ranch we would be about 38 miles in. I was starving. But since we ran this last hour plus – I was not not coordinated enough to eat and run. I also knew we were getting real food at Phantom Ranch. What I didn’t know is that I would bonk hard.
I ate an apple and almond butter at Phantom Ranch. And that was it. We got water and headed off. Still running. I was in the lead group. Being the tail and Jen setting the pace up front.
I knew I was going to have trouble with this one last climb out of the canyon. And I started to lose them. I was dizzy, and tried to take salt tabs, and eat again. I panicked because I had the car key. I didn’t want them to finish and wait for me and stand around freezing at 12am.
I kept moving. Knowing Indian Garden would be coming up. And assuming they stopped for water or bathroom.
Thank god – They were there. I handed the car key over incase I couldn’t get my act together. We took off together again. But I was not recovered. I fell behind again.
It’s times like this I question things. But I couldn’t dwell too hard. I needed to get back in this group. What kind of leader ends up being the straggler?
I kept moving. I could always see there headlamps. Or hear there voices.
I passed the 3 mile rest house. Caught them at the 1.5 mile rest house. We put our traction back on, and took off for the home stretch. We knew we would go through 2 more tunnels. And counted down the half miles.
I was finally back. And we finished as a group. It was 11:58pm. We were all very chilled, and piled in the van and I drove us back to the lodge.
I turned around and went back to see group 2 finish.
They were only 30 minutes behind.
Pizza was waiting in our hotel room – Thanks to Katie our Media Coordinator. We sat around until 2am or so. Some people went straight to bed. Most of us were not hungry at all, just so sleep deprived.
Post ultra sleep was not great at usual. I was up at 5am. Made coffee and sat on the floor starting to pack – quietly making sure I didn’t wake up roomates. Usually sleep is something I care about. But not here. Not on trips like this. I’d rather spend every minute awake.
I’d rather still be in that canyon.
So that’s it. We worked for 20 hours to finish our little Grand Canyon (double) Traverse. Definitely slow due to ice at the start – and snow in the middle. But perfect conditions and temperatures the rest of the day!
- Breakneck Point Marathon in April
- 5k pizza challenge in May
- CUT 112 mile May 31st – June 2nd
- Italian Dolomites in July (75 mile traverse of Alta Via 1)
- Twisted Branch 100k in August
- A long list of other adventures in between!