I took three flights, got to PHX, picked up Mike, and drove to GCNP. Mike had been checking the weather and it sounded ominous. Alaska had had such a cold and snowy winter, that I hadn't gotten in enough training and I knew it. Rim to river and back? Sure! But I wasn't sure how more than that would be reasonable.
We met Torrey who had very kindly scored us a half-price room and went to the campground to meet the rest of the crew. We talked timing and weather, chatted about gear, sipped our beers and watched the elk wander thru camp.
I woke before my alarm and there was new snow on the ground. I've done a lot of canyon trips and it just seemed bizarre to not be in shorts. At 5 am, it was still coming down and blowing and everyone wanted to get started and down into better conditions. Mike and Torrey took off running after 15 minutes and I was on my own.
I felt okay at the river but not perfect so I knew I wasn't going all the way. Another 7 miles and I'd reached about half baked and turned around. I'd never been to Ribbon Falls so I made that detour. There's a mossy, misty, glen around the bottom of the falls that reminded me of the base of a very isolated falls in a remote side canyon of the Colorado where we'd scattered our son Wesley's ashes (named after the ethnographer and original river runner).
Going back to Phantom was fine, a bought a few lemonades at the Canteen and chatted with rafters on a 23-day private trip.
Going up was slow - it wasn't a problem to keep moving, but this was MUCH more excretion in a day than I've got under my belt before my hiking season has even started.
(editted to add the following - my posting got interupted by, "Airplane doors are closing, please turn off your electronics")
The snow returned halfway up and just got heavier and windier. The A-Team passed me and I was amazed my rental car was already running - Mike had gone past me when I detoured to Ribbon Falls so he'd been warming in the rental car for 45 minutes. I found out the last shuttle bus would leave at 8:20 and absolutely didn't want to leave anyone without a warm car to jump in. When our (hopefully) last South Kaibab hikers arrived, attention shifted to the Bright Angel and Mike and I drove over to check it out. We spotted John just as we got there and Art and Martin were only 20 minutes behind him.
It seemed the most helpful thing we could do then was make phone calls to reassure everyone and then order pizza. I and some hiking companions got moderately hypothermic a few times 30 years ago and I'm really conscious about it now. Most of the runners coming in were about 94F. A few were 92-93F, their exertion having surpressed the shivering. Guys were taking 45 to 90 minutes to get mostly warmed up again. So I offered the hot shower in our hotel room (rather than jumping naked into their sleeping bag with them).
It was a great bunch of guys and gal, I was really impressed by the athletism of the runners, their pain tolerance, and how the group came together and looked out for each other. It was a heck of a kick-off to my hiking season and great motivation to be better conditioned for my next death march.