Monday, November 26, 2018

Grand Canyon Adventure

Team SooPage Completes R2R2R, Gets Citation, Terrorizes Everyone at Phantom Ranch.......
I know you've all been waiting for the Rest.......of......the here it is. I've been thinking of our recent adventure pretty much nonstop since the minute we returned to the South Rim. In fact, we've been plotting and planning the sequel, researching lodging, airfares, equipment for next time. This is how Team Soopage rolls.
So, when I last left you we had hiked into Phantom Ranch, approximately 38 miles into our journey, at 1:30 in the morning, and we were both extremely tired. I was very, very cold, and Bill was very unsure if he could make the 9.5 mile trek up Bright Angel in our weakened state.
We needed to make a good choice about how to approach the rest of this challenge and make it back to the South Rim safe and sound. We decided to rest for a while and try to get me warned up.
Bill, being an Eagle Scout, and a completely awesome human, was uber prepared with all sorts of gear. He had enough medical supplies to perform minor surgery or treat a rattlesnake bite in the canyon. He had purchased emergency sleeping bags to keep us warm in the event of an emergency where we could not hike and had to wait to be rescued.
We weren't quite there yet, but this seemed the right time to use them. We found some benches to get us off the ground, and we hopped inside. I tried curling up to maximize body heat, but I was still cold....not as cold, but cold. I was tired enough that I initially fell asleep for an hour or so. But then I was cold, so I woke up.......I'd try different positions but the hard bench and stiff legs kind of limited my options.
After what seemed like an eternity of trying to sleep, Bill asked if I was asleep and I said no. It was only 3:30......over 3 hours until light, and 5 hours until the Canteen would be open to offer warmth and coffee. I could probably hike after this short break, and even better at daylight, but I was so cold that I thought I'd never be warm again.
Flashback to Spartathlon 2 years ago. I had a horrible hike up and down a certain mountain, which crushed my spirit and made me exceedingly cold from all the starting and stopping. I left Nestani, about mile 105, well ahead of the time cutoffs, and if I could just maintain about a 13-14 minute mile I could finish within the time limits.
I could not get the cold or the feeling of complete defeat out of my mind, and the body follows the mind. I pulled the plug at mile 111 and turned in my chip, DNF. Looking back on that, I physically could have kept going, but I could not get my mind back into a good place.
Back to Phantom Ranch and our plight at 3:30 a.m. We saw a few lights on, so Bill tried to talk with someone in the kitchen about us maybe finding a nice, warm spot on their floor, and a resident employee too.......but they said no and directed us to the ranger station.
I get it..........they cannot offer every cold, tired hiker a warm spot to crash if they exceed their limits and get cold and stiff. But, we are special...........we are prepared hikers.......we are strong runners, we are Team SooPage............yeah......same answer......NO.....go tot he Ranger Station.
So, Bill summoned the Ranger, and he asked for our IDs....which we produced. He asked us some questions about our planned hike, where we were headed, why we were stuck here, etc etc. I was visibly shivering, so he did put a blanker over me.....yayyy!!
He was not pleased with us one bit. He surmised that we were the typical out of shape, unprepared tourist who decided to hike the Grand Canyon on a whim. I know he was just doing his job, because they get a lot of unprepared tourists stranded down there, but we really had prepared. Sometimes, I just get cold and I cannot explain it, but it's very hard for me to get warm again.
He wrote us two $80 citations for not having a camping permit. We told him that we had not intended to camp, but he told us that now we had become campers and we were unprepared for our current situation. We had some discussion about the weather and Bill showed him that we had the weather forecast on his phone, which seemed to calm him a bit, but he still gave us tickets.
Then he went back inside his nice, warm house for what seemed to be an eternity. I was hoping he was making out the pullout couch for us................but when he finally did reappear he gave us our citations, along with two sleeping bags, blankets and thermarest pads. He directed us to a campsite labeled "Stock," or where the mules go. So basically we would be sleeping on mule dung.
We decided to put our sleeping pads on the concrete picnic pad, and our gear went into the bear boxes......good thing the bears should hopefully be hibernating. I took off my shoes and settled into my mummy bag with blanket on top and I was a lot warmer. I curled up as much as I could, and it was actually nice, for sleeping on a slab of concrete.
I did take a few opportunities to look up at the amazing array of stars, unlike anything we can see in a populated area. It was so quite and peaceful and beautiful, and I eventually fell asleep. It was not deep, quality, bed sleep, but average minus cold, hard camping sleep.
I did not wake up again until first light. i tossed and turned for a while until I heard people moving about the ranch. I wondered how darn stiff my legs and back would be, and how long it would take us to hike out. At least we'd hike out in the light.
We finally got up, cleaned up our camp, and went to the nice, warm Canteen for coffee and bagel. The warmth was heavenly, and I started to feel human again. We both felt better in the legs than expected, and after making amends with everyone we had woken up, changing clothing, and filling water, we were ready to head out and finish this hike.
We met a young guy who was there filming and pacing an ultra runner who was attempting to break the PR for the R2R2R run. She would be coming through in the next hour or so and shse was moving on pace. We decided to head up the shorter and steeper South Kaibob Trail so we could cheer her on, shorten our journey and experience the dramatic views on this trail by daylight.
We left Phantom Ranch at Noon with picture perfect weather. Our legs felt pretty good and we were in great spirits. We were going to complete our R2R2R journey. It would be slower than we had planned, but we were safe and ambulatory and happy.
About a mile up the trail, Ida Nilsson, the Swedish runner seeking the record, passed us like we were standing still. She was running up the 10-22% grade and she had run nearly the entire way. We had thought we would run some ftohe "flat" parts, but because of our pack weight, general fatigue and desire not to sprain an ankle, we had walked the whole way and traded speed for caution.
We cheered Ida on and continued up the steep but beautiful trail. We were making great time. What a difference a few hours of sleep and some sunshine makes. We stopped several times to rest and take photos, and the scenery was dramatic.
There were views of the Colorado River, all the way up to the North Rim, and it was cool to see where we had been. As we climbed the switchbacks unfolded beneath us, and we were proud of our progress. Poles make it so much easier both downhill and uphill. I will definitely invest in some poles to help me on future hikes. They give me better balance and a better sense of confidence where it is steep and uneven.
I was increasingly ecstatic as we got closer and closer to the finish. Bill was tracking the altitude on his Garmin, and I knew we were within about 500 feet to the top. I was ready to get there, so I picked up my pace and didn't take a break until the top. 4:00 p.m.....I arrived at the South Kaibob Trailhead......and it had taken me only 4 hours to traverse this very steep 7.5 miles. I realize this is slow, but we made it!
Bill arrived just a few minutes later, and we snapped a few photos and embraced. The shuttle bus arrived, and we were seated and warm, on the way back to our car.
And, just like that our adventure was complete. WE did it...........we completed the Rim 2 Rim 2 Rim hike in 35 hours.24 if you take away our 11 hours at Phantom Ranch. It's not a time to be proud of, but we gave it our all, and it sure was a big adventure to remember forever.
I was proud of our preparation, strategy, teamwork, and smart decisions to ensure our safe return. Mother Nature is beautiful and amazing, but also unforgiving and powerful. We decide to respect the effects of the hike on our weary bodies and take a rest. We possibly could have kept going and made it back faster, but it could have been an unnecessary and fatal risk.
We completed our trip with an easy walk along the South Rim along the Hermits Rest route the next day. We enjoyed views of the Bright Angel Trail, Colorado River, and panoramic canyon views with shuttle stops every mile or so and a nice, warm bus.
We are already plotting our return assault next year.
I wish everyone a safe and happy Thanksgiving weekend! i hope you all find your own adventures and way to push your limits.
Thank you to my parents for instilling in me a love of the great outdoors, and thank you especially to Bill Page for sharing these adventures. I love you!

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