Wednesday, May 12, 2010
Tuesday, May 4, 2010
Mile 10. Sign of things to come. Turn-off from the Gibson Jack trail and beginning of the brutal, thigh-burning, calf-busting, lung-searing, off-trail, straight-up 1,500ft climb. Sah-weet! This is definitely one of the unique trademarks of this race and something that makes this event so challenging. (Don't end up skewered like this guy, there's a long ways to go)
On the crest of the Dihedrals looking West at the Cascade Volcanoes. ???
(I see Black Butte. The one on the right)
Sunday, May 2, 2010
I left the South Kaibab Trailhead (el. 7,000 ft) at 8:00am and this is what I was looking at. It was absolutely pouring. Bummer. The middle of the trail was a river of fast-flowing mud mixed with mule urine and feces. Double bummer. And four minutes down the trail... BAM... the business end of a loooooooong mule trail. Trifecta. Luckily, the aft-most mule train captain somehow noticed me behind and yelled up to the mule train captain in front to stop and let me pass. It took all of about 2-3 minutes. But I still wished I had left ten minutes earlier!
After 20 minutes and 2,000 ft down, the rain finally let up and I took off my jacket. It was much warmer down here too. And there were a surprising amount of people going down and coming up given the nasty weather and it being a Wednesday. And then, about 20 minutes and 1,000 ft below, on a striking red/green plateau, I froze in my tracks. I stared, unmoving, witnessing one of those sights beyond beauty. There were others doing the same. Nothing moved. It was silent. I could've stayed a while, but I couldn't. In that moment, time seemed to stand still, but it wasn't. I had to keep moving. Quickly. I packed the camera away and continued down knowing full-well that it would probably be a long time before I witnessed anything like that again here.
I hit the black bridge (el. 2,500 ft) in 57 minutes, crossed the Colorado and continued right on past Phantom Ranch without stopping. I knew I could make it to Cottonwood with the two bottles I started with. It wasn't especially warm and it was very humid making hydration much easier. I passed through the "box" and continued up the wider part of the North Kaibab canyon reaching Cottonwood (el. 4,000 ft) in 2:15. I refilled my bottles. So far, I had only consumed two, half-bottles. (I had mixed double-strength drink mix into each bottle so I could drink the first half of each at double strength, then fill up and continue on with a normal mixage.)
I hit Roaring Springs Pumphouse (el. 4,500 ft) at 2:35 and floated right on up the trail running virtually all of it (except for the steep stair sections) right on up to the high bridge at 6,000 ft. From there, it began raining steadily again and water was cascading off every cliff face and pouring onto the trail like gigantic showers. I walked/ran most of the rest of the climb until 7,000 ft where snowdrifts remained and became larger and larger as I ascended up to the North Rim trailhead at 8,200 ft where it was solid snow four feet deep.
I hit the North Rim in 4:05. Took two pictures. Ate three Shot Blocks and a half tube of honey roasted cashews. And turned back down the trail.
I made it back to the pumphouse in 65 minutes (5:10) and stopped to refill water. 15 minutes later (5:25), I was back at Cottonwood and cruised on by.
Another 65 minutes (6:30) and I was back at the Colorado refilling water at the spigot just across the creek preparing for the final push. I knew I was getting low on food, but hoped I had anough pep in my step to make quick work of this brute of a climb back up to the South Rim. I slipped into my comfortable and familiar shuffle, up to the bridge, across through the tunnel and began my way up.
I knew right away, this would soon turn out to become more of a struggle than I intended. But then again, have ANY of the climbs back up to the South Rim EVER NOT been a struggle?!?! Nope. Wishful thinking, my friend. Dream on...
The short of it is, I took the last of my food after an hour of climbing at around el. 4,500 ft. I still had 2,500 ft to climb and it would take me another hour and twenty minutes of painful suffering to get there. It became very windy. Very cold. Very miserable. I thought I was going to go delerious. And then, after countless steps up over those %#@#! wood stairs, I was at the top where everything was coated in a fresh white layer of snow for the upper 500 ft.
I was knackered. Finished at 5:10pm, 9 hrs, 10 min after stepping off this very cliff. And very hungry. And very cold. And without any time to rest or recover, I walked back to the car, changed my shorts, and raced off back to Phoenix to pick up my parents at the airport. (Happy birthday Mom! Sorry I was a few minutes late! But it sure was good to see you both!)
The next Monday, after hanging out in Phoenix with family for four days, I found myself again looking across the Canyon, this time on a beautifully bright, crisp spring morning and this time headed down the Bright Angel trail with the intent to do another R2R2R.