On Saturday, April 23, I had the opportunity to once again do the Grand Canyon double crossing. This was my 4th Rim to Rim to Rim in as many years, but this adventure run never gets old. I have always descended the South Kaibab but on the return ascend the Bright Angel if only to see a different trail, one that is a few miles longer but with more shade and lots of water. Having never climbed up the South Kaibab before, this year I elected to do that trail both ways.
Chris had a work gig in Durango, and since we were driving, decided to squeeze in a R2R2R. With hardly more than a week's lead time, there was little time for planning, but spontaneous adventures are the best kinds anyway! Being Easter weekend, every room on the South Rim had been booked well in advance. I called a couple of times for last-minute cancellations without any luck. Mather Campground it would be.
Another twist this year was that we waited for light before starting; other times I've started around 4 a.m.in order to both watch the sun rise over the Canyon and to have plenty of time to complete the trek. I have never been able to post a fast time on the R2R2R, partly because I find the surrounding so incredibly awesome and have to stop and gawk, oh, about every 5 minutes. (That's my story and I'm stickin' to it.)
Chris joined me for the descent and is the reason there are photos... to the River at least. 5:10 a.m. and we're off... by the looks of my eyes not really awake yet, however.
Soft early morning light with interesting cloud cover that would hang over the Canyon all day. This made for perfect conditions. I don't think it got much above 70 degrees in the inner Canyon.
Crazy switchbacks leading down the South Kaibab...
Spring flowers in full bloom. I have no idea what these are, but they were on one particular stretch about halfway down the South Kaibab. The prickly pear cacti were starting to come out, too. Very lovely. :)
I will find this trail a bit more challenging in about 9 hours...
...especially on the crazy switchback sections. (That's me standing down there on the corner waiting for Ansel Adams to catch up.)
About a half mile above the River, 3 runners came *flying* down the trail from above. Turns out it was Darcy Africa, her husband Bob, and their friend Dan. Darcy went on to crush the 4-day-old women's record (or FKT) for the R2R2R, finishing in 8:25!! I think we may have cost Darcy about 10 seconds because she stopped to give Chris and me each a hug as we wished her well.
We finally reached the River and Phantom Ranch after a leisurely 2 hours. Chris and I parted ways - he (and the camera) up the Bright Angel and me continuing up the North Kaibab solo. There were about a dozen runners doing the double crossing this day. I made good time to Roaring Springs (last water), then continued power walking up to the North Rim. About 1/4 mile above the bridge, Darcy & Co. came screaming down the trail. No hugs this time - they were on a mission!! The North Rim was snowy and cold, so I stuck around only long enough to throw away my garbage.
Upon reaching Roaring Springs for the second time, I caught up to two other runners who were refilling their bottles. I'd met them near the top and thought they looked somewhat familiar. Then again, I find that most runners look "familiar" to me. Turns out, though, that I'd met one of the guys, Mike Frazier, on my fastpack of the Long Trail last summer. He and his bro Dave were thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail southbound, and we had met on the flanks of Killington Peak... and here our paths crossed again. Wicked cool! The other guy, Phil Turk, is also an AT thru-hiker (!) from the Class of 2005 and put up an awesome video on his blog. Mike, Phil, and I ran most of the way back down to Phantom Ranch together before parting company as they ascended Bright Angel.
The climb back up South Kaibab was a butt kicker and I power walked 95% of it. I was thankful for the cloud cover and cool temps since there is no water on the entire 7-mile stretch. Along the way I encountered many backpackers carrying huge packs thinking wow, they are going to s-u-f-f-e-r climbing out of here. Of all the hiking trails that I can think of, the South Kaibab and Bright Angel Trails have probably seen more suffering than any other. (Only other one I can think of that might come close is the Amicalola Falls/AT approach trail to Springer Mountain.)
With 1.5 miles to go, a man and his teenage son kept me entertained by trying to race me back up to the Rim. The son would run as hard as he could, then plop down on a rock to catch his breath. Dad was better at pacing, but it became patently clear that there were some testosterone issues going on here, and they DID NOT want to be passed by a woman. Oh well. They should be thankful that, after much back and forth, when I passed them for good, I didn't tell them how many miles I'd done. Heh, heh...
Chris was waiting at the trailhead and took a couple of finishing shots. Final time was 11:50, 5:10 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. My times are getting faster, but there is still SO much to stop and look at!
*One last thing I want to say is that I wore my Salomon Speedcross II's which have been my favorite trail runners for the past couple of years (fave running shoes ever, actually) and which I run in almost exclusively. I LOVE these shoes and can't say enough about them. I suffered no blisters or foot issues at all and never had to stop to fiddle with my feet, socks, etc. (Dirty Girl gaiters helped keep the dirt out.) As far as my feet went, I could've turned around and done another R2R2R (hmm... there's a thought...); the legs had other ideas involving a shower and sleeping bag.