Sunday, April 8, 2012

Grand Canyon Trek 2012

Hermit-Tonto-Bright Angel Loop
Grand Canyon National Park
Mileage - 24.6
Time - 8:33
AEG - 6632ft

Easter Weekend was around the corner, so I pitched the idea of returning to the Grand Canyon to Bob and Mark, hopefully to re-create some of the fun we had last year hiking up North. Mark had to pass on this one, Bob on the other hand, didn't hesitate for a second. The only question was "what route do we take?" I have been trying to complete a double crossing of the canyon (also referred to as a Rim to Rim to Rim, or Rim-cubed) for the past few years now, and have had to cancel last minute for a number of reasons including inclement weather, a sprained ankle, logistical issues, and this weekend presented a new hang up. A water line broke leaving Phantom Ranch without water, creating a huge obstacle for a 42-mile run across the canyon. Without the ability to filter and treat water from the Colorado river, it wouldn't be possible to run and carry enough of the precious liquid to make it from the South Rim to the North Rim and back.

I was certainly disappointed by the set back, although, this presented an opportunity to explore a new section of the Grand Canyon. I researched maps and trail descriptions and came up with a loop hike connecting the Hermit Trail to Bright Angel via Tonto Trail that would total almost 25 miles, and give us nearly 7,000ft of total climbing. A shuttle bus is required to reach the Hermit trailhead (Hermit's Rest pictured top right), so we had to factor in those details, along with what time to wake up and where to park. The hike was set for Saturday, so upon our arrival Friday night, we got a closer look at the park layout and how all these pieces were going to fall into place. Everything worked out perfectly.

We woke up to a bitter cold morning... 18 degrees at Mather Campround, and got moving fairly quickly. After breakfast Bob and I drove over to the Bright Angel Trailhead where our trek would be ending, and caught the bus over to Hermit's Rest. The thirty minute ride was certainly interesting, and watching the sun come up over the canyon was a real treat. Our hike began promptly at 6:30am descending the Hermit trail in route to the Tonto. I started off with 5 layers of clothing and was down to a t-shirt and shorts within a couple miles. The Hermit Trail showed little signs of life until we neared the main intersection as backpackers were beginning their ascent out of the canyon. Carrying only a daypack, the two of us were often asked; "Where are you guys headed?" When our answer was given, the response was usually similar. "In one day?" most people asked, as this is mainly a backpacking route. In their defense, I wouldn't be lugging a huge pack across that many miles in one day either!

The trek continued. On, and on, and on we hiked across the Tonto. A rolling 12 mile section is what separated the Hermit and Bright Angel trails, as the miles added up, so did the fatigue. By the time we reached Indian Gardens at mile 19 (marking the end of the Tonto, pictured below), we were pretty tired. The Tonto trail offered great scenery, incredible views of the river, and enough variety to keep it interesting over the course of a few hours. The highlight for me was the hair-raising section of trail just a few feet from a 1000-foot drop into the river! A water stop at Indian Gardens would be our last real "break" before grinding out the last 5 miles (and 3,000 feet of vertical gain) to escape the canyon. Bob picked up the pace and we cruised along past all the toursits still making their way down. Besides the changes in rock color of the canyon walls, the best way to tell you're near the top is when you start seeing people hiking in jeans, sandals, and usually carrying little or no water. The trek was over just after 3:00pm, even though I was physically beat, it was sad to end another adventure below the rim. I guess I'll just have to go back up there soon. Perhaps this time for a double crossing!

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