Grand Canyon Rim to Rim Run
by: Brent Moody
The Grand Canyon – One of the most majestic National Parks in the world.
"In the Grand Canyon, Arizona has a natural wonder which is in kind absolutely unparalleled throughout the rest of the world. I want to ask you to keep this great wonder of nature as it now is. I hope you will not have a building of any kind, not a summer cottage, a hotel or anything else, to mar the wonderful grandeur, the sublimity, the great loneliness and beauty of the canyon. Leave it as it is. You cannot improve on it. The ages have been at work on it, and man can only mar it." – Theodore Roosevelt
Grand Canyon Fun Facts:
· Average Depth is 1 mile
· Narrows width of Grand Canyon is 600 yards to its widest of 18 miles
· Grand Canyon lengths strings along for around 275 miles
· There are 6 different kinds of rattlesnakes in the park
· Average of 12 people die per year, but 27 year to date in 2014
· Between 700 and 800 people a day attempt to cross The Grand Canyon
And a bunch of us nuts really got the nerve to attempt to run…yes RUN across the Canyon. WE actually found 5 of us total that had enough marbles to do this. I know when I was asked about 6 months ago if I wanted to run this I first said, “heck yes!” But, I know in my mind for a few months after, I was self talking saying “Brent, what did you do, you idiot! You really think you can do this?” The last time I was there was when I was 4 years old, I still remember this. My parents took my brother and I. I still remember driving from Nebraska to the “4 Corners” where 4 different US states corners touch. You can actually get on your hands and knees and be in Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona and Utah all at the same time, very cool. I remember as a kid getting close to the canyon, say 20-30 feet and being scared to death then! LOL. What would change now?
Well, it was time to start training for this. I had already started increasing my running mileage, as on our vagabond journeys, we have to exercise the dog. Hes a restless boy! I figured if I was able to get in about 20-30 miles a week and start building up my 1 long run per week, I should be good.
This Grand Canyon Rim to Rim run, starting from the South Rim and running to the North Rim is 22 miles across. Elevation start is about 7100ft. Run down 6 miles, roughly an 18% grade, then rollers at the bottom for 9 miles along the river, then trekking back up the other side, approx. 7 miles with 22% grades. Tops out at 8200 ft. That is enough to scare anyone, right?
The descent into the Grand Canyon (South Rim Kaibab Trail)
The climb out of the Grand Canyon (North Kaibab Trail)
The time had come so quickly, Saturday ,October 4th was the date. My wife and I was already in Phoenix, Az, so the drive up thru Flagstaff and the onto Grand Canyon was only about 3 hours. What a beauty of a drive, love FLAGSTAFF. High Desert area turning into Alpine, around 8000-9000 ft. I finally made it into the Grand Canyon Village..Oh my had it changed, at least what I remember since 40 years ago! The hotels were all booked, so thankfully we all booked months ago. Holiday Inn… $255 night! You have to be crazy, WOW! The Holiday Inn was the ghetto hotel in the neighborhood, so I wonder what the other hotel room rates were? The plan was to meet my Colorado buddies about 4 pm on Friday, go gran some dinner, then get to bed early. We were planning on getting up at 5 am, and on the trail at 5:30am. Well 5 am came very quick, only thing was the Colorado guys meant 5 am there time.. They ahd already been up an hour cause I was on Arizona time. I was late, now in a hurry and still asleep. You know what I mean? Not a great way to start a 22 mile journey across the Canyon on foot. I made it, we all hopped in my truck and off we went! We were trying to get within about 1 mile of the Canyon rim, then just jog over to the starting edge. IT WAS COLD!! 34 DEGREES. I hadn’t been in that kind of cold for 6 months or more! My teeth were chattering as I didnt want to overdress as it would get hot really fast as the sun came up. I was in a t-shirt, arm warmers, glovers, hat and shorts. Definitely a little bare for that chill in the air. We made it to the start line. My teeth were still chattering, but I didn’t know if it was the cold or knowing Im looking out in the deep abyss of black hole, knowing its 1 mile down, and were trusting that 2ft wide path!
|Steven K and Me!|
Well we were off. WE all agreed, no superman efforts, lets all stay together the til we get to the bottom and see how we all feel. Lets take in the beauty and breath taking experience this Canyon offers. I was in the back to start, knees shaking, teeth chattering, very excited, but then also moments of sheer terror as Im scared to death of heights like this. Im a pilot too, but that doesn’t bother me, weird huh? The paths down literally switchbacks about every 100 yards going down for at least the first mile, lots of rocks, steps. There were many times as we were jogging down that we all tripped stumbled. I did as well but I think if you would have looked at me I would have looked like the comic book character of “stretch man.” My arms were about 10 feet long and hold on to the canyon wall as I ran down the path. There were A LOT of other people hiking on the trail that we passed by or walked behind for a bit. We were al lfor sure like little kids on Christmas morning, laughing and giggling with some much fun and excitement. WE couldn’t wait for it to get light out to see what the Canyon looked like. One of my favorite pictures as the twilight was arriving.
|My Favorite Shot of the Trip!|
It seemed like it took forever to get down, but it didn’t matter. I cant even really explain it as well as the pictures do all the justice . The Canyon just kept going down and down and down. I couldn’t believe how step it was. I had a back pack on and was carrying 50 oz of water, 8 E Gels, 5 Waffle Cookies and 2 packets of Hammer’s Perpetum for fuel. I also had some TP, gloves, extra socks, extra shirt, and some trekking poles. The good thing about the Kabib Trail, which we were taking, had water at the bottom at mile 7, again at mile 14, and mile 20. So, even though we had to plan accordingly for food and fuel, we could get water! That was a blessing as we would have had to really carry a lot of water.
|Check out those Switchbacks!|
We pretty much kept all together until about half way down, a couple of the guys wanted to take off and at least bust it to the bottom. Uh Oh, I thought, here we go. I didn’t want to rip it out too fast as I knew it would thrash out the hip flexors and I would be paying for it around mile 17-22. Of course, the macho part of me couldn’t resist, and off I went to catch these guys . Oh was it tough.. My hip flexors were already on fire about a ¼ mile after sprinting. The sun kept coming up and showing the Grand Canyons Splendor. I kept wondering if we would see some wildlife, and around one of the corners, wholla! A Rocky Mountain Sheep!
|Rocky Mountain Sheep just hanging out|
As we wound down to the bottom, we could finally see it, Colorado River! We knew we were there. I was so happy, Im not a super great downhiller, so now the fun was starting! As we twisted and turned, we had to come thru a tunnel and cross a suspension bridge. As we were running across the bridge, there was a river rafting company going under us with a few boats, hooping and hollering! That’s the next adventure!
|Tunnel before bridge|
|Suspension Bridge across Colorado River|
The flats were now upon us and just up around the corner was our first water stop and re-group, see how everyone is feeling….and let these hip flexors rest!
These guys were all a great group of guys, all have excelled in life! Dennis, lived most of his life near Aspen, CO and now retired and lives on a ranch in northern Colorado Southern Wyoming. Steven K. lives near Denver and is one of the craziest guys I know. Hes the culprit always getting me in these crazy runs and races. He has a zest for life for sure! Stephen M lives near Denver as well, and is a life coach and recently wrote a book, which he gave me a copy. Wonderful book, titled “Get Real,” read it in a few days! Tom lives up above Denver and was on search and rescue for a long time in the mountains. He had some really great stories to share. It was great getting to know these guys during the run.
|Dennis, Me, Steven K., Stephen M., Tom|
After rest for a few minutes, fill up with water, it was time to get r done again! On our way were were. This stretch of run was another entire type of beauty. It was along the canyon walls and river, so lots shade, cooler, and Garmin coming in and out of signal. This was a great chance to pick up our pace a bit, and rest and relax, preparing for the gigantic climb coming up real soon.
|Creek along the very bottom of the Grand Canyon|
This was a real chance to catch up, cool off, and just hear the sounds of the river coming down along the trail. This little river you see is some stream that runs into the Colorado River. From here on out, rolling hills and the start of the climb up! The next pit stop was approximately 9 miles. This was for sure a challenge as it was deceiving. Tom and I ended up taking off together after about 5 miles into this second leg. We decided we would regroup again at the next stop. A couple of the guys decided to take a dip in the stream to get that ice feeling and stop the swelling. I decided not too, too cold for me at the moment. I would change my socks, change my shirt, eat and fill up. Was starting to get a little stiff since waiting for the rest of the guys, so heres where we decided to split up. It was about 8 more miles to the top, so Tom and I decided to hit the trail. Lets see how it goes and we would run our own last leg of the Canyon on how we felt. It was hard to get going on this leg as we had rested for about 15 minutes. It took about 1 mile to get the legs going again. Tom and I had a good chat, getting to know each other better. He was telling me about cougars in the mountains in Colorado. That would put chills on your skin, and for sure picked up my pace! It was about 3.5 miles to the next water stop, so we decided how we would feel when we got there. WE made it to the water stop, of course after seeing so many runners and hikers coming from the other way! A lot of pleasant and encouraging people! We hadn’t used much water and thought we would skip this one and make it to the next one, which was about 2.5 miles up. Heres where the 22% grades starting kicking in. I stopped and pulled out the trekking sticks, it was time. These are one of the best investments to get for running or hiking. Make sure you buy a set that folds up real small so you can pack inside your backpack, and not have to attach them to the outside. If you’re a hiker, not as big a deal. If you’re a runner, you have to worry about those trekking sticks bouncing around… Not good! I was in my rythym and off I went. I decided I would go about a ½ mile, then wait up for Tom. Why not enjoy, get a work out, and take some good pics!
|Getting the trek poles out for the climb!|
|Tom ready for climb!|
It was really starting to get hot, and the water was going more quickly. The hot desert plays tricks on you, thinking that things are closer than they appear… On the way up, I went thru the water like it was going out of style. Had to go from running to fast walking to slow walk. Murphys Law at that time, didn’t see anyone coming down that I could ask for water. What seemed like an eternity , and some Good Samaritans I met on the trail shared some water. Boy, that was a life saver with 22% grades uphill and now temps approaching 80 degrees. I ended up finding 3 good people that shared water, was able to get me to the next water stop. Its amazing, the water is piped down in the canyon from up top! That last water stop I filled my 50 oz water bladder in m y backpack to the rim. The next 2 miles was the steepest part, rocky, with stairs, mule trains coming down. This is where my true grit would come.
|Trying to find the top, where is it?|
|The paths didn't have much room for error!|
The last tressel bridge across the canyon, 2 miles straight up and done!! Can you imagine riding a mule train down this canyon, full faith in that mule. Unfortunately I didn’t get any pictures of the mules.
|Last bridge to cross|
|The top is at the very little green tree|
We all started trickling in at different times, as that last climb of the 7 miles strung us out. I was happy with my time, 4:59:47. Tom was next around 5:15:00, Steven K. around 5:25:00, Stephen M. around 5:45:00 and Dennis around 6:10:00. We made a run to the store up the road about a mile, grab some soda pop and salty chips, we were all craving. There was even a group of guys that had a bunch of Coronas, that shared amongst us…Beer never tasted so good!!
|We made it! Beer never tasted so good|
Now the shuttle bus ride back to the South Rim. The Grand Canyon is so big, and limited roads, it takes the shuttle bus over 4 hours to take us back! We could have run back at least ½ way in that amount of time. We figured and have planned for next year Rim 2 Rim 2 Rim… This is over and back, 44 miles.
Put this on your bucket list, whether you run or hike it. It is so worth it and what a wonderful memory you will always have of nature’s beauty. Remember, mind of matter. What you believe you can achieve!