The initial idea was to walk down from the South Rim to the river, and then back. There is only a problem, the South Rim it’s at 2.200 m altitude and the closes river at 800m, a non negligible 2.800 m in one of the most arid terrains in the world.
The solution seams, easy, let’s split the journey in two days, right? Wrong, the guides are not allowed to take a 2 days’ hikes, either you take a single day or a 3-day hike.
Why a guide? Really… never go to the mountain alone, even if you know the terrain, … in this case, I did not know it. Also, if you plan to do it your self... take a guide, the Grand Canyon is one of the most inhabited places on earth… if something happens to you and you are don’t have a satellite phone… nobody will find you for days.
With all plans set, we decided to stat walking at 7:00 AM, and it was hard as I almost did not sleep that night. But the adventure gave me the energy to go on. From the south rim cabin, we we drive for 15 minutes to get to the start of the Grand View Trail. Originally that trail was created for the hotel owners to go to a source to get water for the guests. The Hotel no longer exists.
The first surprise was to find snow, we have the idea of the Grand Canyon as a hot dessert... and it is… but due to it’s elevation, in winter, there is snow. We had to wear crampons to avoid a free fall of hundreds of meters, as the first steps down are simply to go down about 400m vertical in less than 100m in horizontal.
As soon as the path gets more wider, it also reduces the descent speed. After descending about 800m, we can feel the temperature change. It’s a sunny day, we are alone, the trees have disappeared and now there are only cactus and other desert plans.
Even if we know how much we have walked, looks like we are still starting, we can’t see the end of the valley. The dimensions of the Grand Canyon are impressive. It’s 29Km wide, and 446Km long. As reference… Switzerland east-west length of about 350 Km.
One of the most impressive feelings I had on that day was the silence. I think it’s the first time on my live that I’m in a place where there are no sounds, and I’m not referring to human sounds, ... not a single sound… we did not hear any animals, birds, … you can imagine our surprise when on the edge of a rim we hear the sound of the river.
The path it was created by the hotel owners and later used by the miners looking for cooper and uranium. It’s funny to find a radioactive warning sign at the middle of the path. The mines have been abandoned for a while, but you can find the tools and houses as they left them.
A country with a very short history, anything older than 50 years is considered archeological relevant. You are asked to not remove broken glass bottles provably left there by drunk miners.
The Grand Canyon is packed with impressive caves, we had the opportunity to do a short visit to one of them.
The guide was happy that for once he did not had to baby sit an aged couple with the wife on high-heels, so he kept pushing me, and I was not complaining, I really wanted to see as much as possible…
But the return path, was challenging, we had already done more that was supposed to be done in a single day. When we arrived to the base of the Rim, I knew the last 400m ascend will be difficult, and I reduce a bit my pace, but kept trying to go follow my guide, he is the expert and he knows what is the best pace to get back home… right?
Well, when we got to the car, he told me that he was impressed, that the other guides will take about 8h to do what we have done in 6h. That was the final boost I needed to finish an incredible journey…
Well that and a chocolate and mint cheese-cake!