GRAND CANYON RIM TO RIM TO RIM
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GRAND CANYON RIM TO RIM TO RIM
Peppe Sotomayer, Linda Williams, and I planned to hike the Grand Canyon from the South Rim to the North Rim in one day, then return the next day. Mike Shackleford intentionally decided to only hike from the South Rim to the North Rim, and then use the shuttle to transport himself back to the South Rim.
Our journey began on Wednesday, September 27 with me picking up everyone at their homes at around 9:00 am. We managed to stuff all our gear and the four of us into my compact Mazda 3 after some doubt as to whether there would be enough room. We picked my car because it has great gas mileage. We originally intended to leave around 10:00, but I discovered the day before there were delays at the Hoover Dam (due to my work as a Pink Jeep Tour Guide). A crane was placed in one of the two lanes leading towards the Hoover Dam to clean up the mess caused by the construction accident on September 15th. High winds caused all four of the 280-foot metal towers used in the bypass bridge construction to topple. I wanted to ensure we crossed the dam with minimal delays. Otherwise, we might have had to drive through Laughlin to reach the South Rim, which would have added another hour to the journey. Click here: http://www.hooverdambypass.org for more information about the bypass and the construction accident.
We made a stop at Jacquie’s Chocolate Factory in Dolan Springs, about 4 miles off highway 93. Jacquie’s is a place I stop often for my tours to the Grand Canyon West Rim for a bathroom break and to taste the chocolates or for an ice cream treat. Each of us picked our own pleasures and then continued on our journey.
Upon reaching the South Rim, we admired the scenic areas before checking into the Maswik Lodge. We organized our packs, and then went to bed early because we planned on waking up early to catch the 5:00 bus to the South Kaibab Trailhead to start our hike at 5:30 using headlamps.
The morning was chilly as it was in the low 40’s. Soon after starting the hike, we dropped our layers and were down to what we wanted to wear for the entire hike. I was surprised as to how quickly I took off my layers. I then realized I had brought too much clothing for this trip.
The hike down was fast and easy. However, the steep trail was starting to put a strain on my left knee, which was surprising as my right knee usually gives me a problem going downhill. I was starting to wonder how I would do for the rest of the trip. I remained optimistic, as I hoped traveling uphill would resolve the problem, and fortunately, I was right. I did eventually have to take an ibuprofen to dull the pain.
Mike throwing a rock into the Colorado River
As we were descending to the river, Mike and I encountered three female Bighorn Sheep just above the trail. One of the ewes came down to the trail then looked back at us allowing me to take a really good scenic picture with the Canyon in the background.
We crossed the Kaibab Suspension Bridge less than three hours after hitting the trail (traveling about 5.5 miles and dropping about 4,500 feet). We had lunch in the Phantom Ranch area. I was surprised to discover the bathroom had porcelain toilets with flowing water just like a normal bathroom, right therein the middle of the Grand Canyon.
We then continued on the long, hard, and hot trek to the North Rim with about 5,500 foot elevation gain over the next 13 miles. The views were wonderful and very scenic; impossible to describe with mere words.
Chris looking... refreshed
Phantom Ranch was the last time Mike and I saw Peppe and Linda as they left sooner than us (we left around 9:30) and they intended to travel at a faster pace. Mike and I had intended to make a short stop at Ribbon Falls on the way, but realized we passed the bridge. We decided not to backtrack, as that would exert more energy than we wanted to expend. Mike and I took a break soon afterwards by the river to take a dip in the cold river to rejuvenate us. That water really felt good. I then realized I brought the wrong hat for this trip considering it was now about 95 degrees. I brought my waterproof hat that offers no ventilation. I removed the hat every time I hiked through shade to properly dissipate heat.
We continued on and took another small break at the Cottonwood Campgrounds. I made a comment that Peppe and Linda were probably way ahead of us by at least 30 minutes. Mike didn’t think so as he thought they visited Ribbon Falls and thus believed they were behind us. Considering Mike loves to gamble, we made a bet for $10.
We continued along the trail coming across a ranger’s home before stopping for a break at Roaring Springs. We discovered the water there was very cold. We proceeded to dump our warm water replacing with the cold water. We also passed along that information to the other hikers passing through.
We trudged along the trail and separated not long after Roaring Springs with 4.7 miles and 3,000 feet elevation gain to travel. I managed to have a burst of energy that continued for the rest of the hike, although for the last 3 miles I was waiting for the hike to end. Even after passing through the Supai Tunnel, knowing I only had another 1.7 miles and 1,400 feet elevation left, it seemed the trail would not end. The beauty of the scenery and the fall colors was spectacular.
Just before the end of the trail I spotted a deer with its fawn. It was a nice way to end a long hike at 4:50. Peppe and Linda were waiting for me while talking to a couple. I was then able to confirm I won the bet with Mike. I completed the trip in 11 hours, 20 minutes. Surprisingly I was not as tired as I had thought I would be, and still had plenty of energy. I was amazed that Linda finished only 25 minutes before me and Peppe only five. I later found out that the usually superhuman Peppe had hit a wall more than 3 miles from the top requiring him to rest for a while. Mike completed the trip 20 minutes behind me.
The couple Peppe and Linda was talking to were visiting the desert Southwest from Eastern Europe. They were very nice and offered to drive us to the North Rim Lodge to save us from walking another two miles. In return, I helped them plan their route to visit Zion before flying back home from Las Vegas late the next night. We checked into the hotel and took a very refreshing shower before our 7:30 dinner reservation I made a couple months ago at the North Rim Lodge Restaurant. We were very hungry and ate a lot. I still managed to also eat a bit of Linda’s plate. Afterwards, Mike decided to try their very rich chocolate cake with fudge icing. He could only eat a couple bites. I then told him to pass it over my way so I could finish it. Before taking a bite, Linda stopped me because she wanted to place a bet with Mike for $5 that I would be able to finish this large piece in less than five minutes. I managed to suck it down in three!
We then went to bed early to be ready for our 6:00 pick-up for the hiker’s shuttle to avoid walking almost two miles back to the trailhead. Mike waited for the South Rim shuttle since he wasn’t hiking back. We were able to lighten our loads on the return trip because Mike helped us by taking a lot of extra clothes and supplies we didn’t need. Peppe, Linda, and I started our hike at about 6:30. The North Rim was much colder than the South at about 35 degrees. Again we took off layers of clothing within an hour. We traveled down quickly, and separated soon after Roaring Springs.
Peppe, Linda, and Chris preparing to set out on Day 2
I reached the Ribbon Falls Bridge in about three hours dropping over 4,500 feet in about 7.5 miles. Not knowing if Peppe and Linda went to the falls or not, I decided to visit it. I was not disappointed at all. The sights were very beautiful and well-worth the short 45 minute visit and additional mile.
I restarted on the trail at about 9:45 reaching Phantom Ranch at 12:05. I had made reservations over a month ago to have three sack lunches available at the Canteen for $10 each. As I picked mine up, the clerk told me my friends had left about ten minutes ago. I was surprised we were so close since I made a stop at Ribbon Falls. I had no intention of catching up to them. I decided to relax eating my lunch that consisted of a bagel with cream cheese, sausage, raisins, an apple, pretzels, jelly, peanuts, cookies, and electrolyte powder. I ate everything except the powder, and then continued my journey at about 12:50. Before leaving I gave an electrolyte tablet from my first aid kit to a hiker who I believed would need it later.
Once I went across the Bright Angel Suspension Bridge and started uphill, I was feeling good about the final part of the journey. Although, when I turned one corner I was demoralized to see that the trail went back down towards the river level. The trail through the canyon was mostly in the sun and was quite hot. The highest temperature I noticed on my watch was 98 degrees.
Once I reached Indian Gardens, I knew the rest of the trip was going to be easier since I’ve been on this segment on previous Grand Canyon hiking trips. I took a short break and talked with a couple of guys who knew they were not going to be able to make it to the Rim before sunset at 6:20. I gave them electrolyte tablets since they believed they would have problems.
I began the last leg out at about 3:30 with 4.6 miles and 3,000' to go, and averaged two miles per hour for this segment. Soon before reaching the 1.5 mile point, I heard a lady tell her boyfriend that she was feeling dizzy and thus sat down. I approached her asking if her hands were shaking, which they were. I gave her an electrolyte tablet and made sure she drank a bunch of water and ate a lot of food. I also told her to rest for a while before hiking out. Unfortunately she was not going to be out before dark. To make matters worse, the temperature was dropping and they didn’t bring any other clothes. Of course it is better to hike out in the dark a little cold than to pass out and possibly die. I continued and was able to finish the hike at 5:45, taking 11 hours, 15 minutes for the second day.
I was surprised I was not completely exhausted once I reached the top. I walked towards the Bright Angel Bar since that was where we were to meet if we were separated. Peppe had again hit a wall, but was able to finish the trip 50 minutes before me, with Linda 5 minutes behind him. Considering I stopped to see Ribbon Falls, I was actually keeping the same pace as Peppe and Linda.
We ate dinner, then headed to the lodge since we didn’t want to drive back home in our tired condition. At that point, the stiffness set in and the blisters were hurting our feet. Mike checked us in and moved all our bags into the room, saving us a lot of effort. On the way, the three men were hobbling while Linda strolled along without any issues. Linda was amazing considering the fact that she had a respiratory infection and was taking antibiotics throughout the entire trip. We cleaned up, and then went to bed early, as we were tired.
On the drive back we stopped at the Route 66 Diner in
Williams for breakfast per Mike’s recommendation. It was a good
restaurant with an authentic feel and good prices. Once we passed through
Kingman, Mike decided to he wanted another wager with me to try to get
his money back. This time it was concerning the traffic over the Hoover
Dam. I believed there would be no dam traffic since I found out from my
office the day before that the crane was no longer blocking one of the
lanes, but I proceeded to set the line at ten minutes as a cushion. Mike
thought it would be much more considering the number of people from Arizona
visiting Las Vegas. I told him they drove in Friday night and not Saturday
afternoon. He was disappointed with that statement. Keep in mind, I’ve
traveled over the dam a couple hundred times for my job so I have a good
idea as to the traffic flow. Upon reaching the dam, we discovered there
was no traffic at all and proceeded to glide across quickly. Before dropping
everyone off we stopped to get fuel. At that time, I was amazed to discover
that considering the weight of four people and all our equipment in my
Mazda 3, I still managed to achieve 38 miles per gallon. It was a wonderful
MOUNT CHARLESTON VIA SKI LEE
At about 7:45, we started up "The Line" ski run up to the Ski Patrol house (only 0.7 miles), then took the road off to the left. We went over a waterfall then up a wash. We then found the chute that leads to the ridgeline and headed up. It was slow-going up the chute with lots of class 3, scree, and sticker plants of all varieties.
We then got to the ridge and joined the North Loop trail about 2 hours after starting the hike. It was only 1.5 miles to this point, although it felt longer. We stopped and took a break and enjoyed the views of Charleston coming into view. At 10:00, we started hiking along the trail towards the peak.
One member (Ralph) just moved to Vegas this year from Washington state. This was his first hike since he's lived here and had to stop a little ways up the trail. The rest of us (Josh, Chris, Paul, Tim, and Sacha) continued by Devil's Thumb, and followed the trail up the switchbacks all the way to the summit. We all summited within five minutes of each other around 11:35. The total distance was 4.2 miles.
We enjoyed the views on the windy summit and sat just south of the flag in an area cairned off to protect us from the wind. We ate our snacks, took pictures and mingled. Josh's dogs enjoyed their break before having fun running down from the summit.
At 12:25, we started heading back. Just before the chute going down, Paul and Sacha did a little side peak (Lee Peak, sometimes called Forgotten Peak). This is the highest point (11.300') seen to the west in Lee Canyon from the ski resort. It only took us about 30 additional minutes before going down the chute. This was very slow-paced to avoid the stickers and to negotiate the scree and class 3. We were all back to the cars by 4:00, plenty of time for Chris to get back to see the UNLV-UNR football game that night.
Sacha with Mt. Charleston in background (bottom left), and a group summit photo on Mt. Charleston (bottom right)
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