Where did I leave off? Oh, yes ... the River. I was just starting across the Black Suspension bridge heading south across the Colorado River at the bottom of the Grand Canyon (hence forth referred as "The Canyon"). This is where the hike really begins; the previous 14 miles being little more than prologue. From here, I knew I had a 1600' climb out of the inner-canyon up onto the Tonto Plateau; then a hellish 1200' climb from the Tonto Plateau to Skeleton Point; followed by a relatively easy 1100' climb to Cedar Ridge; and finishing up with a slow 1000' slog to the rim - exiting 7260' above sea-level. Oh boy!
By this time, I was about 500' above the river, nearly directly above the suspension bridge. If you look closely, you can see river boats on the beach. Somewhere along here, I got passed by a youngish looking women. She kept looking back at her family further down the trail, put pressed on without them. My strategy for this climb was to keep my HR between 135 and 141, so I resisted the urge to chase her. Besides, I still had over 4000' to climb and I was sure she'd burn out in no time. She was going way to fast.
As the sun continues to rise, the deep reds of the lower part of the canyon come through.
The last little bit of the inner canyon, just before reaching the Tonto Plateau. I had convinced one of the guys in the hiking party to go with me up South Kaibab. Most people don't try to get out this way, and have know idea what their missing. I gave him a 10 minute head start and caught him just before this point.
The Tonto Plateau. This is relatively flat area that runs for miles along the River. The building in the back ground is a toilet.
Looking back down the trail coming off the Tonto Plateau. It looks peaceful doesn't it? Just wait until you go around the corner.
The Steps! I'm sure this section of the trail has a real name. I call it THE STEPS FROM HELL. My hiking partner is pictured above. This whole section is series of switch backs with an average gradient greater than 20% - it's STEEP, very STEEP. Not only is it steep, but the National Park Service has installed a log across the trail every two or three feet to make sure you pick up your feet and really work your quads (they claim it's all about erosion control - but I know better).
Finally! I reach the top of the steps and I'm still smiling. That would soon change. The wind is picking up and is blowing constantly at 20 to 30 MPH.
One last look down at THE STEPS. This section always kicks my ass.
What's fun about the Canyon is that it's about the last place in the US where there isn't a warning sign every 5 feet telling you not to step off the trail. Here the trail goes around the bend and drops straight down 500'. Very cool
I finally got to Skeleton Point. This spot is at 5220'. It's 3000' off the river and 2000' below the South Rim; only 3 miles to go (ha ha). This is about as far as the day-hikers go.
Don't remember the name of this butte. You can see the South Kaibab trail running along the east side. My hiking partner is down there somewhere.
This is the last time I had the energy to get out my camera. Besides, it's very close to the top, only 500' or so under the rim. The colors in the Canyon really pop out though. I was freezing at this point. Goose bumps ran up and down my arms, but I was closing in on the girl. Just before the last set of switch backs leading up to the Rim, I caught up with her. I told that she'd beaten my sorry butt this far and there was no way she should let me beat her to the top. She smiled and took off (again).
My friend came out 20 minutes behind me, so we had the girl take a picture of us, before we found the shuttle bus to take us over to the main lodge at the Bright Angel trail head. It'd be two hours before the other two guys in our party got out via Bright Angel - once again, the oldest guy got out first (good thing I wasn't officially hiking with the girl - she whooped me, but good).