November 30, 2008

Grand Canyon Run: Rim to River and Back

Distance: 16 Miles
Elevation Gain: 4400 Vertical feet
Distance: 3 hours (walk/run down, run all the way up)
Terrain: Rugged, rutted, and Rough

Today I finally saw the bottom of the Grand Canyon. I ran down the South Kaibab trail to the Colorado River. Then, I took the relatively flat River Trail to the Bright Angel Trail to begin the ascent. The Bright Angel Trail was daunting. This 7.7 mile, 4400’ vertical gain single track tested my will. The first 4 miles up to the Indian Garden were easy. The gradient was manageable with long straightaways rather than countless switchbacks. I thoroughly enjoyed this scenic section of the Bright Angel trail. There are numerous stream crossing, narrow canyon walls, and an abundance of trees. Not to mention that I got a reprieve from running (more like walking) down the steep, rutted South Kaibab Trail.

I hate mules. The South Kaibab Trail shows clear signs of destruction via the mules. There was piss and poop everywhere and the trail was borderline unlikable. Park employees are forced to put annoying planks of wood every 3 feet to hold the trail together and prevent erosion. I found myself slowing to walk frequently to get the proper stride frequency to traverse the protruding wooden planks. I even had to sit on a rock while I waited for a mule train to pass by. That little break gave me a chance to take in the shear beauty that is the Grand Canyon. The South Kaibab Trail wide open so the views are spectacular, however, I breathed a sigh of relief upon reaching the Colorado.

I chose to take the River Trail instead of crossing the Bright Angel Bridge to Phantom Ranch. This rolling, 2 mile section of trail is cut into the side of the canyon approximately 100’ above the mighty Colorado. The scenery was spectacular and there was no one on this portion of the trail. I couldn't’t admire the scenery as much as I would have likely because there were several shear 50-100’ drops into the rocky abyss below. Luckily, I survived and finally made it to the place I waited to the whole trip to get to: The start of the canyon climb.

I began the relentless climb to the top. I was very surprised to see tons of people on the trail. I probably passed someone every few hundred feet the entire way up. Most people were foreigners. The Asian families would just smile ear to ear as I passed by without saying word. The Europeans would say “good luck” or “good job” in a funky accent. The Americans, the few I did pass, who the ones who were most astonished. They would say “good for you” or “my god” as if they thought it was an impossible feat. One guy sitting on a rock resting waved his hand signalling me to stop (I didn’t) and said, “Wow, wow, wait what are you doing?” I plainly said in a borderline irritated tone, “running to the the top .” Dumbfounded, he responded, “Well, where did you start?....How long…” He trailed off as I was already long past him at this point.

Typically, I don’t like a lot of wannabe hikers and tourists out there when I am trying to enjoy the outdoors but their presence made the whole task of running up a geological wall much easier. I naturally found myself speeding up as I passed by people. Sometimes I did have to slow down to pass people because hearing loss must be a side effect of hiking in the Grand Canyon. But in this case, It was encouraging to have people cheer me on.

So I didn’t really explain how hard the run was or what it felt like when I finished. So was it really hard? I answered this question to someone on the way up when they commented, “You make it look easy.” I grinned and let out this response between breaths, “It’s Not.”

-Try gels instead of powerbars. Powerbars get really hard to chew, especially when it was 15 degrees the night before.

-The trail (South Kaibab mainly) had extremely terrible footing. I didn’t expect that.

-Running 4800’ vertical feet downward is not easy.

-Camelbak is not as uncomfortable as I thought it would be.

-I would like to try the Rim to Rim to Rim Run. I have read about guys doing it. Its 42 miles with over 11000 feet of vertical gain. I will accomplish it in the future.

- The Grand Canyon is not just a hole in the ground. Many people say this but they are wrong. It is truly beautiful. I think you really have to go down into the canyon to appreciate the beauty. Most people stick to the overlooks. They all start looking the same after awhile. Try to the descend into the canyon.


  1. i watched a national geographic show on thanksgiving about the grand canyon. very interesting, i wanna go there and take a lot around.

    did you know the reason the water in CO river in the grand canyon is so cold is because the water gets fed from the bottom of the Glen Canyon Dam, which is like 500 feet deep lake water.

  2. Yea the water is Freaking COLD. That picture at the top of the blog was taken at Lees Ferry, which is right below the Glen Canyon Dam. The water is so cold that is the perfect habitat to produce world class trout. Karl and I didn't manage to reel any of those guy in, but we did jump in the river to shower off after a long weekend camping. My body seized up when I jumped in. I thought I had a heart attack when I hit the water. Probably mid 40's temp. It was nippy.