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Grand Canyon R2R2R, 10/9-10/10
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Craig W.
(xnomanx) - F - M
Grand Canyon R2R2R, 10/9-10/10 on 10/11/2010 14:34:08 MDT Print View

A couple things spawned this trip:
1. A desire to start getting out and doing things immediately. I've had my eye on the Grand Canyon for some time, but somehow it's never actually made the calendar. I'm trying to follow more of a "if not now then when?" philosophy when it comes to trip planning these days...On that note, this trip was a total success; quick, cheap, pretty easy to plan. Whereas most people I talk to turn the Grand Canyon into a major outing that requires vacation time, many logistics, and much planning, this trip was actually very simple.
2. The other purpose was to get a feel for the canyon in preparation for running a R2R2R nonstop this spring. I wanted to get a feel for the water situation, distances/elevations, and logistics firsthand. Again, this trip worked great- I'm very confident about what I have to do to run it this coming spring.

I left Los angeles at 2PM and arrived at the South Rim at around midnight. I tried to sleep in the car at the picnic area across the road from the South Kaibab/Yaki Point turnoff but was quickly discovered by a ranger. He was cool about it and gave me directions to the Forest Service land about 10 miles away where I could sleep in the car without issue. I'm glad I know about this area now- saves having to spend any money or worry on sleeping in the park.

I woke up, drove to the picnic area where I'd leave the car for the night, and hit the South Kaibab trail at about 7AM.

One thing I'm certainly not used to is hitting steep downhill without a warmup...usually my running has me doing the opposite.






...met a ladyfriend...

...and down some more...


Looking back on the South Rim now...


...and met another friend. I'm far more accustomed to the nasty-tempered Mojave Green. This one would've *probably* let me pet it.



Climbing now...The climb up to the North Rim was by far the best part of the trip. I got passed by Catra Corbett on the way did everyone else...



Camp at the North Rim campground. Very cool that they maintain hike/bike camps without reservation. The location was really good, right on the rim...and far from the Winnebago Warriors, generators, and smell of lighter fluid.


Sunset and South Rim from just below my camp...


Night brought high winds and low temps, probably around freezing. Primarily due to my own laziness in staking, my poncho tarp was flattened a few times in the night. Securing stakes with rocks would've taken time...but waking up three times in the night to re-stake the tarp? I was hoping for wind protection with the shelter but would've been far better off just sleeping in a bivy.

I was on the trail in the dark the next morning, looking to make the South Rim before temps got hot...

On the way back (up South Kaibab again), I realized what a disaster park employees/SAR must have on their hands here. It's totally easy for someone inexperienced to find themselves on the canyon floor in only a few hours, enjoying cool morning temperatures all the way down.
And then they realize their pack is heavy, the sun is hot, and they've got a LONG way up to go. I've never seen so many people under serious duress. A college girl vomiting by the trailside, beet red and sweating and many, many people that seriously appeared on the verge of cardiac arrest. And this is in October...Summer must be a disaster.

One of my favorite signs (I kept running into different versions of this guy on the trail!):



Overall, each rim to rim took me ~7:30.
I feel great about that time, knowing I can easily shave it down when running without a pack this spring. I think <15 hours will be a reasonable goal for a single day R2R2R based on what I saw.

What I liked:
-Seeing the whole South-North in less than 36 hours and only taking a weekend to do the whole trip.
-Plenty of water opportunities.
-Learning where to sleep in GCNP for free!
-The approach to the North Rim. Great views, amazing cliffside trails.
-Sunset on Sat. night.
-Running down the North Rim in the dark on Sunday morning.
-The weather...Early October was great for this.
-An amazing weekend indeed. No regrets whatsoever.

What I disliked:
-Doing this trip with a pack. The entire time I was wishing I could just ditch it and run. Soon...
-Crowds on the way in. Oh my...
Going out on Sunday was much better.
-To be honest, I wasn't really impressed with the whole middle section. Both of the rims are great, but the scenery between Phantom Ranch and Cottonwood wasn't all that spectacular to me. I've run far more interesting canyons in Capitol Reef, Zion, Bryce, etc.
-I don't think I'd ever want to camp in Bright Angel or Cottonwood, I think it would be better to just go R2R and skip the crowds and permitting. It's "backpacking" because you carry a pack to get there, but the campgrounds don't feel like backpacking.
-Bothering with a shelter. The wind was high enough I figured I'd sleep better with a windblock...and then the wind got so high it was tearing up stakes/flapping the tarp all night. A bivy would've been far better than a tarp here.
-Driving I-15 South on Sunday night. The recklessness of the returning Las Vegas crowd is getting scarier every time I drive here. It's got to be one of the most dangerous American freeways.

Finally, my favorite sign:
I'd never heard the term "estivation" until now. I thought it was just called drinking beer and napping. Now I don't feel so bad.

Oh, and thanks to all those on this site that helped with logistics advice when I was thinking about doing this trip a week ago. Everything helped!

Edited by xnomanx on 10/11/2010 14:52:36 MDT.

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Grand Canyon R2R2R, 10/9-10/10 on 10/11/2010 14:52:58 MDT Print View


You're the man!!

Yep, if no precipitation foretasted, forget the shelter.

Art ...
(asandh) - F
Re: Grand Canyon R2R2R, 10/9-10/10 on 10/11/2010 17:01:54 MDT Print View

Great report, great scouting trip.

When you "run" the R-R-R next spring, the return leg generally takes about 1 hour longer than the first crossing.
Funny how fatigue tends to slow us down.

Have you ever heard of an ultra runner called Davy Crockett (real name).
He is totally addicted to running the Grand Canyon.
Lot of good trip reports and tips.
Davy Crockett

. . .

Edited by asandh on 10/11/2010 17:07:14 MDT.

Eugene Smith
(Eugeneius) - MLife

Locale: Nuevo Mexico
"Grand Canyon R2R2R, 10/9-10/10" on 10/15/2010 17:42:42 MDT Print View

I've been looking forward to this post. Craig, I enjoyed your experience in the canyon, thanks for sharing the words and photographs. It looks like you had nice clear weather despite the windy episode at camp. What were the temps like? When are you hoping to be ready for a R2R2R attempt, early spring? late? I've been considering one in 2011 as well, I'm hoping to maintain the fitness I have going into a 50 miler race next weekend through the winter and build upon that into spring barring no injuries and take a stab at doing it in around 14-16hs., nothing fast by any means but doable.

Art ...
(asandh) - F
Re: "Grand Canyon R2R2R, 10/9-10/10" on 10/16/2010 09:45:40 MDT Print View

I did the slightly longer version in early April 2009.
(Bright Angel-North Kabob-Bright Angel = 46.6 mi.)
A Great Adventure and loads of fun.
I'm pretty slow and managed 16hrs 4 min
So sub 16 hrs is very doable.
I live at sea level and the last 1000 ft going up to both rims kicked my butt. (didn't acclimate).
The last 2 hours of the run going back up to South Rim I felt like I was moving in slow motion.

There was some snow and mud the last 1000 ft up to north rim but not too bad. Probably varies year to year.

The ranger cabin on North Kabob near Roaring Springs has drinking water. In early April it was turned on.

Craig W.
(xnomanx) - F - M
Re: "Grand Canyon R2R2R, 10/9-10/10" on 10/21/2010 15:17:14 MDT Print View

Hey Eugene, if you're out there...I know this is a bit old but I never saw your response.
I want to run it spring '11, but haven't decided exactly when. I was thinking late March/early April (likely early April as I'd be on spring break), but much of that depends on what you mention- fitness between now and then, injuries, etc. as well as the snow level on the North Rim.
Winter is my peak running mileage season, so I'm optimistic about being able to do really big miles this Spring. I also want to run the Rae Lakes Loop (still haven't got out there to do it in a day- whenever I have the time off I'm not trained enough or vice versa...) as well as Onion Valley to Whitney Portal in a day...but that will be early summer.

The temps in early October couldn't have been better.
~50s at the South rim in the morning, 70-80 through the middle, dropping back into the 40's/50's at the North Rim. I'd guess it was in the mid 30's that night.
Coming out at the South Rim on Sunday it heated up, probably getting into the high 80s.

In the event you're interested and want a partner for the GC (or any other big runs like this), I'd be willing to run it with you in Spring. I don't currently have any distance partners and feel it would be a decent measure of safety in the event of someone bonking/getting sick/hurt, especially on the return trip.
I wouldn't expect to even stay together pace-wise, but simply starting together and having another person that knows you on the trail/waiting at the end could be helpful.

Let me, weather, and schedule permitting of course. Hard to lock those things down so far out and I fully understand if plans like this fall through at the last minute.

Michael Davis
(mad777) - F

Locale: South Florida
Re: "Grand Canyon R2R2R, 10/9-10/10" on 10/21/2010 18:45:32 MDT Print View

Nice trip report Craig! I admire your stamina! My wife and I did the South Rim to River and back last year, but we didn't run, we "hiked." Then again, we are nearly 60 year old so we are just happy to still be walking :)

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Re: "Grand Canyon R2R2R, 10/9-10/10" on 10/22/2010 02:28:33 MDT Print View

Hey Craig,

I could be your partner... you just need to give me a head start of 20 miles per day. :)

David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
spring double crossing on 10/22/2010 08:16:31 MDT Print View

Nice job Craig, glad you enjoyed it. I miss that place.

A spring double crossing is tough. It's very unusual for snow/ice to not linger on the N Kaibab well into the time when temps get really hot in the canyon bottom. It's certainly doable, but I'd bring poles and microspikes or the like for sure. I tried a late January double in 2008 and got turned around at the Redwall by knee deep snow over bullet ice.

Eugene Smith
(Eugeneius) - MLife

Locale: Nuevo Mexico
"Grand Canyon R2R2R, 10/9-10/10" on 10/24/2010 23:16:45 MDT Print View


Sorry for the delayed response. Just got back in today from the Deadman Peaks 50 miler ultra on the CDT... beautiful, isolated, punishing, and highly recommended if you find yourself in N. New Mexico next Oct.! Absolutely, a spring 2011 R2R2R is sounding increasingly ideal and doable. In the event we do make this happen and if this idea fits in with your plans, I have a trail friend who resides in the South Rim village permanently, assuming crashing at his place is an option, we may have warm and front row seating to drop down into the canyon from and return to at days end. He plays host/crew to AZT hikers and Hayduke Trail finishers, so crashing there for 2 evenings probably wouldn't be an issue and would be of great help logistically. I'm due to take him up on his longstanding offer anyways. Shoot me a PM with some more of your ideas and more specific date possibilities if you can project that far.

Brandon Sanchez
(dharmabumpkin) - F

Locale: San Gabriel Mtns
thread drift on 10/25/2010 10:44:14 MDT Print View

Eugene, I just checked the photos on the course website and the Deadman Peaks 50 looks intesnse- theres no trail! Congrats. Did you use your NB MT100s or did you wear more shoe for 50 miles?

Craig W.
(xnomanx) - F - M
Re: thread drift on 10/25/2010 11:07:13 MDT Print View

Yeah, tell me more about your 50 miler...

Eugene Smith
(Eugeneius) - MLife

Locale: Nuevo Mexico
"Grand Canyon R2R2R, 10/9-10/10" on 10/26/2010 08:01:39 MDT Print View

Yes Brandon, course was rough and technical in some sections, not a ton of elevation gain overall, but constant ups and downs and pitchy sections, trail was faint in most places, and we ran on a lot of undulating sandstone mesas, also the course 4 miles longer than stated. We were running along trail used by the occasional CDT thru hiker, so the course had flag markings and glow sticks for the first 10 miles or so when we were running by headlamp, but the remainder of the course we simply followed the 2-3ft. tall rock cairns scattered every 10-20 yards or so and the large wooden spires with the white painted tips typical of the CDT.

I did run in my MT101's for the duration of the race and was very happy with them, although I had originally planned to leave my Montrail Mountain Masochists at the 27 mile turn around and switch out but forgot to throw them in my drop bag in my rush to get out of the porta-potty at the race start. The tops of my ankles are pretty tight and tender right about now, but no issues other than that. I'm satisfied with that shoe for long distances, and think the Minimus is going to be even better for daily runs, and the MT101 for longer durations.

The race had a 40% DNF rate, many people opted to drop out at the 27 mile turnaround after having run for 5-6 hours already, I guess the course beat many up, I was fortunate to finish as the youngest runner. I felt great getting to the turnaround aid station, and was in the upper middle of the pack, but around mile 36 muscle fatigue set in and my pace dropped to a slow one, brisk powerhiking was requisite at this point other than a short 4 mile burst of energy to the end where I could run with some regularity. I haven't done very many long runs just a few marathon distance runs leading up to this so knew I was in for a suffer fest the last leg of the run. No intestinal issues at all, 2 salt caps every hour, relied on Perpetuem, 1/2 strength HEED at the aid stations, 10-12oz. of plain water every 30 minutes or so, and the occasional nip off the old gel flask. I learned a lot, had fun, want to do it again, but on my own terms first hence the growing interest in a R2R2R run in the spring.

Fresh legged and stoked:


Beat as hell and stoked:


Art ...
(asandh) - F
50 Miler in MT 101's on 10/26/2010 09:49:01 MDT Print View

Congratulations on a great effort !
A semi cross country course sounds like fun.

I'm intrigued by your use of the NB 101's for the entire race.
I may have to give them a try.

Craig W.
(xnomanx) - F - M
Re: 50 Miler in MT 101's on 10/26/2010 10:00:40 MDT Print View

Right on Eugene, good job.

Adan Lopez
(Lopez) - F

Locale: San Gabriel Valley
Great reports on 12/06/2010 21:39:07 MST Print View

enjoyed reading about both your adventures. If a R2R2R run happens I'll be anxious to see a report.