Beyond the Corridor - Page 3
Krar fills up at Pilot Springs. Photo by Ken Etzel.
For the uninitiated, it is wise to ease into Grand Canyon backcountry running. Difficulties related to extreme hot and cold, exhaustion, lack of water, route finding, self doubt and overconfidence are commonplace among Grand Canyon backcountry runs.
“It’s important to know the place, and make sure the timing and conditions are right,” says Brown. “A successful trip involves acute decision making and knowledge of the terrain, water sources, routes, weather, etc.”
With a 4500-foot elevation change on any given trail, from pine, fir and aspen forests at 7000 feet to cactus desert as low as 2500 feet, there is a lot to prepare for. Pack a first-aid kit, emergency blanket, personal location beacon (PLB), water purifier, GPS, topographical trail map, sunscreen and extra clothes, food and water.
To get your shoes dirty, consider tackling the Hermit to Dripping Springs (seven miles round trip), Grandview to Horseshoe Mesa (six miles round trip), Grandview/Tonto/Grandview Loop (17 miles) and Bright Angel/Tonto/Hermit Loop (26 miles), all of which offer easy access, reliable water sources, classic canyon views and well-maintained trails.
Stepping up the difficulty, check out the Hermit/Tonto/Boucher Loop, for a rugged 22-mile loop. After descending the Hermit Trail, visit the oasis of Hermit Creek, then pick up the Tonto heading west, passing one of the best views of the steep-walled inner gorge where the Colorado River cuts a long straight path, a rare view in this winding canyon. Also see commanding views of the unique rock formations in Travertine Canyon from exposed benches along the Tonto Trail. Finish by ascending the Boucher, one of the steepest and most exposed trails in the canyon. Numerous rest breaks are mandatory to catch your breath and soak in in the endless views of deep side canyons and layered buttes in this complex section of the canyon.
For those looking to get really out there, Gifford recommends his favorite loop, the remote and dry 32-mile Escalante Route. “The route isn’t even shown on most maps, and I have only seen two online reports,” he says. “You will likely not see another person on the entire run.
“My most memorable moment on the Escalante was suffering from serious dehydration,” he adds. “It was August, and I quickly drained my 70-ounce reservoir. We eventually stumbled down to a beach on the Colorado River and were able to refill. That was the muddiest and best-tasting water I have ever had.”
In the west end of the park lies another wild Grand Canyon classic—the 35-mile Royal Arches Loop, guarded by almost 30 miles of rough dirt road. Once on trail, be ready for more tough travel including route finding and a mandatory short rappel. Your hard work will be rewarded with a visit to the famous Elves Chasm, a beautiful grotto complete with an idyllic waterfall, ferns and moss, and the spectacular Royal Arch, the Grand Canyon’s largest natural rock bridge.
BACK TO THE RIM
During that first trip of mine into the Grand, the storm subsided, and we survived the lower-canyon confines. The sun even made a surprise evening visit, as I winced up the rock steps to the rim, struggling to keep my friends in sight. The pain was mitigated by views of the sunset casting shadows on the stratified mesas, buttes and walls. My ego had been wiped away by the canyon, and even though I was destroyed, or because of it, I wanted to go right back in and explore more of it ... all of it.