Home > Race Reports > Rim to Rim @ The Grand Canyon

In September, with two of my friends, Martin & Tash, I ran the Rim to Rim (R2R) in the Grand Canyon in Arizona.

The R2R challenge is to cross from either the north or south rim to the other side in one day. There is also the R2R2R challenge which brings you back to the starting rim but we were not feeling that adventurous for our first crossing.

We flew in to Las Vegas on a Sunday, picked up a rental car and with a quick stop at the Hoover Hydro-Electric Dam, headed straight out towards Arizona.

Looking back I think we would have changed the logistics of our trip, but the plan we made was:

  • Arrive at the Grand Canyon Village on the South Rim early in the evening.
  • Deliver a drop bag to the shuttle bus company and scout out the trail head for the next morning.
  • Get an early night
  • Start on the trail at the south rim around 5:45 am.
  • Finish at the north rim approx 1 pm.
  • Grab the drop bag from the bus and have a quick shower before the four hour journey heading back to the south rim in the shuttle.

What actually happened was:

  • Arrive at the Grand Canyon Village around 11 pm
  • Deliver drop bag and fumble around in the dark looking where to park the next day.
  • Get to sleep around 1 am
  • Wake at 5 am very bleary eyed and start running at 6 am.
  • Got to the north rim approx 1:30 pm.
  • No time for a shower we rode the long journey back after a quick towel down and shirt change. Then got in the car and drive another stinky few hours to Page, AZ, before finally getting the shower we craved.

In all fairness, it wasn’t that bad but there are better ways of doing it. For example, go to the north rim, drop of your car, get the shuttle to the south rim the day before, have a relaxing evening and then just run back to the car the next day. You live and learn.

We were going to be taking the South Kaibab Trail down into the Canyon as that had the best sunrise views. Hitting the trail as dawn broke was breathtaking. All the rocks and cliffs were bathed in an orange glow that was truly beautiful.

The temperature was good and we made good time down into the canyon. Just before we crossed the Columbia river at the bottom, we passed a mule train. First thing to note about mules is they pee an unbelievable quantity of fluid. The second is that the stench of their urine is one of the worst things I have smelt. It made me gag and my eyes water. The people were friendly though and we got past them with out falling off the cliff so all was good.

At 8 am we made a quick stop at Phantom Ranch around which is where hikers can stay overnight if they book early enough. I tried some of their homemade lemonade and whilst it was tasty, drinking that much bitter fluid was not a great plan for my continued running.

The whole trail is around 35 Km (22 Mi) and at this point we had done about 10 Km (6 Mi).

Leaving the ranch you start the very steady climb up out of the canyon.

Along the way there are a few water stops that are open during the summer months and these were used as targets to break down the run. My favourite target was Ribbon Falls. The falls are a neat geological feature tucked away on west wall and was a welcome little oasis for a 10 minute break.

At that point the climbing started to get more pronounced, and the sun was overhead and shade was minimal. We were fortunate that it was a relativity cool day for the canyon, still in the low 30’s but it could have been a lot warmer.

As the day continued the one thing I noticed was as we climbed higher out the total elevation was taking its toll. You start out at the south rim at around 2,000 m (6,500 ft) descend approximately 1,500 metres (4,800 ft) and then climb out to around 2,500 m (8,200 ft). I’m not sure if it was the fact I live at sea level or just the effort of the day but as we got further in to the day I felt breathing to be harder and a headache was nagging me.

The last few hundred metres were tough but we pushed on as time was ticking and the thought of missing the shuttle was not an appealing one. The one thing playing against us was the views. Every turn in the canyon reveals more natural beauty and it is hard not to at least take it in, if not photograph every inch of the place.

We reached the north rim trail head at 1:25 pm ish and luckily the shuttle bus was hanging around nearby, they know their clientele.

The day was amazing. If was filled with views that will stay with me forever and a great experience to share with great friends.

Below is a 4 minute video was put together from the 1 hour plus of footage that was taken during the run.

Video credits: Martin & David using a SJ1000, a GoPro Hero2 and an iPhone5.