Grand Canyon Rim-to-Rim Hike

After convocation came and went, and real life is almost upon me, I decided I needed one last adventure. Over brunch I pitched the idea of a road trip from the Grand Canyon to Salt Lake City and two weeks later here we are. Caiti, Kayley, ELai, and I flew through JFK and into Phoenix. Of course the trip wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t run into someone I know–my Canada U20 teammate’s dad happened to be behind me in line at the rental car office. We headed North through Sedona based on recommendations we received, and we weren’t disappointed by the gorgeous rock formations surrounding the small town.
It was  6PM by the time we arrived at our campground on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. We actively avoided catching a peek of the canyon to save the big reveal for the next morning. Thanks to the only one of us that could have passed as a Girl Guide–Caiti, no time was wasted setting up camp, making dinner, and hitting the sheets to prepare for a big 48 hours ahead.

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We were up at 5AM to catch a shuttle to the South Kaibab Trailhead. Before getting started we took a couple minutes to soak in the incredible views from the top of the canyon. It was around 7AM when we finally hit the trail and began our journey to phantom ranch. The entire trail was extremely picturesque–it felt as though the view kept getting better around every corner. It was hard not to turn every water break into a full-blown photo shoot. 7 miles and 4.5 hours later, we reached the Colorado River around 11:30AM. In the last hour and half of the hike, the heat made it easy to see why hiking between 10AM-4PM in the canyon  is not recommended.

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When we arrived at Phantom Ranch we were all quite happy to remain indoors and out of the sun until at least 4PM. Party animals that we are, we were fast asleep by 8 in order to wake up for our 4:30AM departure.We set off for the North Rim via the North Kaibab trail. We hiked in darkness with our headlamps on for the first 40 minutes through what is known as “the box”–a narrow passage that traps the heat so well that we were hot in tank tops at 5 in the morning.The North side of the canyon is far less popular and we did not see any other people for the first 3.5 hours. The first half of the 14 mile trail is mostly flat and we made it to the halfway marker around 7AM. At that point we took a little detour to visit Ribbon Falls–the canyon’s most well-known waterfall. From Cottonwood Campground (halfway) to the rim it was quite literally only uphill. It wasn’t until we were in the canyon that we realized how ambitious our hiking route was compared to most. Apparently not every weekend warrior is up to hiking 21 miles in 36 hours. Not to mention our schedule didn’t allow for much dilly-dallying, as we were catching shuttle back to the South Rim.

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We experienced a range of emotions throughout the second half of the trail as we encountered other hikers–some were encouraging, but most were quite skeptical of our ambitious timetable. This only fuelled the fire and resulted in Kayley leading the way with a pace that felt more like a sprint.It was hard to imagine how different the North Kaibab Trail could be from the South; however, we could not have been more wrong. The greater latitudinal distance covered on the North trail provides amazing scenic variety. This was perhaps the only thing that got us to the top, on time and without collapsing. The second half of the trail was comparable to the Summit Day hike of Kilimanjaro in physical difficulty.

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The feeling of sitting down in the bus and crushing a bag of chips and a beer was pure bliss after 9 hours of hiking. Just as we finished commending ourselves for our impressive efforts, we began chatting to two guys on our bus who had left at 3AM from the South Rim and beat us to the top. One man was turning 50 this year and they will return in October to complete a “rim-to-rim-to-rim” hike in one day. That means they will hike what we did over two days TWICE in approximately 21 hours. Apparently the record is 7 hours and change–a humbling reminder that we are mere mortals.

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“It always seems impossible until it’s done.”

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