Grand Canyon Rim2Rim2Rim May 7th, 2011
Since I find the typical run/race reports TOO long and TOO informative, this recount will be for resource purposes only for those contemplating repeating the feat… myself included. This “unofficial” run was nothing more than 50 close running buddies meeting up and “Doing the damn thing”… some of which flew/rode together(others not), representing the communities of Austin, San Antonio, Houston, DFW, and even other states like California. In the hiker’s realm, R2R2R is considered THE “must do”… although it usually encompasses 3-4 days of camping, where our ultra trailrunning tribe was attempting to do it all in one.
Before I recap the days events through my eyes, I need to stress a few points about the “Big Hole”.
- “Going down is optional, going up is mandatory”. This was the quote of the day seen on several signs along Bright Angel as you will later see in my report. You MUST NOT underestimate/disrespect the canyon… aka “Reverse Mountaineering”. Many people die here every year… prompting our purchase of the book “Death in the Canyon”… the stories are incredible about this natural wonder… especially the suicides, although I recommend reading it after your run.
- Unsupported runs are much more difficult than races with aid stations. The weight of the pack, the lack of cold fluids, the long stretches between watering holes all increases the “hard-factor” of this run.
- The canyon is dry and HOT… F’ing HOT… and cold at night. It is difficult to plan for optimum comfort without carrying a pack weighing 30+ lbs.
- The climbs are BIG and unrelenting. Even though there is only around 11,000 feet of gain/loss, it all comes in 2 climbs. You are either bombing downhill for 2 hours straight, or you are hiking uphill for 4-5 hours straight. The only “flats” are between Phantom and Cottonwood. Prepare for trashed quads the next morning.
- There is no drop option. If you get in a bind, you MUST gut it out and finish. There is no trail-sweep to pick you up… no phone service… no motels. You either finish or pay for a $2000 chopper ride or a $800 mule ride out. Better check your ego before heading up the North Rim.
- Unless you hauled the gear, camping is NOT an option either in the canyon… scorpions, snakes, bats, cold, etc.
3am start – Conditions – low 50’s, windy.
My gear – MT100’s, shorts, T-shirt, 100oz hydration pack(empty), 2 water bottles(one filled w/ handheld), long sleeve shirt, light jacket, hat, sunscreen, glasses, turkey/cheese sandwich on raisinbread, 5 gels, 2 Clif bars, 2 packs of guacamole, PB sandwich, and salt. In hindsight, I should have brought more food (gels, etc.)
South rim to 1.5mile water bar (1.5 miles)– All down hill on mule trail with erosion posts. Dry, dusty, and riddled with mule shit. Water bar, no need to stop here.
1.5mi to 3mi WB (1.5miles…3mi total)– same terrain… fill 1 bottle here.
3mi WB to Indian gardens (1.5 miles… 4.5mi)– still cool… fill 2 bottles here.
Indian Gardens to Phantom Ranch (4.5miles… 9mi)– Lots of bats through here attracted to mine and Jo’s headlamps. Getting light about halfway to the river… beautiful cliffs, formations. Trail a bit more rocky… glad I wore my MT100’s. Reach the river about 2 hours after start. Beautiful. Precambrian granite 1.8billion years old. Deep beach-like sand bars from here to bridge. Phantom Ranch another ½ mile.
Phantom Ranch to Cottonwood (7.5miles… 17mi)- ~5hrs total. Filled both bottles. Getting warm…. `80’s. Slight uphill with some rollers, but runnable. All along the river with strikingly beautiful scenery, multiple bridges, and sacred Datura. Eat turkey sandwich at Cottonwood.
Cottonwood to North Rim (7mi… 24mi total)- Fill both bottles AND hydration pack… no water on North Rim… 14miles before next fill up. Getting hot 90’s at the bottom. Horrifically hard climb… no running here, just power-hiking. My partner struggling, I’m feeling good, so I carry their pack to the top. Roaring Springs… beautiful. Bridge marks about 1 ½ hrs left to top. Supai Tunnel marks about 30min left to top. Reach North Rim in 9hr 15min… about 3 hours of climbing. 60’s, snow(some of our group filled up their bottles with snow… I don’t recommend), and LOTS of biting flies. Eat sandwich, dump trash, take pics, and head down.
North Rim to Cottonwood (31mi total)– lots of easy running downhill. Temps around 100. Wind is ferocious at times… gusts upwards of 50mph my guess. Sit at Cottonwood, drink, eat, and recover for at least 15 minutes. Wet hat, fill hydration pack.
Cottonwood to Phantom Ranch (39miles)- Good running here to Phantom… slight downhill. Half shade, half sun. My partner now struggling with heat issues… she can’t eat. Sit and cool off about 5 minutes. Reach the Ranch at 13 hrs. Temp 112. Fill hydration pack.
Phantom Ranch to Indian Ranch – (43miles) Rinse feet in creek after sand bar. Big climb. Partner still struggling… can’t get her to eat because she is nauseated. Hit IG at 15 hours. I let her lie down and prop up her feet trying to get some blood to her stomach.
IG to 3 mi WB (45mi)- Getting dark. Have to let partner rest. She tells me she is going to sleep here tonight. :^) No chance, but I start getting worried I might have to carry her out. I try to let her sleep for 15 minutes, but we get cold and have to get moving again.
3mi WB to 1.5mi WB (47miles)– Pitch black now… lights from South Rim visible (tease) as are the lights of runners ahead of us… aka “Lucky Bastards” and the runners behind us… aka “Poor Bastards”. A struggle for survival now, as we are both weary and just want to be done. Jo still not eating. I resort to dumping our last gel in a water bottle to dilute hoping she could drink it for some calories. We start “seeing” mountain lion eyes and scorpions. I keep encouraging my partner only to get “We haven’t even got to the first tunnel, which means we aren’t even close!” :^)
1.5 mi WB to South Rim finish (48miles)– Again, in survival mode just needing to be at the top. Lot’s of stumbling, cussing, and whining :^). Jo is able to sip her bottle so she starts to come around and pick up her pace… she even passes me… maybe just a barn-sour mare??? We finally make it to the last tunnel indicating another 200 yards and we are done. At the top I feel like celebrating, but Jo won’t stop until we make it to the room… I have to beg for even a fist-bump. :^)
Done – We finish in 19hrs 24min with R2R2R checked off our list. We have a couple pieces of pizza and some beers and promptly pass out exhausted. The next day in Sedona, all of our posse are walking like a corn cob has made its way into a portion of our anatomy not meant for corn cobs. In retrospect, I see this is not like any other “50 mile race”… far more difficult and time consuming. All in all, an EPIC time.