Survive a Grand Canyon rim-to-rim hike

A rim-to-rim hike in the Grand Canyon is not to be taken lightly.

Every wild place disguised as a national park seems to bring out the collective poor decision making skills of the people who visit.

And while many of them make it out alive, this hike can be deadly if not planned properly.

We hiked the classic route from the South Rim to the North Rim along the South Kaibab and North Kaibab trails, for a total of 20.9 miles.  The mileage may be manageable. The conditions, however, are what you need to be concerned with.

What makes hiking the Grand Canyon different from any other national park?

For starters, it’s hot.  Unbearably hot. Midday summer temperatures soar well past 100°F.

There are dozens of heat related warning signs in several languages along any given trail basically saying you will die if you do not take the appropriate precautions.

Sadly, people do die every year simply because they were not prepared.

“I totally regret not studying a foreign language in high school right now.”

You’re asking for trouble when you combine an unforgiving desert environment with steep, rugged terrain and an ill-prepared hiker.

Of course, there are a few steps you can take to enjoy your rim-to-rim trip. Many successful hikers have gone before you. Follow their lead.

WATER/FOOD

You need to stay hydrated, obviously. Plan on drinking at least one gallon per day. Don’t wait until you feel thirsty. Drink water at regularly scheduled intervals. Know where water is available (for the most part, it’s not).

You’ll be amazed how many dehydrated zombies you’ll encounter deep in the canyon with only a small water bottle in hand.

Keep in mind that drinking too much water can cause hyponatremia.

To prevent hyponatremia, eat plenty of salty snacks and drink sports beverages containing electrolytes. We carried one small container of powdered Gatorade to mix with our water.

Forget about your diet. It’s no fun, anyway. Your body will require a ton of fuel for this trip, so load up as often as you can.

Warning: Don’t be an idiot.

PLANNING

Getting to the bottom is optional. Getting to the top is mandatory. Give this concept serious thought.

Once you reach the bottom, you are essentially at the mercy of the canyon. You must hike out. Chances are slim the park service will call in a helicopter unless you really are close to dying.

Hiking in (that is to say, going downhill) is almost more challenging than hiking out. Your knees and ankles will be completely shot by the time you reach the Colorado River. Consider using trekking poles to alleviate pressure on your joints.

Take your time, and rest often. This is not the place to be an overzealous macho power walker. Listen to what your body is telling you.

Most importantly, hike within your abilities, and do so with a few good friends. An inexperienced solo hiker will probably be beat down, Grand Canyon style.

No matter what you do, the terrain here will kick your ass. Always keep this fact in mind.

CONCLUSION

People routinely underestimate the Grand Canyon. And they die. Simple enough.

It all boils down to respect for the canyon.

Know that for the numerous hardships and twists and turns of a rim-to-rim hike, you will be rewarded with nonstop awe-inspiring scenery. Highly recommended.

Enjoy your walk.

Room with a view.

Advertisements

9 comments

  1. One of the things on my to do list I never got around to doing, and now it’s too late. But the views from the top are still grand. I just came from there.

    1. Rim-to-rim-to-rim would be awesome. You’d have your work cut out for you, but I’m sure an experienced backpacker like yourself would know what to expect. Definitely let me know if you two tackle this trip. I’d like to know how it goes!

      Have you heard of super fit runners doing a rim-to-rim-to-rim in one day? Crazy.

    1. Had to ask my wife that one. She said we did some research with Lonely Planet’s Grand Canyon guide. Given that our trip was rad, and that Lonely Planet has yet to let me down, I’d give it a shot. And if you do head out this way for a rim-to-rim, let me know dude. I’d go again in a heartbeat.

  2. That sign brings back memories. I did exactly that in 1998, highly unprepared, not enough water, not enough food and totally inappropriate clothing……started to suffer from mild hypothermia! Ah the joys of adventure!

Say what?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s