Rim to Rim to Rim - Grand Canyon - AmericanMarathonDreams

Rim to Rim to Rim -  Grand Canyon  - AmericanMarathonDreams


When I planned my AmericanDreamMarathons hiking/running up the Half Dome the RIM2RIM was directly chosen as a Must Do part. The run trough the Grand Canyon is probably the most famous hike and Ultra non-event run in the US. The decision to run in San Francisco and New York came after that in my mind, even if I did run them before. The other thing about running Rim to Rim is that it’s logistically way more complicated than just run a marathon in a city but also, the area around is just amazing, so it didn’t seems fair to me to skip it. Las Vegas, Red Rock, Zion NP, Bryce Canyon, Moab, Arches NP, Gobblins Valley, Death Valley and Grand Canyon is wort a travel by it’s own and if you ever plan to do the R2R it should just be the final goal imbedded in some other adventures around the just mentioned NP and areas. Like always for big runs & adventures, I didn’t want to run the run just by myself and was looking for partners. Exceptional for me, I started this time pretty early and pretty sure to find someone but I ended up to run it solo and by myself. After having no response in FB groups, I thought helping at the Grand Circle Trailfestival, organized by Vacation Race could be fun and a last good chance to find a partner.
The Grand Circle Trailfestival is a great multi-day trailrunning event based in Kanab, runners ran one day in Bryce Canyon, one day in Zion NP and one day in Grand Canyon just to have free time in the afternoon to explore the landscape by themselves and camping, eating and watching trailrunning movies or listening talks at the evening at the festival – it’s a great concept and one of the events, I can really recommend (https://vacationraces.com/trailfest/grand-circle-trailfest/). Way to expensive for me, I chose to join the event on the other side of the fence and help out as an volunteer.


The full story started back in New York, after a flight back and a long 16 h bus ride from San Francisco over Los Angeles to Las Vegas, I was very happy I decided to rent a car my first time instead of trying hitchhiking, which is forbidden on the HW’s in Las Vegas and I also probably really time consuming and annoying – let’s say I was just happy to be independent . The way out of Las Vegas at 8 am was pretty annoying and it took me all the way to Zion NP to get relaxed. In the late afternoon, I arrived in Kanab, and felt directly really welcome. Over the next three days, I helped as a “toilet paper guy” controlling & cleaning restrooms and also at the food court. In exchange, I got a tent/camp place, food and most important meet up and stories from a lot of really happy runners. I used the time, when I was not working, to drive to Zion NP to get fit and acclimatized to the altitude and heat, running the famous Angel’s Landing trail, Watchman and Observation point. Somehow, we experienced during the trail festival some of the rarely days of rain in the desert and even on the last day, pulling down 450 tents, it rained all days. However, I worked together and as a part of an amazing volunteer team and got even more surprised when Larry offered me to stay in his Bed & Breakfast – Grand Circle (http://www.grandcirclebnb.com/), which probably rescued me, getting a cold. I also got Nutella, Bagels, Bars and everything, I could ask for to have nice breakfasts the next days and also some stuff for my run. On the way I passed and shortly visited the Best Friend – Save them All – “Animal Sanctury”, an incredible initiative and also known as “Dog Town” (National Geographic)!
If you ever looking for a cool place to volunteer in the center of fantastic Canyons and astonishing landscapes: https://bestfriends.org


Next on my list was Bryce Canyon – where I arrived in late afternoon. It was still rainy and cold weather, so I just did a short exploration walk, before I was looking for a place to sleep in my car on a grocery store parking lot in the town, just outside the park entrance. Everyone said it could get could, so I was more than happy that I have found, in all stuff runners left at the trail camp, beside a smiley umbrella a warm sleeping bag. In the morning, the car windows were frozen but after waking up and driving back to the NP I had a great breakfast and a beautiful sunrise, looking down on Bryce Canyon. I did an easy recovery run in Bryce Canyon, visiting the Wall Street trees, before driving back to Kanab and further southeast to the Grand Canyon NP (South Rim). On the way, I stopped at Powell lake for a short swim, just another great campground and place to stay longer.
Finally, after 7 h driving and at 10 pm in the night, I entered the Grand Canyon NP. My plan was normally, to ariive there earlier at 5 pm to check everything out for the next day and to have a plan and be fit but…


However, next to all the warning signs about long hikes down the Grand Canyon, rescues, only hiking in groups and necessary permits for multi- day hikes like the Rim2Rim etc, I found the Bright Angels trailhead. So, basically all I had to know, my start line – just follow the trail and eat and drink on the way. At midnight, I finally went really tired to bed, setting my alarm to 4 or 5 am the next morning, somehow I was really confused by the time zone change, and could never really find out if my phone changed or not and if I started at 4 or 5 am.


Race Day: I woke up, grapped my backpack, jumped out of the car and really deperable needed a restroom and found it at the trailhead. I started in my warm yellow jacket and long ties running shorts under my short shorts, used that dress last time running in -20 C° in Edmonton. After 10 km, a fox in the dark, meeting and sharing my water with a really exhausted hiker (did R2R2R in 3 days), it was warm enough and the sun was rising, so I changed and storaged my warm stuff and some food behind a stone next to a toilet house. The first part of running until that stop, was not really good, mostly careful hiking down my way in the dark, also because my headlamp wasn’t super bright anymore and my dress was definitely to warm. Afterwards, the run finally started and I made some miles working my trail down to the Colorado river. I met a few friendly hiker on the way and reached the river after around 3 hours – way longer then expected and 1 hour after sunrise. I passed Phantom Ranch. The next 10 km were almost flat. The flat part was just beautiful in the after sunrise sun, but also scared me because of some really dark rain/thunder clouds at the horizont. I took some way too long toilet rest stops and gambled away a lot of time. Reaching the Cottonwood campground, I felt really good and already made overmotivated plans of running the Rim trail along the Canyon (South Rim) afterwards to complete my first 100 k, I also planned to maybe run the South Kaibab – Bright Angel Loop the next day. But trailrunning isn’t like that – “Never underestimate the trail and you’re done when you’re done!”.


Hiking up the North Kaibab fast, meeting hikers and other runners on there way down , I still felt good and the landscape was magical, so I stopped, taking a lot of pictures! The top was cold, so I did another long toilet stop – using the time mostly to eat and charging my phone in the toilet house, because it was the warmest place. After an hour the fun started – turning on some motivating music and playing down the trail! Sorry to all the hikers I scared and annoyed, running down the trail in best “crazy runner style”.
Of course, I also killed my quads with that and at the flat part, I already payed tribute with a not continuous run and some longer hiking breaks. At around 3.30 pm, I finally reached the Colorado river my second time, way more tired than in the morning but somehow still motivated to reach the top around 5 pm. Plans are plans, and in reality it took forever, and it would haven taken even longer if I wouldn’t have run into David. He was one of two guys who passed me that day. The first one, was another runner during the dark morning, when I was not awake enough to take the opportunity to catch up, actually I not even talked to him. He also seemed really focused. David from Vancouver, Canada was a “climber” on a American roadtrip. He did like me before the Half Dome hike and was actually doing the South Kaibab – Bright Angel Trail loop, so it fit great and we had a lot to talk about, mostly climbing. We hiked most of the uphill Bright Angel Trail together, which was really motivating and I just lost him at the last mile, were I really had trouble to keep up my pace. My legs and I were done and it was good to reach the top in the dark at 8 pm. I gave David a ride to the lodge, where he parked his car. Yes of course , he was a car camper, too.
We decided that we deserved some expensive fancy food, so I drunk some cola and ate a warm soup – pizza was too fancy and too expensive. I slept another night in my car, explored the South Rim trail just a little bit the next morning and drove back to Kanab, where I spent another night in my car before visiting and doing a small walk in Zion NP. Normally, I wasplanning to do the Narrows, but it would have taken to much time, because I had to be back in Las Vegas to catch my bus by midnight. The traffic in Las Vegas sucked and it took me way to long to finally find Red Rocks NP, where I basically just drove the scenic drive, because I was planning the explore just ones the night life in Las Vegas. It never happened. I drove 2 hours, stressed throught Downtown Las Vegas, couldn’t find a parking lot and was just happy when I returned my car – I’m really not a city person and Las Vegas will be just a good start point for me to explore the beautiful Canyon lands: Zion, Bryce, Grand Canyon, I explored a little bit, but there are many more trails and canyons and I’m still not really happy with my R2R2R performance, made some friends during the trail camp, so there are some reasons to come back to Las Vegas


My Strava results can be found here, but unfortunately Strava recorded wrong and more than 10 km to much, officially it should eb around 48 miles (75km), 3100 hm, instead of 89 km, 6500 hm. It took me 14.5 hours in total and around 11.5 hours moving time, which means a lot of (3 hours) of breaks. However, in the end it was just a great adventure!

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A great video about the R2R2R is Jim Walmsleys FKT (5:55:20 h) video:  




Cheers for reading and I’m happy about any feedback!