R2R FKT: BF
Some acronym definition to begin:
R2R= Rim to Rim, or traveling on foot from one side of the Grand Canyon to the other, usually along the “main corridor” trails of South Kaibab or Bright Angel on the South Rim, and North Kaibab Trail on the North Rim.
FKT= Fastest Known Time . . . Here’s a succinct explanation from an article on the Trail Runner Magazine web site: “A fastest known time is the fastest reported time for an effort on a specific trail or route. This roughly corresponds to a race’s course record, except that FKTs are usually solo or near-solo efforts.”
BF=Bare Foot . . . my preferred method of trail travel.
I was able to put all these ideas together last weekend (Oct. 10 to be exact), and with the cooperation of some glorious fall weather (thanks be to God!), complete a shoe-less, 21-mile Canyon crossing in 12 hours and 20 minutes . . . not even close to the 2 hours, 51 minutes, and 28 seconds by the legendary Rob Krar in May 2012. BUT (and it’s a big one). . . I like to think I’ve accomplished something that even Rob K and his beard could not pull off: crossing the canyon in one day, shoe-less-ly. (I did a barefoot crossing in two days back in October 2012.)
It’s an odd distinction, to be sure, but all my googling related to “barefoot Rim to Rim” turns up nothing on the subject (except for the above-noted blog post by yours truly).
So I’m gonna go with me being the “grandmother” of this new game.
My route was chosen ahead of time by the group I was assisting (the National Park Service requires first-aid-trained helpers AND and a permit for organized group crossings these days): the 7-mile South Kaibab Trail down.
While the SK is a bit too steep for my tastes–I would have preferred the longer Bright Angel Trail–it does come with spectacular views out and over and across the ever-changing canyon.
On the other side there is but one “main corridor trail”: the 14-mile North Kaibab Trail. This kind of South Rim to North Rim crossing is considered a little more challenging than the reverse, since the North Rim rises about 1,000 feet higher than the South Rim. More stats: the Colorado River is about 5850 feet lower than the North Rim, and 4860 feet below the South Rim (about 10, 710 feet total elevation change).
I was privileged to travel with such a wonderful group of hikers . . . and all of them were so well-prepared for the 21 miles of muscle-straining down and up that I did not have to bust out any WooFeR skills (one more acronym: WFR, or Wilderness First Responder, a certification I earned last year). The fastest of the lot were hours and hours ahead of me, but my job was to serve as “sweep,” and make sure no one got left behind . . . a pace well-suited to barefoot wandering.
After a leisurely Sunday sightseeing drive from the North Rim back to the South Rim (I visited the historic Lee’s Ferry for the first time, among other diversions), I immediately went to the Backcountry Office to get on the waiting list for a permit to stay at Bright Angel Campground. Yep, back down in the depths. That’s how good I felt the next day.
And when I returned to the Backcountry Office the next morning at 8am, I was #4 on the wait list, and able to score a camp site for the next night. Woo hoo!
So . . . Monday I hung out at the South Rim, wandering and writing (hey . . . that’s the title of this blog!), and then at the end of the day stuffed some food and sleeping gear in my backpack so I could get an early start on Tuesday.
Not too early, though. I had also thought it would be nice to have a hot meal down at the Phantom Ranch Cantina, so there was another waiting list to sign up for, and another nerve-wracking wait from 6:30-7 am Tuesday morning in the lobby of the South Rim’s Bright Angel Lodge while the very nice people working the concessions desk figured out if there was going to be a seat for me at dinner. There was! (So that was less food to have to bring, a sort of trade-off for the moderately high price of food that is all carted down via mules; all trash leaves mule-back as well.)
Tip for travelers: if your plans are flexible, you can sometimes get last-minute arrangements for Phantom Ranch accommodations. (This also worked for my previous R2R in 2012.) Otherwise, most folks make plans 13 months out, which is the earliest time frame the reservation system allows.
Enough logistics dithering: on to the adventure, via photos.