Monday, October 27, 2014

The Grand Canyon: Hiking Rim-To-Rim-To-Rim

The beautiful and glorious Grand Canyon.  This post is nearly 6 months late (crud).  Alllllmost decided to give it up but simply couldn't- we learned so much on our hike and literally fell in love with the GC.

 So. Jan/Feb 2014 ish Aniko and I decide we are going to hike the Grand Canyon Rim-to-Rim.  Neither of us had ever been, despite living a mere 9 hours north. We start planning our hike out for the second week in May- the only week I have off between spring and summer semesters of grad school.  Planning goes pretty well til we discover that the north entrance isn't open until the WEEK after we plan to hike this sucker.  What. On. Earth.  I make a couple of phone calls to the backcountry office.  They're saved as "Grand Canyon" in my phone now- (928) 638-7875. We get ahold of Kyle (what a gem).  Totally saved our trip. 

 Long story short, we discover a few things: a) Grand Canyon allots their backcountry permits at the first of each year.  The process is super old school and entails a "first come first serve" application via faxing (smh). b) Grand Canyon allots X amount of same day permits.  So.  If you show up to the GC right when the backcountry office opens in the beginning of the day, they hand out these permits on a first come first serve basis.  Kyle informed me that best case scenario we'd receive passes and begin hiking the same day.  Worst case scenario we would wait for three days and then begin our hike. c) Unlike the January 1st permits, same day permits allow two nights maximum in the GC. Okay. d) Although the north rim was closed, we decided to be unstoppable and hike the whole thing rim-to-rim-to-rim.  A total of 45 miles and 13,000 feet in elevation gain and loss. In less than three days. 

Soooo after hanging out for a couple of days, snagging some backcountry permits, and gearing up, we were off at 5:00 a.m. on the 4th of May, 2014.  Who is the guy in the back? We don't know.

 Day one of hiking: South Kaibab trailhead to Phantom Ranch.  8 miles. 6,000 feet in elevation loss.  One brutally hot hiking day with spectacular views.  As we descended into the heart of the GC we were absolutely smitten!  Each step further down revealed a prettier and different view of the GC.

 Something we were unclear on when we planned this hike was the water situation.  Many online posts said to pack lots of water.  Others said to rely on the pipeline.  What we learned:  there indeed is a pipeline that runs the entire length of the Grand Canyon.  

South Kaibab did not have water on our descent, but from Phantom Ranch to North rim we had periodic access to water, spanning no more than 6/7 miles at most. To our delight, we also found that there is a water source for most of the rim-to-rim shebang.  Had the pipeline been broken (apparently often it does??) we would have been totally fine.  The pipeline was just so convenient, howevs, that we didn't treat water once for the duration of our stay.
 About half way to Phantom Ranch- first view of the Colorado River.  Such a beauty.

After a couple more hours of hiking, we finally reached Phantom Ranch.  We absolutely fell in love with this campground.  Campsites and cabins line the base of the GC alongside a pretty river.  A ranger station on the ranch provides informative presentations once or twice a day on interesting topics including wildlife in the GC, GC national park history, sedimentation and the formation of the GC, etc. etc. So awesome. To our absolute delight, also, there are flushing toilets (with tp) and sinks at the camp grounds. (Annnnnnn cabins, a restaurant, and lodge with outlets, food, and drinks for sale.  Kind of cheating? Yeah a little.  No worries- we kept it old school.)  Who would have thought? 

The squirrels can get malicious. 

Too much freeze dry. Hiking lite comes with a price. 

 Erika and Della.  GREATEST GC PARK RANGERS EVER.  These ladies have stories for miles that will make your jaw drop.  They were also super encouraging and friendly to me and Aniko. 
We loved them so much and hope to see them again!

Day two: Phantom Ranch to North Rim and back to Phantom Ranch.  Absolute butt kicker.  28 miles. 7,000 feet of elevation gain and loss. Met some incredibly fit peeps the day before that had done it, and described the final ascent as an "easy 5,000".  Thanks, pal.
Got up at the crack of dawn (4 ish) and were on our way. 

Not even 7:00 a.m. and we had been hiking in daylight for over two hours.  GC is quite the early riser. 

 Again.  Totally smitten as we uncovered the GC dimension by dimesion.  I'd venture to say that the ascent to the North Rim was my fav part of the hike.  Views that I almost hesitated to photograph because it simply doesn't come close. Our little friend WAS right-  easy 5,000.  Up until the last mile and a half, climbing up to the North Rim was super pleasant.  Cake.  Good times.
 After huffing and puffing up the final mile, we finally made it to the North Rim!  Such a glorious feeling.  Also kind of daunting when we came to the realization that we would have to hike back to the other side before the sun had set the next day. Verrrry subtle view of Mt. Humphreys in the background.

 Ko and I have our hiking to a science- greatest hiking partner in the world.   Love my adventures with this girl. #shokoandkoko #4ever #yo After resting for a good hour at the top (rehydrating, eating, running into two other hikers), we began our descent and made our way back to Phantom Ranch.

 Pretttttty pit stop (See.  I told you GC has water. A lot of it, too.) while Ko decides to spear a fish. We finally make it back to camp at 7 p.m.  14 hours out and about for our 28-mile day including our hour break.  Absolutely pooped by the time we hit our tents.  Side note: it is a hot an sweaty sleep down there.  Literally dunked my head in the river both nights just to cool myself down. In May, people.

Weird guy from the midwest that asked to share our campground with us after
acquiring an injury of some sort.  Get off our table, dude. 

 Day three: our two nights in GC are up and it's time to head out.  We decided to take the Bright Angel trail back to the South rim for a few reasons- water along the way, more gradual of an incline, car waiting for us at the backcountry office upon our arrival. 

 Our final stretch out of the GC was hands down the hardest part of the entire hike.  Bodies depleted of energy, muscles exhausted from the two prior days of hiking, we were totally BEAT.  Literally struggled the entire way out with an especially slow last mile and a half.  Couple thanks are in order.  THANK YOU to the chick who offered me peanuts just a mile before the trailhead. Your kind heart and packet of sodium literally saved my life.  THANK YOU to Mitchell Catling for the moral support and friendship towards me and Ko during that brutal last little stretch.  What a rockstar. 

Such a beauty.  So great to look back at the north rim and realize "we did that," despite the heat, lack of permit, and one mean lady in the backcountry office (not gonna mention names ahem) who told us we couldn't do it. Rim-to-rim-to-rim.  Absolute butt kicking experience that we wouldn't trade for the world. 

 R2r2r elevation profile.

After joyously jumping in the car and blasting the AC, we made our way to Flagstaff, officially our new fav town in AZ, and treated ourselves to a couple days in the Marriott. Met up with our fav ranger Erika and a few of her friends on our second night.  Great food. Great clan.

 Sometimes I forget that we also did Havasupai in that same week.  After resting up for a couple of days we drove to the res and hiked the 10 miles to the campground.  Sleeping under the stars was unbeatable.

Can't even contain myself- I love this photo.

The falls of Havasu were indeed glorious and PRETTY.  But we were tired and ready to go home.  Within less than 24 hours, our three day Havasu trip was cut to a day and a half (if that). 

 Hiked out mid-afternoon (goodness gracious it was HOTTTTT), hopped in the car, and drove back to SLC.  

Can't believe it took 24 years for me to make it down to the GC. No doubt one of the greatest and glorious hikes of my life.  Thanks to Teddy (Roosevelt) and Aniko for making this trip possible.  I will be back! 
With love, B.


emi said...

brooke this is AMAZING! you are the coolest. we ran rim-to-rim once, and it was insane. you go girl. love your tips for getting permits and the dude who slept on your camping table! xoxoxo

S Foster said...

love this. gorgeous photos! that guy on the table. bahahaha.

Sydnie said...

This looks amazing. I need to do it.

willivia said...

looks absolutely AMAZING! that's a trip i have wanted to do for forever!