Rim to Rim to Rim

On day three of our road trip we got up and had a white trash picnic in the parking lot of the hotel (homemade sandwiches out of the U-haul), which reminded me of my childhood, when we used to take the motor home on road trips and I was SO embarrassed that we had to make and eat our own food. Now I am the one embarrassing the kids.

We made a stop at the Hoover Dam, where they have built a new highway above it, so that you can walk on the dam since it is no longer used. We next stopped at the Cracker Barrel where my friend's daughter had the best blueberry pancakes ever! They must load those suckers up with butter, because they are good.

We arrived at the Grand Canyon pretty late due to our lackadaisical driving style, and only had time to pack for the next day and go to bed. The reason for this is that the next day we were planning on running from the South Rim to the Colorado River to the North Rim and back. This is a total run of 44 - 50 miles, depending on which route you take. At first we thought that we could always just do it one way, but the roads to the North Rim are not open until May.

Our day started at 4 am. After a quick breakfast of PB&B (banana) sandwiches and a shot of espresso, we headed out to the rim. It was dark and it was hard to find the trail head and the lady-friend was driving and the Broski was nervous and our GPS was not working, so we had a bit of a quibble in the car. However, we soon found the trail and we started off. The temperature at the top of the South Rim was about 27 degrees.

From the South Rim, there are two ways to get to the bottom of the canyon. Once there, the main area, where there is camping and bathrooms and water, is called Phantom Ranch. If you take the Bright Angel trail, it is less steep, but more miles, totaling 10 to Phantom Ranch. If you take the South Kaibab Trail, it is steeper, but it is only 7 miles. We decided to take the Bright Angel on the way down, to save our knees for the rest of the trip.

Bright Angel Trail head to Phantom Ranch: We started down the trail at 4:30 a.m. It was dark and our headlamps were barely penetrating the gloom, because the dust was outrageously thick. However, as soon as we dropped below the rim by about a quarter of a mile, it warmed up a lot. We stopped at the 1 mile bathroom and stripped down. The first hour was just a pretty easy slightly downhill jog, where we were really focused on the ground in front of us, which was pretty lumpy. This section took us much longer than anticipated. We thought that the downhill would be about a 9 or 10 minute mile, but it was more like a 13 or 14 due to the darkness and the dust. Around mile 7, the sun started to come up and the colors on the canyon were just starting to show. We arrived at Phantom ranch in about two hours, which is about what our goal was.

One of the things about doing this that we were most worried about was the water. The trail has several water stops in the summer. However, in the off season, the only one that was a (mostly) guarantee was Phantom Ranch. Broski had 4 liters of water and I had three. We filled up at Phantom Ranch, stashed our sweatshirts behind the bathroom and headed toward the north rim.

Phantom Ranch to North Rim: The sun was starting to come up and this was my favorite section of the run. The first 7 miles was mostly flatish, with a gradual uphill. I think it was about 1000 ft gain over 7 miles. The next 7 were straight up. The Colorado River is at about 2,200 feet. The top of the North Rim is at about 8,200 feet. So the last 7 were pretty steep. However, the colors were great! The reds were so red and the top layer, which is white, was like a beacon, guiding us up, up and further up. The best thing about this section is that there was one place where the water was working! We filled up our water and washed our faces and got ready for the big climb.

As we were climbing the hill, I could tell that Broski was getting discouraged. I think he was thinking about the fact that we were not even half way yet, and he was already tired. That's what I was thinking at least! We got to the top and ate the sandwiches that we had been carrying for the last several hours. They were the best sandwiches ever. This uphill part took us longer than we thought it would. We had hoped that we could average about a 15 minute pace, but this part was about a 25 minute pace and our running pace on the flat/downhill had not been fast enough to bring down the average that much. We arrived at the top of the North Rim around noon, 7 and a half hours after we started. We figured this would still be good time though; we could even make it back before dark (our goal was 6:30 or 7 pm).

North Rim to Phantom Ranch: The sandwiches really revived us and we headed back down the hill refreshed. The downhill at first, the steep part, was hard on the knees, but the second section, the flatter one, we could run a pretty good pace the whole time. We still were not booking by all means, but we were keeping it pretty steady at about 14-15 minute miles. We got back to Phantom Ranch and the sun was just starting to go toward the rim of the canyon. We grabbed our clothing stash and some more water and got moving, as we wanted to try to hike in the light as much as possible.

Phantom Ranch to South Rim: We decided to take the South Kaibab trail on the way up. It was steeper, but it was also shorter and we were thinking that it would be the better of the two evils. It was approximately 5 pm when we left the bottom and headed up the hill. We knew we would not be making it by our 6:30 goal, as the last hill had taken about 3 hours to climb. We had steeled ourselves for a long walk up the hill. This time the elevation of the South Rim was about 7,200 feet and we were back at 2,200 ft again.

This hill took forever. It kept going up relentlessly. As you walk down the hill in the morning, fresh as a daisy, there are signs shouting out warnings that you WILL have to go back UP the hill and not to overexert yourself. Our fresh morning selves had scoffed at the signs. Now, we knew we would make it, but we were laughing at how nonchalant we had been before. Our pace slowed as we went up the hill. We were making about 2 miles an hour. It got dark. My Garmin died so we had no idea how long it had been. It felt like forever, walking step by step, up the hill, in the dark, without any idea how much time it had been.  And it was SUPER windy, and it was blowing dust everywhere. We could barely see and there was grit in our eyes and I was so thirsty.

Ready to be done

And then we ran out of water. Just kidding mom! But we were starting to run lower than we had anticipated. The dust was a factor we had not banked on. However, we had enough to get us to the top. We walked forever, and finally we had reached the South Rim. Immediately we got cold. It's amazing how different the temperature is inside the canyon vs at the rim.We arrived at the top at 9 pm.

The lady-friend was on standby and she came and got us with the warm car and a burrito. She is my favorite person ever, by the way.

So, the stats: 47 miles, 16:30:00 for elapsed time (21:00 pace) and 12:54:00 for moving time (16:37 pace). As you can see, we took a lot of breaks! This was Broski's first night run, longest run ever (second longest is 23 miles) and most time on his feet at one time!

Sorry about the never-ending recap! Happy Monday! 

What's the longest time you have been on your feet at one time? Have you ever been to the Grand Canyon? Have you ever done a hike where the uphill is at the end? 


  1. Wow, you guys are TOUGH! What an amazing experience to have together. And that is quite the jump to go from 23 being his PDR to 47 miles! Unreal! I am glad you accomplished this and were safe. The pictures are very beautiful. I would love to visit the Grand Canyon some day. My sister lives in AZ so at some point we will get our act together and plan a trip out there.

    The longest I have been on my feet is 26.2 miles for a marathon!

  2. I was at the Grand Canyon about 11 years ago and loved how beautiful it was. Great job on a tough run!!

  3. Broski's never done a marathon and you talked him into 47 miles? Beast mode engaged! wow, that's impressive for him.

    Cool road trip!

  4. Um, this sounds and looks amazing! I've heard a few people talk about doing this run and it sounds really amazing, but takes a bit of careful planning. Nice work!


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