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R2R2R Questions
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Van DeWald

Locale: Midwest
R2R2R Questions on 09/15/2013 16:47:24 MDT Print View

Am planning a 1 day R2R2R hike for early May 2014. I know that the water may not be turned on at some of the upper locations, I'll have a water filter, so I'm not worried at all. My question, are there any natural stream or creek sources on the North Kaibab trail above the pumphouse? I know that Roaring Springs is there, but that's just past the pumphouse. Can't tell from the maps if the trail is close enough to any natural water sources to pump water from in this 5 mile stretch up to the north rim or not. I know there is the Redwall Bridge that crosses a creek, but from pictures, it looks like you may not be able to get down to the creek at that spot? I also know that there is year-round water at the North Rim Backcountry office if I'm desperate, which would add on an extra mile to the hike.

Second question, I know that the Hiker's Express shuttle will be running at 5 am starting in May. If I use this 5am shuttle to the South Kaibab trailhead, this puts me on the trail head about 530'sh, right at sunrise. I'm staying at Maswik Lodge, so the alternative would be to hike down the Bright Angel trail, which adds 2 1/2 miles to the round trip, but I could leave much earlier, say 3. I'm planning for 14-18 hours for a one day crossing. I've heard that starting at sunrise going down South Kaibab gives you the vest views of the canyon as daylight breaks, but also extends the trip to well after dark. Any thoughts, on descending South Kaibab versus Bright Angel? I'm coming up Bright Angel for sure.

Edited by vwaldoguy on 09/15/2013 18:02:28 MDT.

Art ...
(asandh) - F
Re: R2R2R Questions on 09/15/2013 17:51:00 MDT Print View

"My question, are there any natural stream or creek sources on the North Kaibab trail above the pumphouse?"

short answer is No.
most people just tank up at the pump house with whatever water they feel they need for the section from pump house to summit trailhead and back to pump house. I think its only a 10-11 mile round trip so not really a big deal.

you could probably leave your filter in camp entirely as there is adequate water along the route at that time of year. just check with the wilderness desk the day before to make sure there are no broken water pipes in the canyon.

Bright Angel v.s. South Kaibab
Bright Angel version is 5 miles longer if you do it both ways, and for someone in the 16 hour RRR range it takes probably 2 hours longer on Bright Angel v.s. South Kaibab. If you are doing Bright Angel down and South Kaibab up then maybe add 1 hour over the standard RRR.
I have done the full Bright Angel RRR version 3 times and that is my experience.
The one nice thing about the Bright Angel version is that as long as you get back by 10pm you can walk 100 yds to the Maswik Lodge cafeteria for a great reasonably cheap after hike meal.

Edited by asandh on 09/15/2013 17:53:05 MDT.

Van DeWald

Locale: Midwest
re: R2R2R Questions on 09/15/2013 18:00:42 MDT Print View

Art, thanks for the feedback. Getting back before the cafeteria/Pizza pub close are on my wish list, but that's assuming I'll want food by then. I've read a lot of reports, some folks are ready for the feedbag, some, not so much.

David Thomas
(DavidinKenai) - MLife

Locale: North Woods. Far North.
Re: R2R2R Questions on 09/15/2013 19:31:11 MDT Print View

">I've heard that starting at sunrise going down South Kaibab gives you the best views of the canyon as daylight breaks, but also extends the trip to well after dark. Any thoughts, on descending South Kaibab versus Bright Angel? "

I've done R2R2R via South Kaibab once and most of it again last year. I've done rim-river-rim a dozen times via South Kaibab, North Kaibab and Bright Angel.

Yes, South Kaibab has more expansive views than the Bright Angel. But the Bright Angel going down is totally different than the BA going up, so you you'll see different scenery whichever route you choose. If you are conditioned for a steep trail, the SK is faster. But if aren't doing a ton of steep vertical in your conditioning, you might feel better after the longer BA-NK-BA: The beginning down and the final up aren't as brutal. And there is more water, not only piped water at 1.5 mile and 3 mile, but also several creek crossings - I find that dipping my shirt and bandana in the water can really help cool and refresh me, versus sweating out the same amount of water. In early May you could be dealing with very hot temperatures or a late snowfall. You'll know which before you start, but if it is hot, BA has more water. If it is cold, BA is less windy and has more shelters on the way.

For me, there is an emotionally easier aspect of not relying on the shuttle - I don't get up 30 minutes early to be sure of not missing it and if I wake up a bit early, I just start hiking earlier.

Another persecutive in favor of BA: If there's a short-cut bypassing a switchback, the newbies take it and the experienced hikers don't. They know that 500 to 600 vertical feet per horizontal mile is the most efficient slope to climb or descend a slope. BA is at that slope. SK is steeper.

When I've done SK-NK-SK, I've had a car at the SK trailhead so I could start as early and end as late as I wanted/had to.

Since you're coming up BA, going down BA only adds 2.5 miles, but you get to pick your starting time and relax about maybe missing a bus.

Van DeWald

Locale: Midwest
re: R2R2R Questions on 09/15/2013 19:39:50 MDT Print View

David, thanks for that perspective, it makes perfect sense to me! Your advice has definitely swayed me in favor of descending BA, even though it's the longer route.

Eugene Smith
(Eugeneius) - MLife

Locale: Nuevo Mexico
Re: R2R2R Questions on 09/15/2013 21:42:48 MDT Print View

I only have experience with the SK-NK-SK route. You plummet headlong into the Canyon and the views are unbelievable. The exposure coming down SK is pretty damn exhilarating. I enjoyed the SK trail so much I'm not sure I'd want to do the Bright Angel route for fear of missing out on SK. A ridiculous notion, I know, considering I've never stepped foot on the BA trail. Maybe someday I'll take a few days and see both trails at a slower pace.

I'm shooting for a November R2R2R this time around and will likely run SK again both ways.

David Thomas
(DavidinKenai) - MLife

Locale: North Woods. Far North.
Mules. on 09/15/2013 23:22:49 MDT Print View

Ah, the damn mules. All of us have forgotten to mention that yet.

There are private horse packers and cargo mule trains on the SK and the even more dreaded passenger-carrying mule trains. You really want to get started before those mule trains start.

But any of the conceivable (early!) starting and (late!) ending times for a R2R2R avoid the mule trains. There will be places where you step over puddles of mule-piss mud. And rest assured, it is far better in May than in July! Watch for the butterflies.

In the realm of rim-river-rim hiking times, you can get stuck behind a mule team which is (for me) incredibly frustrating that the people hiking have to wait for the people to lazy or out of shape to haul their own carcasses halfway in and out again in a day. Mostly for the heat, but slightly for the mules, I stress that you can not leave too early for a rim-river-rim. 6 am - good. 5 am - great. 4 am - best.

When my mother visited the Grand Canyon in 1954, you could ride a mule to the river and back in a day. Now you can only go half way. To the Colorado and back is now a two-day trip. In some ways, it makes sense, because my mother slowed down in the last 60 years, too.

Van DeWald

Locale: Midwest
re: Mules on 09/16/2013 00:06:18 MDT Print View

Actually, that was on my list of questions as well. So do mule trains let runners pass, or do you have to stay behind the mule train? Seems like if I take the shuttle over to SK, I won't be on the trail until 530, and these mule trains start at 500, or so I've heard.

Art ...
(asandh) - F
Re: re: Mules on 09/17/2013 11:33:45 MDT Print View

don't know the mule schedule for SK,

but on Bright Angel I have always started down a 5:00 am and never saw a single mule on the descent.
one time, there was a mule train just leaving Phantom Ranch for the ascent as I arrived down there around 7:45 am. not sure if they were going up SK or Bright Angel.

as for the ascent of Bright Angel, I always began my ascent after 4:00 pm and never saw a mule on the way up.

David Thomas
(DavidinKenai) - MLife

Locale: North Woods. Far North.
Mules - question for Grand Canyon runners on 09/17/2013 13:16:09 MDT Print View

So the timing of the bus and the mules would be another reason to go down the BA.

I don't know if the mule skinners let runners pass or not (I don't run, I hike). When I've encountered them going the opposite direction, hikers are supposed to stand on the uphill side of the trail (you could get knock off the trail on the downhill side) and let the mule train pass. So it's annoying but not a huge time suck.

My best guess is that if run through a mule train, you'll get yelled at. But if you wait for a while at the end of the train, the skinner will stop at a convenient spot and let you run pass.

I retitled this message. Let's see if some runners chime in with actual experience.

Mitchell Rossman

Locale: Minneapolis-St. Paul
R2R2R questions on 09/17/2013 20:23:53 MDT Print View

I have done 3 Doubles using South Kiabab and 2 Doubles using Bright Angel.

i did not see any difference in overall time despite the different distances.

However, as Art wrote, finishing next to The Bright Angel Lodge with hot food until 10 pm makes that approach my favorite.

I never saw mule trains at our 3:30 am starts nor on our way up the South Rims after 4 pm. But all of my Doubles were in either November or February.

One more thing: after all five of my Doubles, everyone in the group of 4-5 gorged themselves on the hot food at The Bright Angel Cafe.

Edited by bigmitch on 09/17/2013 20:30:30 MDT.