Grand Canyon Recap
This is just a little recap of a Rim to Rim run I did a couple weeks ago. I did it for the same reason I’m doing this Badwater Project: the love of a challenge, I’m always seeking new and vibrant experiences, and a very high tolerance for pain and suffering. This trip was just South Rim to North Rim, I wanted to do the full version - Rim to Rim to Rim, but my partner wasn’t down for that big of a bite (yet). I wanted company on my first experience below the rim so we compromised and just did one direction.
We started running at 4:20 am, after a stunning sunset the night prior. The temps were forecast to be in the 90’s during the day, so we were trying to move as many miles as we could early on before that sun hit us like a big, hot brick that we all know and love. Like I mentioned, I’ve never been below the rim, so every step was a wonder for me. Bright Angel trail was largely empty that early on a Sunday, except for backpackers coming up, and they already looked beat down, carrying all that backpacking weight. I almost felt bad for only wearing running shorts, Orange Mud Running Performance ¼ zip for warmth and the Adventure Pack for carrying my calories, camera, cookies and a little extra crap.
Sunset the night before had a good overview of the route. Down Bright Angel to see sunrise at Plateau Point. Then back to Bright Angel to North Kaibab and all the way up to the North Rim
I took over 200 pictures in the canyon; I couldn’t stop myself. This was one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been to. I stopped so often that I was having trouble keeping up with my running partner for the first half of the day. We planned to hit up Plateau Point to see the sunrise over the Colorado River. We missed it by minutes, but that didn’t lessen the spectacle at all. Running down Bright Angel to the sights of sunrise will be one of those memories that sticks with me for the rest of my life.
After that spectacular sunrise, we dropped the rest of the way to the bottom of the canyon and finally got to touch and taste the Colorado. We crossed the Silver Bridge and stopped at the Phantom Ranch canteen. We took a little break here, I sent out some postcards that were delivered by mule and demolished a bag of chips. By then, it was ninety degrees and we had 14 miles of increasingly uphill trail to go.
We took advantage of few remaining bits of shade in the depths of the canyon there and we ran. One of my weaknesses is transitions, rolling hills where you quickly change gears from up to down or flat isn’t what I’m best at. Give me a hill to grind up for an hour, or a downhill to bomb and I’m happy. But changing gears from up to bomb is a definite weakness and the miles after Phantom sort of roll uphill and reminded me of that. Those rollers, plus the heat and the cumulative miles made this next nine miles some of the roughest of the day for me.
But the next detour we had planned was worth it. We stopped at Ribbon Falls, I dipped and dunked and climbed in the small cave under the waterfall, climbed up to the top of the fall and generally just didn’t want to leave. It was probably twenty degrees cooler in that little grotto. It was beautiful, it was worth the time we spent there and I can’t wait to get back.
My running partner wasn’t quite as enamored of the time I was spending there and we eventually compromised by leaving. We kept going, my legs felt fresh, my feet felt clean and my heart felt full. The rolling hills were starting to mold into one longer uphill stretch and I was ready to crush the remains of the trail.
Like I said, I’m a decent climber once the climb is on. After Ribbon Falls, the climb just gets harder and steeper and I’m getting back into my element. My partner and I parted ways since he’s more of a flat & fast guy. Those last few miles going uphill past Manzanita are relentlessly steep, and I loved every bit of that uphill grunt.
Nine hours after we started, I was at the North Kaibab trailhead. I waited awhile for my partner and I was already fiending to go back and do the entire thing, Rim to Rim to Rim. This was a perfect little scouting run, the side trips to Plateau and Ribbon were great and I wasn’t stressed for time or really pushing for anything in particular (as evidenced by fact it took 9 hours to cross one way).
I plan on doing the full R2R2R in mid October, temperatures should be a little more temperate than they were this time. This run is also going to be the perfect capstone to my training block as I wrap up training for the Badwater project in October. In fact the stats should wind up being remarkably similar. Over 10k feet of gain and over 40 miles in each event, though the grade here is gentler and the climb is split into two halves, one at each end of the canyon. Whereas with Badwater, the entire climb is one massive mountain in the middle of the route. I’ll be interested in seeing which one is harder once they’re both done.
If you’ve never been, go. If you have been, go again. If you’re going in October, maybe I’ll see you there.