Grand Canyon Rim to Rim Hike
9, 1998 Grand Canyon, Arizona
In case you just
dropped in and have no idea who I am, or what I'm doing here; my
name is Rich Hale. And like so many other's I can't help but think
you're so interested in hearing about my exploits of hiking in the
Grand Canyon, that I've posted a web page for you.
From the first
time I heard about people hiking the Grand Canyon, Rim to Rim to
Rim, non-stop in under 24 hours, I was rather intrigued with the
idea. Also known as "The Death March" our hike would start
at the Bright Angle trailhead on the south rim, go 9.5 miles down
to the Phantom Ranch, up the North Kibab trail 14.5 miles to the
north rim, back down the same 14.5 miles to the ranch again, and
then 9.5 miles back up Bright Angel trail to the south rim again.
Now it was my understanding
this hike was so tough they would toss you out of the park if they
got word you were going to try it. This is something I have yet to
verify, but after completing the hike myself, I could see where if
I were in charge of the Grand Canyon, I may not allow this hike to
take place either.
What I would do
(maybe), is allow runners and hikers an opportunity once or twice
a year to attempt a triple-rimmer. Say, once in the spring and once
in the fall. That way, we could arrange volume discounts with the
rescue helicopter, get group rates at the local hospital, arrange
a mass burial, and cut a deal with Heraldo Rivera - so he could finally
broadcast a real disaster on live television.
Not that I want
to discourage any of you from attempting this particular hike. Heavens
no! I mean it's really not all that tough. In fact I think my ex-wife
should even try it. And she should take her new husband with her
too. Just joking . . . I don't really think she should take her husband
The Grand Canyon: Rim to Rim to Rim - 48 miles - in under
As it turns out we did the hike in 23 hours, 58
minutes and 34 seconds. Yes!!! Although we can hardly take
the credit for that. We had already given up on the time frame.
It was just too hard and we were too tired. Several miles short
of the top, we had determined we could never make it under
the 24 hour limit. I thought for sure we would be at least
15 or 20 minutes late, so we kind of relaxed, moved a little
slower and took a few more breaks. When we reached the top
and checked the time - we were shocked.
Now, looking back,
it may have been our relaxed attitude that let us come in on time.
Had we stressed and tried to speed up, I think we may have blown
up instead. So here's a short story of how all this came down.
We reached the
Grand Canyon about 5 PM Friday afternoon. The first thing we did
was find the trail head, so we wouldn't be wandering around at night
looking for it. Next was to get some sleep. So after we located the
trail, confirmed our hotel reservations for Saturday night and relaxed
a little, we kicked back in the car and slept until about midnight.
Being dark kept
us from getting ready as quickly as we thought we could so it wasn't
until 1:40 AM that we actually hit the trail. Even though we had
lots of energy at this point, the trip going down the trail was stressful
in it's own way. We had to be very careful not to trip, slip or do
harm to ourselves in any way. We had 48 grueling miles in front of
us and we didn't want to do this on a sprained ankle.
We reached the
bottom of the Canyon about daybreak, so we took a break to fill up
our water, check our feet for blisters or sore spots, put away our
jackets and headed up the North Kibab trail to the north rim. Damn,
I got to tell you, that's a long way.
The trip up was
really quite nice. We still had lots of energy and the new sights
were beautiful. It did get a little rough the last few miles up to
the north rim, in that we were getting a little tired and we were
now almost 24 miles into our hike. After an hour rest and a bite
to eat, we started back down.
The trip back down
to the river seemed to take forever. Walking and walking and walking.
By the time we reached the ranch at the bottom of the canyon we were
getting tired (classic understatement). And I must say not in the
best of spirits. People wanted to talk to us and ask us all kinds
of questions, all I wanted these nice people to do was shut up and
let me sit there. We were now 38.5 miles into the day and were looking
at another 9.5 miles "uphill". Yes all I wanted was a little
peace and quiet. Even my natural urge to brag about our achievement
to this point had subsided to an abnormal level. An hour later I
was still tired, still non-friendly . . . and it was time to go.
With our break
over, the canyon wall in front of us and the fear of failing all
around us - we started walking again. The next 5 miles were really
not all that bad. We traveled along the river for several miles,
so there was no elevation gain at all. Then when we did start up
the hill, it still wasn't that bad for about 3 more miles. Only now,
when we reached the hard part, we were really, really tired. We had
long since turned off our CD players that once played our favorite
motivation music. By now the music was no longer motivating - it
was irritating. So was the thought that we still had to carry these
useless things up and out of a 4,000 foot canyon. Oh well.
The last 4.5 miles
were something to remember . . . I mean something to forget, is more
like it. By now we were so tired that we couldn't even lay down on
a pile of rocks without the fear of falling asleep and dying of exposure.
So now our rest breaks consisted of sitting for a moment until one
of us said, "Come on, let's go I'm getting cold."
Of course by now
we're no longer as physically stable as we used to be and our foot
steps were a bit awkward. We had to make a special effort to stay
close to the wall side of the canyon, in that when we would trip
a little we no longer had the muscle control to catch ourselves quickly.
Instead we may stager a foot or two either way side to side on the
trail. Not something you want to do on a trail that would often be
only 3 feet wide. We had already gotten word that a lady earlier
that day had stood too close to the edge and it gave way. This ended
in tragedy of course, in that there are few places in the Grand Canyon
where you can survive a single mishap such as this.
All in all, when
we found ourselves standing back on the south rim of the Grand Canyon
in the same place we had started out 48 miles earlier and in just
under 24 hours. Had we had the energy and the skill - we may have
done back flips. Instead we settled for a high-five, a hug and a
can't live on Power Gel for as long as I thought you could.
lithium batteries increase in weight exponentially per hour
use of the English language (while hiking) decreases exponentially
per hour up to 20 hours, at which point you're
speaking in tongues.
over matter can only take about 10 years off your age at
best, not 20.
takes about 10 seconds to fall asleep on a bed of rocks when
you're 35 miles into a 48 mile hike.
my partner may look to be very tired, he can't be as
tired as I am.
good reason they call this hike "The Death March".
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