Sunday, November 16, 2014

Rim to Rim to Rim

South Kaibab to North Kaibab to South Kaibab
Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
Mileage - 43, Elevation Gain - 10,800 ft
Total Time - 9:59, Moving Time 9:13

My buddy Arrick has been asking me about doing the double crossing for the past year and we finally pulled it off on Saturday. We were anticipating really cold temperatures and the possibility of ice on the trail with an overnight thunderstorm. Neither of that happened and we enjoyed near perfect conditions for a hike/run of this magnitude.

We parked down the road at a small lot about a half mile from the actual South Kaibab trailhead and ran in to warm up. We dropped into the dark abyss at 5:45am and picked up speed as a little bit of daylight made the trail more visible. We topped off our bottles at Phantom Ranch and cruised across the bottom of the canyon. The lighting and clouds hovering around the North rim were spectacular and the air was crisp. We were pumped up and made good time to the N. Kaibab trailhead (4:25 moving time). We took a break, rearranged our gear and began discussing the strategy to finish in under 10 hours. Even though we had a goal in mind, it didn't keep us from having a little fun on the trail.

Easy miles at the bottom of the canyon
Now it was time to begin the stretch we had been waiting for, the 14 mile section from the North Rim to Phantom Ranch. Roughly 8 of those miles were smooth trail along a creek at the bottom of the canyon. Arrick led the way and we ran at a steady, sub 8-minute mile pace. It was nice to reach Phantom Ranch to clean up and cool down before the climb out South Kaibab. I filled two bottles for those final 7.5 miles and we took off. I think we were confident we would make good time going uphill, that wasn't the case.  The pace was slow, slower than I would've guessed. I think the combination of fatigue and the steepness of South Kaibab prevented us from running. Well, that is until we realized how close we were to the 10-hour mark on the final switchbacks. Down to the minute, even seconds for me, Arrick and I tried to run to beat the clock and we did it! This may be a one and done, not because it was such a challenging trek, but because it went so well. That's how I want to associate my experience with a rim to rim to rim.

Arrick running near the Colorado River
These are a few lessons I learned on the trail: One of my biggest fears is being unprepared for an emergency on the trail, but I was way over-packed. The extra weight caused strain on my shoulders and neck from my pack. Eat more and drink more, especially during the downhills. I started to crash on the final miles up South Kaibab. Don't underestimate South Kaibab. It's steep and relentless.

Arrick leading the way up N. Kaibab
Early miles heading down S. Kaibab

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