A hike in The Grand Canyon – Part 6 – They think it’s all over – not yet!!
After a good rest at Indian Gardens, just after 4 pm both Iain and I had another rehydration salt drink, then we powdered our feet and booted up, soaked all our clothes and towels and got ready to walk. We were well rested and it was only 4.8 miles, so my guess we should make it out of the Canyon by 9pm at the latest, I couldn’t wait! We knew we would have no accommodation, we had struggled to get a hotel in the first place – now we were a day late, there was a good chance we might struggle, we agreed that even a park bench would be good enough! Iain kindly took my rucksack laden with his kilt, two unused tins of nuts, three quarters of a bag of trail mix and a first aid kit I think that any expedition leader would have been proud to own! I was very grateful to be able to carry a slightly lighter pack!
As we started our ascent I was looking at the sheer walls of the Canyon and trying to work out where we would go out – that was silly to say the least! After about half a mile we were walking in shade, it was still very hot but there was no direct sunlight, we came across a ranger. The female ranger confirmed that Ian had been flown out, she was not sure if he had gone to the Canyon Medical Centre or to Flagstaff, but she did report that he was ok. the ranger was also pleased to see that we had followed instructions and had made it across the base of the Canyon, apparently it was expected that we would all fail – they obviously didn’t appreciate the level of training we had done!
Our next scheduled stop was to be 3 mile house, it was 3 miles from the top and 1.8 miles from Indian Gardens – should be easy!! As we progressed my towel dried almost immediately and due to the incline I started to mouth breathe, this isn’t good as it dehydrates you so quickly – time for an aniseed twist.
I swear I was hallucinating up those switchbacks – I kept seeing a building that just had to be the restrooms. Eventually after two hours we arrived at the 3 mile rest house, it was still so warm we had to resoak tee shirts, towels and hats; one thing I had learned was that in this temperature a cotton tee shirt is preferable – I know that goes against everything I had been taught! The issue I had with my merino tee shirt was it is designed to keep you dry, so every time I soaked it, I was dry again in a few minutes!
At 3 mile rest house we met a very nice Asian man – although later he turned out to be another one of the Barstewards! – he was looking for his wife and sister in law who had done South rim to the river and back in a day – we were losing light rapidly, as he had no flashlight he started skipping back off to the South rim. We also met two girls who were with a party that had done rim to rim, the rest of the party had gone on ahead about 5 hours ago, they too went off in to the distance. Another gentleman came sprinting up and seemed to almost collapse on the bench, I asked if he was alright, he nodded, he looked about 60, I was concerned, but in fairness if he was reliant on me to help him, it probably wasn’t going to be his lucky day!
So now with only three miles to go, we set off again, next scheduled break was 1.5 miles – it turned out to be about 100 yards! The climb just keep getting tougher, the sharp angle of ascent was interspersed with large steps, the majority of which were so high that I struggled to lift my aching legs over them. Iain was a few yards ahead of me, patiently waiting every time I asked for just a two minute break, just two minutes to sit on a rock & rest my aching weary limbs!
I had been quite concerned that I might struggle with a 30lb rucksack, when we had done our 25 mile walk I had had problems with my back, so I was pleasantly surprised that my back was holding out – although I had taken Ibuprofen throughout, however the problem I was starting to get was my left hip. Every time I stepped up one of these large steps my left hip felt as though it was coming out of its socket, the result was that I was pushing harder and harder on my sticks to try and take some of the weight. Before we got to the 1.5 mile rest house my hands were starting to blister from the excess use of the walking poles.
At one of our “rock stops” as they became called, the gentleman from the three mile rest house caught us up, he took a break with us for a few minutes, explaining he had over done it for today. His walk had comprised of starting at the North rim, walking down to the bottom, taking a detour of a few miles to see a other site, then back up Bright Angel Trail – he had already completed about 40 miles!!!! I asked him how far we were from the 1.5 mile rest house – he said we were nearly there – Barsteward – we were still a mile away! I was getting so disheartened.
I think we made it to the 1.5 mile rest house around 8pm, by this time things were starting to get a bit blurred – I decided I wanted to claim at least 2 miles for that part of the journey! Well when I looked back at 3 mile rest house it looked much further away than 1.5 miles! Once again I soaked everything, I wasn’t sure whether this was a good move or not as the temperature was really starting to drop.
We sat down to eat, a few salted cashew nuts, the last pieces of warm stale bread – hey we really know about fine dining!! This was a far cry to my hiking with my sister when we have morning coffee, freshly brewed of course, normally with a chocolate brownie, followed by lunch and a piece of fresh fruit and then a nice little afternoon tea and maybe an ice cream – no this was extreme hiking!! We even talked about leaving the rucksacks and coming back for them, but that meant another walk tomorrow! I even wondered about just leaving it and never going back for it – or paying someone to fetch it – anything, just get me out of here!
To be continued ……