There have been several points in my life, let’s call them trail crossings…where I honestly can’t remember what life was like before. Something about doing physically challenging events changes me. I’ve felt this way on most of my climbs, and nearly all of my ironman races. There’s a certain part of you that sheds the fears and small stuff, and somehow the light is brighter, the colors are more rich, and your normal routine just isn’t enough. To say the canyon change the four of us would be a gross under-exaggeration. The time I spent with my 3 cousins: Sophie, Julia, and Maura is irreplaceable and in a word, epic. You’d think hiking 56 miles, in 26.5 hours, with 20,000ft of elevation change would be enough to scare these ladies off, but everyone agreed without a blink of an eye.
And no matter the internal struggle we all faced at some-point on our climb, it was. to. date. the most positive, encouraging, and inspirational hikes I’ve ever been on. I know I’m not shy about how much I love my family…. but I have never been more proud.
I figured everyone could use a break from my storytelling, so here’s Sophie’s take on our little hike in the Grand Canyon.
I do a lot of things for the Gram but the Rim 2 Rim 2 Rim challenge is definitely the most extreme. Okay, I did it for a couple of other reasons also but I’ll get to those later…To prepare for this challenge I did several things. Freak myself out by reading blogs enumerating all the ways you can and will die on the trail if you attempt the rim to rim to rim. Read other blogs about how one guy ran it in 6 hours. Sprint on the stairmaster with a backpack full of textbooks. Call and text Erin for encouragement that I could, in fact, complete this challenge.
I only told my close friends and family what I would be attempting just in case something went wrong. That being said, I’ve been on several adventures with Erin Carney and I know she anticipates obstacles and plans for them well. It also goes without saying that having the queens of the wilderness, Julia and Maura in our squad provided much peace of mind, even amid doubts of my own physical and mental capability.
I had never been to the Grand Canyon before so when we hit the trail at 2:30am I was already overwhelmed by the size of the dark shadows of the canyons, even before I could see much more than that. All of us were pretty amped to get the party started so we were laughing and chatting as we bounced down the steep switchbacks, only whispering in alarm when we passed the red-eyed zombies that occasionally walked up from the other direction. “They look terrible!” We laughed, “Are they even gonna make it?” What fun it is to walk downhill, haha! Foreshadowing
We were already down in the canyon by the time the sun came up, illuminating sprawling fields of desert with zero coverage for pee breaks. We all tried to remain polite and go behind a small rock or cactus – skip to the end of the hike when we were taking squat selfies, trying to fit everyone in the picture.
Once reached Phantom Ranch at the bottom of the canyon everyone we passed was already impressed with our progress. Moral level: 10. Average Selfies Per Hour (SPH): 48.
When we got to the huge bridge crossing the Colorado River the temperature had already gone up about 40 degrees from the start of the hike. Everyone was force feeding themselves water and PB&Js. It’s a weird thing to count calories in order to make sure you’re eating an outrageous amount.
The climb to the North Rim was nothing short of brutal. I cursed the people riding mules that passed us. How dare they? I have to get out of the way for them? Thank god Drake and Beyonce had just dropped new albums. I owe that climb to them, and to Erin’s Jammy Pack.
The views (Drake reference) at the top of the rim made the climb worth it. My knee had been giving me some problems so Erin sacrificed her compression sock by cutting it into a sleeve that I could slide over it and reduce the swelling. Once I was doctored and we were all fed we hit the trail again at 3:30pm. 27 miles down. Moral level: 9. SPH: 35.
I’ll skip to the part when I began to experience something like the 5 stages of grief. It was around 8:30pm when the sun was setting and I realized we still had about 9 hours of hiking to go, most of it being straight up the canyon. At first I was in denial, no way we have that far. Then anger at myself for agreeing to this. Then a very long phase of bargaining in which I picked out spots on the side of the trail that I could stop and sleep – just for a couple of hours! Once we started passing scorpions this option was out. When we finally reached Phantom Ranch again I sat down and asked the team honestly what would happen if I couldn’t go on, knowing that this was not an option. Everyone was silent so I said “ I just can, right?” And they all said yes you can. And that was the end of that. Moral level: 1. SPH: 0.
On the uphill Julez and I finally got back into some philosophical discussions that energized us both. I could feel Erin’s relief. More so than the physical challenge of hiking for 27 straight hours, not being able to sleep for that long was a weird physiological experiment. We were swaying and hallucinating and literally sleepwalking. I would look up and see Julia swaying slowly to one side until her hiking pole hit the ground again, moving forward the whole time. When we finally started passing people with our dusty red eyes we looked at them as if they were from a different planet. They were so…. clean. So… well rested. We were like them once…At the finish line of a marathon or Ironman or 5k Turkey Trot there are mobs of spectators and friends congratulating you, handing you chocolate milk and bananas, and telling you how impressive you are.
I am still in awe of my three cousins and their relentless positivity throughout the hike. Would I do it again. That would be a no. However, I now know what I’m capable of and that will stay with me forever. I look forward to the day when all of our children bond on adventures like the Rim 2 Rim 2 Rim challenge. Fingers crossed they don’t die!