Just now rolling into Starbucks to grab some coffee for the trip down the hill to Phoenix and home this evening. The Canyon was brutally hot as expected this week and it no doubt kept the crowds down. Pretty sure I’m the only person who did R3 on Tuesday. I started at 12:30am and no one passed me until after Red Wall Bridge. That couple was doing R2R and I didn’t run into anyone else who had started from the south rim.
I picked a midnight-ish start time intentionally to make sure I got through Cottonwood before the sun came up. Turns out I made a little better time than expected and got to Manzanita around 9am before the sun became a factor. From Roaring Springs onward my progress slowed considerably as I tried to mitigate the effects of heat and exertion, finally topping out NK at 2:40 a full two hours slower than planned.
My timeline was self imposed so it wasn’t difficult to make adjustments. I ended up taking my time enjoying the north rim and answered a lot of questions from tourists about hiking the Canyon and my hike in particular. I finally headed down NK around 5:30 and immediately began having blister issues. I had been treating hot spots on my ascent of NK but wasn’t too alarmed by how they felt going up the trail. I wasn’t even 100m down the trail before I realized I was going to have problems. Fortunately, I was able to keep everything from coming apart. It was just tedious stopping to drain blisters every 15-20 minutes and then reapply kinesiology-tape. There would be no hustling/bounding down the trail for me. Every step was an exercise in friction mitigation. I still managed nearly a 2mph pace under those conditions and made it to PR by 2:30am. I fueled up, did more blister management, and head out to make the climb to the south rim. Upward progress was good through Devils Corkscrew and into Indian Garden. From IG to the top the sun had come over the ridge and everyone’s progress came to a grinding halt. I spent a lot of time the remainder of the way up helping people who had underestimated the heat factor and advised about how to keep core body temps manageable while still making upward progress. Advised a volunteer ranger to get SAR in action for a guy who was vomiting and couldn’t keep down electrolyte capsules nor water. Dude needed an IV or he wasn’t going to make it to the top.
I finally topped out around 10:00am nearly 34 hours after I had started. It’s disappointing to still be chasing that 24 hour goal but I’m happy with how I adapted under the circumstances. Being prepared to handle set backs and unexpected obstacles makes a lot of difference in the outcome of hikes in the GC, and especially on hikes in the temps we had this week.