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It was the day before Thanksgiving and I awoke to complete darkness in the small motel room. I pressed the light button on my watch and the cool, blue glow revealed it was 1:40 a.m. Five minutes before my alarm was set to go off. May as well get up. No sense in trying to close my eyes again. The sooner I step out the door, the sooner I’ll make it back from running the 42 miles of a double crossing of the Grand Canyon, the classic rim to rim to rim run.
The idea for this run was first planted in my head five years ago by a friend at Road Runner Sports. My plans to run it three years ago were delayed by injuries that forced me to settle for running a flat 40-mile course in the Denver area. That forty-miler was my first ultrarun, and while it built my confidence, I realized I had a lot more work ahead of me to successfully tackle the Grand Canyon.
But, here I was. Five years of daydreaming, planning, running, replanning, and more running had led to this moment. I cupped a mug of black coffee in the motel room with only the bathroom light on so I wouldn’t disturb my sleeping six-year-old daughter or my mother who would watch her while I ran all day. My wife, Mandy, and a couple of friends had already hiked to Phantom Ranch down at the bottom of the canyon the day before to act as an aid station for me.
A run this big requires you to have your shit together. Understatement of the year. Even when you do, anything can go wrong. Earlier in the year, I was chased by a couple of snarling farm dogs on a run. I hastily grabbed a big branch off a bush and waved it in their faces to convince them to back off. Three months earlier, I tripped on a misplaced landscaping timber in the middle of a run. I could have sprained an ankle, but walked away with only scratches and bruises. And just two days ago, heavy snow in Grand Canyon prompted rangers to strongly advise avoiding descending into the canyon due to thick, slick mud.
All that was behind me. The weather had broken, the trails had dried out enough to pass through, and everything was in place. I finished my breakfast: a bowl of frosted mini wheats, two bananas, two slices of wheat bread with almond butter, and a tall glass of water. Pulling on the layers of my running clothes, I felt as though I was preparing for battle. In a way I was. Nature doesn’t hand you a victory of endurance without a fight.
I grabbed my hydration pack, triple-checked my food, water, first aid essentials, and extra layers. They were all there. I kissed my sleeping daughter’s forehead and walked out the door. My watch read 2:40 a.m.
Outside, I was greeted by a whole lot of darkness. And cold. There was no moon. There are no streetlights in the Park, one of the many beautiful things about Grand Canyon. The temperature rang in at a balmy 25 degrees, which had helped deposit a thick layer of ice overnight on the cars outside the motel. I was thankful my friend Jason had agreed to drive me to the trailhead and had already warmed up his car and scraped the windshield. He immediately achieved rock star status.
We slowly made our way to the South Kaibab Trailhead. Slowly because the windshield kept fogging up and because of the lack of streetlights. Oh, and I forgot the road map back in the motel room. But, after only a couple of wrong turns we arrived at the trailhead parking lot.
I got out of the car, buckled up my hydration pack, and adjusted my beanie and gloves. Jason stood shivering in the cold. I looked at him nervously and said, “I guess this is it.” He brushed off my anxiety saying, “You’ve put the time in. You’re ready for this.” I was surprised by his encouragement and thanked him. Usually, Jason was much less sympathetic. He must have realized he was being uncharacteristic, because he quickly added, “Alright man. I’m fucking cold. I’m getting back in the car. Don’t die, dude.” That was more like it. I laughed and walked away into the darkness. It was 3:10 a.m.
My headlamp showed me the way up the paved path through the twisted juniper trees. But, when my headlamp abruptly stopped illuminating anything in front of me, I knew I’d found the edge of Grand Canyon. I’d arrived at a wall of nothingness. No amount of time would help my eyes adjust to this darkness. I felt a twinge of fear standing before the void. You can’t look into that much blackness and not feel a little anxious, a little overwhelmed.
Stars sparkled in the sky. Lots and lots of stars. But without a moon, they did nothing to brighten the landscape. I drew in a deep breath of the cold, dry desert air and it calmed my nerves. I took in another deep draw and the anxious buzz in my legs was stilled. I pressed the start button on my watch and plunged into the great emptiness.
I quickly descended the top set of switchbacks fueled by adrenaline and excitement. Years of training and preparation had led me to this moment. I’d run 958 miles just this year. I planned my mileage so that I’d hit 1000 at the end of today’s Grand Canyon run. In addition, I looked forward to hours of quietude in the middle of the desert without a soul nearby. It was one of the reasons I chose November to attempt the run. So, I was taken aback when only a few hundred yards into my run I saw headlamps approaching me. It was 3:15 in the morning and there were two slow-moving headlamps ahead of me piercing the blanket of night. I couldn’t believe it.
As we crossed paths I recognized the young couple from the day before. I had hiked about a mile of the South Kaibab to check trail conditions after the snow. This same couple had passed me on the way down at about 9 a.m. Eighteen hours later they were just exiting the canyon from their rim to rim to rim run. Both of them looked defeated and ready to drop. I attempted an encouraging congratulation to them for finishing.
“Just a few more switchbacks and you’re done,” I said cheerily. I pointed upward into the darkness saying, “the parking lot’s right up there.”
The girl didn’t have enough energy to even turn her head toward me. Staring at the ground in front of her, she simply said, “I’m so glad to be getting out of that hell hole.”
My excitement was replaced by a wave of fear. What the fuck had I gotten myself into? A 42-mile run from one side of Grand Canyon to the other and back again? On a hair-thin trail with 1000-foot drop-offs inches away? And a total of 11,000 feet of knee-crushing downhill plus another 11,000 feet of quad-shredding uphill? Good grief.
I had looked at topo maps of the route so many times over the last year I had the trail fairly memorized. But, her one little comment brought into clear focus what I was attempting. It was fucking nuts. Ah well. That’s what makes for a good adventure. The amount of risk is directly proportionate to the amount of fun, right? That’s what I told myself, anyway. I kept pushing through the darkness.
A mile into my descent, the temperature warmed to 45-degrees prompting me to stop and peel off layers. I swapped my thermal tights for shorts and stuffed my thermal hat and my ultralight jacket into my pack. Feeling a little more nimble, I picked up the pace working my way through the tight switchbacks, stepping down knee-high steps, and dodging sloppy, red mud puddles filled with globs of smelly mule dung. So far, this was not the grand run I had anticipated it being. So far, it was a lot of hard work. But, I had a feeling this was nothing.
I caught glimpses of landmark signs as my headlamp flashed upon them. I passed Ooh Ahh Point, Cedar Ridge and Skeleton Point. The name Skeleton Point gave me a little chill as I passed the sign. I was distracted for a moment pondering the origin of the viewpoint’s name when something grabbed my left shoe and suddenly flattened me out face down on the ground. My foot was firmly fixed in place. I couldn’t break free. I turned my head and shined my headlamp back at my foot half expecting a skeleton’s hand rising out of the ground gripping my shoe. Instead the light revealed that a four-inch piece of black rebar, used to hold landscaping timbers in place, had punctured the toe of my shoe. Somehow, the sharp metal rod missed my big toe and left me without a scratch. I pried myself up off the ground, made a mental note to watch for pointy things sticking out of the ground, and continued on.
By mile six, I was relieved to hear the steady roar of the Colorado River in the distance. It meant I was close to my first checkpoint at Bright Angel Campground where my wife and friends were camped. I arrived at Black Bridge, the pedestrian bridge that crosses the river, and paused for a moment to examine it. The time was 4:55 a.m. and it was still pitch black. My headlamp divulged only the bare minimum of information about what lay ahead. The river was directly below me, but I wouldn’t have known it if not for the sound of its thunderous flow. I stared at the tall steel railings that framed in well-worn wooden planks on the floor that had been rounded by countless mule hooves and hiking boots. I took a few steps onto the bridge and felt the suspension cables flex and vibrate. I still couldn’t see the water below. My stomach fluttered at the notion that I was suspended sixty-five above the murky Colorado River, which was flowing somewhere around 15,000 cubic feet of water per second.
For three hundred feet, I watched the steel bars of the bridge’s railing pass my periphery in a mesmerizing pattern like I was traveling through a wormhole to another dimension in space. The bridge ended abruptly snapping me out of my trance as I unexpectedly found myself running inside a cave. Maybe I was traveling back in time. I half expected to hear the roar of a T. Rex or the screech of a Pteranodon up ahead. I soon discovered the cave was actually a tunnel carved into the solid rock cliff on the north side of the river.
I soon exited the tunnel and began running on the sandy trail that followed the Colorado River and veered north along the confluence of Bright Angel Creek. A few hundred yards later I arrived at Mandy’s campsite. I stopped my watch. It was 5:05 a.m. Not bad. I’d descended almost 4700 feet and covered seven miles in one hour and fifty-five minutes. Ten minutes slower than I’d hoped, but I felt it was smart to take my time in the dark than to risk a major fall. I figured I could easily make up the time as the sun began to rise.
Mandy and our friends Robby and Janet were awake, waiting for my arrival. I was very excited to see their smiling faces and they were equally happy to see me still in one piece. I handed off my thermal layers knowing it would warm up soon, and refilled my pack with food and water that Mandy & Company had packed down for me. Earlier in the week, the rangers told us the water main near Phantom Ranch had broken, making filtered water unavailable at the campground. To be safe, Mandy, Robby and Janet each packed about a gallon of water for themselves, and an extra gallon for me. Including my food supplies and spare running clothes, they carried down an extra ten pounds for me so I could travel lighter and faster.
They were understandably a little upset the day before when they arrived at Phantom Ranch to find campers carrying arm-fulls of water bottles freshly topped off at the water spigot. Even the bathrooms were far less rustic than the ranger had told us. Mandy laughed saying it was practically a day spa down there. They even had electric hand dryers, she said.
After a few more good laughs, I finished off a strawberry Pop Tart, a lemon Lara Bar, drank a few big gulps of water, gave a round of hugs, kissed my wife, and headed north on the trail. Mandy & Company would leave soon after the sun rose to head back up to the top of the South Rim. With a little luck, I would get to the North Rim and back again to rejoin them just before they summited the South Rim. I still had thirty-five miles to go, so anything could happen. To be safe, both Mandy and I carried satellite phones. It might have been overly cautious, but it was worth the extra weight to know we could communicate in case I ran into trouble. At this point, though, I felt strong and confident it would be smooth sailing.
The air temperature hovered between 55 and 60 degrees, the skies were clear of clouds and any sign of snow or rain, and I had plenty of food and water. Over the next seven miles I watched the sunrise turn the sky from black to gray to purple and then to the deep indigo blue that only exists in the desert. I watched in awe as the first rays of sun peeked over the canyon walls and set fire to the top of the golden butte called Buddha Temple.
The evolving lightshow of the morning sun and the relief of running on mildly sloping ground made the miles disappear. Before I knew it I arrived at Cottonwood Campground an hour and fifty minutes after I left Phantom Ranch. I found a picnic table, ate some food and hydrated. I waved to a camper who had just woken up judging by his wild bed head and puffy eyes. He waved back and walked down the trail toward me to ask if I was trying to make it to the North Rim. I said yes. In a thick British accent, he said he and his teenage daughter were going to attempt to make it up as well. With a little luck he hoped they’d make it back to their campsite by dinner. He then looked at my small hydration pack and running shoes and asked where I was camping.
“Here at Cottonwood?”
“No,” I said.
“Did you camp at Phantom Ranch?” he asked with widening eyes.
“No,” I said again. When I saw the confusion on his face I figured I should elaborate. “I’m staying at one of the lodges at the South Rim. I started at the top of South Kaibab Trail at three this morning and will finish back up there this afternoon.”
“Bloody hell!” the Brit exclaimed. “You’re doing all that in one day?” I nodded. He said, “I’m taking a week to do it!”
“And that’s pretty awesome, man,” I said. “Not many people in the world can say they’ve done Grand Canyon rim to rim to rim no matter how long it takes. It’s a pretty special place to experience this close.”
He agreed and then, perhaps feeling inspired to get moving, said he’d better get ready for the day. We wished each other luck and I got back on the trail. As I left the campground, I stashed some of my food at an empty campsite to lighten my pack as I had over 4000 feet to run up over the next seven miles to reach the top of the North Rim.
A mile and half later I made it to the Pump House Ranger Station. This was the former residence of legendary artist and park ranger Bruce Aiken. A friend of mine who works for the forest service told me how Bruce’s kids grew up living in this house and hiked the five and a half miles to the top of the North Rim every day to catch the bus to school. Then at the end of each day they’d hike back down with their backpacks full of books and homework.
I thought to myself that if a couple of elementary school kids could hike in and out of the North Rim five days a week, I could knock it out. Of course, Aiken’s house marked the beginning of where the trail got relentlessly steep, close to a sixty percent grade in some places. I immediately felt my body burning up energy faster. I started taking sips of water more frequently. Not quite a mile later, I was distracted from the burn in my quads by a view of Roaring Springs. It’s a waterfall that gushes straight out the side of a red cliff like a picture from a fairy tale. The source of Bright Angel Creek and all drinking water in Grand Canyon National Park, Roaring Springs cascades down the rock face filling the canyon with lush greenery that seems completely out of place in the desert.
From Roaring Springs, I slowed to a fast-paced hike navigating my way through progressively more technical switchbacks that cut through the massive Redwall Limestone cliffs. The cliffs are so steep it was originally impassable by foot. Engineers in the 1920s had to blast much of North Rim Trail with dynamite to form a half tunnel in the sides of the cliffs. In spots, the trail was only a couple feet wide exposing me to sheer drop-offs of hundreds of feet. While slightly unsettling, it also exposed me to stunning views of Bright Angel Canyon that were beyond beautiful, beyond magnificent, beyond anything I’d ever seen before.
For the next three miles I cycled through feelings of inspiration, fatigue, and a hint of fear that my energy was fading and yet I was still not quite to the halfway point. When I passed through Supai Tunnel, it felt like a real milestone. The twenty-foot long tunnel blasted out of solid rock told me I was a little less than two miles to the summit of the North Rim. The temperature began to drop as I approached 7000 feet of elevation. Patches of snow started to appear as the vegetation changed from the thin-leaved desert plants to broader-leafed shrubs that were happier higher up. Soon the trail was flanked by Douglas Fir and Blue Spruce trees providing shade for ever deeper levels of snow. Within a few hundred yards, I was hiking through six inches of snow and slippery patches of ice. The skin on my face and legs started to get cold. When I felt the first signs of my fingertips losing feeling I stopped to put on gloves and a beanie. I hated to waste time putting on layers, but it had to be done.
As I grew more impatient, I started looking at my watch way too often to see how close I was to the top. One mile. Nine-tenths of a mile. Three-quarters of a mile. Six-tenths of a mile. Then a half mile. So close! Then a quarter mile. I was almost there. When my watch read exactly twenty-one miles I stopped and looked around me. Twenty-one miles is what every map I looked at said was the distance from the South Kaibab trailhead to the North Kaibab trailhead. But, the end of the trail was nowhere to be seen. My heart got a little heavy. Did I miss a turn? Was I on the right trail? The snow was getting too deep to explore other options very quickly. I didn’t see any other turn-offs. This had to be the right trail. I calmed myself down.
If I was on the right trail then it must be my watch. The GPS must be off. But by how much? A half mile? A mile? The thought of trudging through the snow another mile was more than a little disheartening. Should I just turn back? That didn’t sit well with my conscience. I told myself that even if I had a mile to go, this might be my only chance to complete a rim to rim to rim run of Grand Canyon. I had to go all the way. I’d never feel right about it if I turned around now. I kept going.
By my watch, I ran and hiked through the snow for another nine-tenths of a mile. It took me about twenty minutes, but when I saw the trailhead sign and parking lot a huge weight was lifted from my very soul. I did it. I might have only been at the halfway point of the run, but it was still a big deal. It took me two and a half hours to get here from Cottonwood Campground, and I’d completed the rim to rim crossing in six hours and forty-nine minutes. Everything was covered in snow, so I stood eating some food feeling relieved and proud. I thought about what I’d accomplished and remembered that just a month ago Jim Walmsley set the record for a Grand Canyon rim to rim to rim run in five hours and fifty-five minutes. That meant he ran the full forty-two miles back to the top of the South Rim in less time than
it took me to get over the North Rim. I quickly pushed the thought out of my head and went back to congratulating myself on getting this far. I cut my break short at the North Rim as I
was running over an hour behind schedule. Plus, there was a large blue jay whose black bandit eyes seared a hole in my snacks and kept swooping closer and closer to my head. I started crunching my way through the snow back down into the canyon.
By the time I made it back to Cottonwood Campground, my quads were screaming. I made the 6.8-mile, 4000-plus-foot descent in an hour and forty minutes. I quickly grabbed my stashed food, inhaled some potato chips and an energy gel, and took a hefty drink of water. My hydration pack was getting low on water. The broken water main the rangers warned me about shut off water to Cottonwood Campground, not Phantom Ranch. So, I was stuck with the water I had. But, that was OK. I just had to get back to Phantom Ranch and then I could get a refill. I wrapped up my ten-minute break and rose from the campsite picnic table with considerable difficulty. This was an oh-shit moment. No longer was the fear of not finishing hiding in the back corner of my brain. It was now jumping up and down in plain view. I still had fourteen miles to run. How the hell was I going to get through fourteen miles with legs that felt like they were being stabbed with knives? Best not to think about it. Back to the corner with you, Fear!
I had looked forward to the chunk of trail between Cottonwood Campground and Phantom Ranch as I thought I could make up some time on its relatively gentle downward slope. It descended a mere one thousand feet over the seven-mile stretch. I figured it would feel like I was floating down river compared to the last seven miles. I was wrong. This portion of the trail has hundreds of water bars crossing it every few hundred feet. Because wood is scarce in the canyon, the water bars are made from large chunks of river stone. Each one was a foot to a foot and a half tall, which effectively turned them into mini hurdles. Leaping over the water bars took a lot of energy, but the real issue was landing on the other side. With each landing, my quads and calves shouted out in a flash of pain. By the forty or fiftieth water bar I had to start slowing down with each hurdle to minimize the pain.
To keep myself going, I started making a list of all the body parts that didn’t hurt. Amazingly, after thirty or so miles of hard running, there were still a few. My ankles didn’t hurt. That was good. My knees didn’t hurt. That was a big win. My hips didn’t hurt. Yes! I hadn’t had any major falls, so no broken bones or abrasions. But, then I’d leap over another water bar and my positive thinking was smashed with the hammer of this other more painful reality. My body was breaking down.
Then, three miles outside of Phantom Ranch, I ran out of water. At this point, it became more and more challenging to leverage the natural beauty of Grand Canyon to distract me from the pain in my body. Desperate for diversion, I caught up with another runner and stayed with him for about a mile talking in an effort to pass the time. It worked. Before long, I was entering the outskirts of Phantom Ranch. I made it through the last seven miles in about an hour and a half. It was my fastest segment, so I did make up some time as I’d hoped. But, my energy was zapped and my throat was parched. I felt majorly beat up.
I directly found my way to the water spigot outside the camp bathroom. I drank my fill of the crisp, cold water straight from the spigot then filled my hydration pack. I was thirty-five miles in and still had seven miles to go up the ferociously steep South Kaibab Trail, but a simple thing like clean drinking water gave me a rush of renewed energy, and with it, a spark of hope.
My hope was further bolstered when I found Jason searching for me on the trail. He’d hiked down to Phantom Ranch a few hours after he’d dropped me off at the trailhead in the wee hours of the morning. He brought with him a fresh supply of food and even had an extra pair of shoes for me. The Adidas Response TRs I wore, while generously cushioned, didn’t fit me 100% right. I had a feeling I’d need to swap them out, so I asked Jason to pack another pair down to me just in case. I was happy to kick off my Adidas and step into my superlight, super trusty Salomon Sense Pros. They were too light to run the whole distance, but just right to run the final leg.
Now, I use “run” there loosely. My legs were so spent and the trail so steep that I did my best to speed hike. And by this time, “speed hiking” meant Jason and I traveled about two miles an hour. Thirty-minute miles. Pretty slow, but that was all right. It was a little after 1 p.m. so I had plenty of light. This was the reason I left at 3 a.m. It was to give me a little extra light at the end of the day in case anything went awry.
Slowly but surely we made our way up the South Kaibab Trail. One step at a time. One switchback at a time. One butte at a time. I didn’t recognize any of the terrain in the daylight. It was funny to me that I had been on this trail earlier the same day and I didn’t even know what it looked like. I could now see that the trail followed the ridgeline almost exclusively offering up completely unobstructed panoramic views. It felt like I could see for a hundred miles to the east and another hundred miles to the west.
I did recognize a long portion of the trail that was blasted out of limestone cliffs. Similar to the Redwall Limestone cliffs on the North Rim, this section was made entirely out of stone. I knew Skeleton Point was nearby, and that meant I only had three miles to go. From Skeleton Point the trail makes a long, mile-and-a-half arc to O’Neil Butte without a hint of a switchback. This part of the trail made me realize that one of the benefits of switchbacks is they help mark your progress. They’re defined landmarks that are proof you’re moving forward with each turn you make. A long, straight trail offers no such indication. And this is also why when I started hearing shouting voices from above a quarter mile below Cedar Point, I paid no attention. I was in a fog of fatigue. I passed a group of young European hikers who were titillated by the shouts and started shouting back. I figured they must have known the people. But, then I heard one of them say in a thick German accent that he wondered why those three people were making so much noise. I snapped out of my trance and realized it might be Mandy, Robby and Janet. I thought for sure they had already made it to the top. But maybe they hadn’t.
My heart thumped heavier at the thought. I looked up and waved. A figure waved back. Then a few seconds later I heard my name. It was definitely Mandy. She was shouting “Woohoo! Yeah, Steve! You’re almost there! Woohoo!” I was so excited to see Mandy & Company that I picked up my pace. The closer I got, the louder their shouting became. After being mostly alone in the desert for the last eleven or so hours, it was truly invigorating to hear voices, other than the ones in my head, cheering for me.
It felt like a homecoming when I reached Cedar Point. I was so happy to see the bright, smiling faces of Mandy, Robby and Janet. They excitedly asked if I saw the messages they’d made out of small stones on the trail below. I reluctantly admitted I had not. I was so focused on simply finishing that I barely noticed the massive, breathtaking views surrounding me the last couple of miles, let alone messages on the side of the trail. But, it was all good. Their positive energy was infectious and I was thankful to be able to hike out the remaining mile and a half with their company.
It was a little after 4 p.m., more than 13 hours since I left that morning. The sun was arcing down toward the horizon turning the canyon walls a deep, fiery orange. The warm, gentle, upslope breeze coming from the canyon bottom began giving way to the cold, downslope wind of the evening. We all put on an extra layer and started the final push to the top.
As we left Cedar Point, Robby asked if I’d hit the thousand-mile mark yet. It took me a second to place what he was talking about. I had completely forgotten about my goal of running a thousand miles for the year. I looked down at my watch and, sure enough, I was a quarter-mile shy of reaching my goal. This goal within a goal gave me welcome distraction from my tired, aching muscles.
Mandy and I took a moment to celebrate the milestone and Robby snapped a quick photo of us embracing each other. Without much more ado, we kept on climbing out of the staggeringly steep canyon. The sentiment was basically, “Yeah, I made it to a thousand miles for the year. Now, let’s finish this thing and get out of here.” I imagined that the couple I saw exiting the trail early in the morning must have felt something like this. At least I still had sunlight. I was thankful for that.
We slogged through the last mile interrupting long stretches of silence with blabbering, stream of consciousness jibberish. It had become increasingly difficult to string together clear thoughts. Grand Canyon had reduced us to our primitive state where communication devolved into grunts, groans, hysterical laughter, and heavy sighs.
When I turned the corner on the last switchback, I toggled uncontrollably between tears and laughter to express my relief. Laughter ended up winning out. As I took the final step off the South Kaibab Trail I felt incredibly light. In pain, but light. I’d finished a double crossing of Grand Canyon, running it rim to rim to rim in a day. And I was surrounded by friends. Mandy, Jason, Robby and Janet were all right there.
It was a little like a dream to have finished something so big. I wanted to stay in that moment as long as I could. But, it was fucking cold. It was past 5 p.m. now and the sun was just sinking below the horizon. A shuttle pulled up a few minutes later at the trailhead. It was heated, so we happily took seats inside. We all kept looking at each other shaking our heads and laughing in disbelief that we were done.
As the last orange glow of sun faded to blue and the dark green patches of juniper trees that stretched far to the skyline blurred to black, I wondered if I would come back next year and do it all over again. I was in a lot of pain, but everything I’d seen and everything I’d felt that day far outweighed any feelings of discomfort. But, it was too soon to think about it. Maybe not next year. Maybe I’ll just do half…but, then again.
Start Time: 3:10 a.m.
Finish time: 5:20 p.m.
Total Time Start To Finish: 14 Hours, 10 Minutes
Actual Running Time Minus Breaks: 12 Hours, 40 Minutes
Total Miles: 42
Average Pace: 17:37 Minute/Mile
Total Ascent: 11,099 Feet
Total Descent: 11,191 Feet
Highest Elevation: 8245 Feet
Lowest Elevation: 2487 Feet
Total Time Running On Flat Ground: 19 Minutes 55 Seconds
South Rim To Phantom Ranch Split: 1:55
Phantom Ranch To Cottonwood Campground Split: 1:50
Cottonwood Campground to North Rim Split: 2:30
North Rim To Cottonwood Campground Split: 1:40
Cottonwood Campground To Phantom Ranch Split: 1:35
Phantom Ranch To South Rim Split: 3:35
Steve Lemig is the founder of Wilderdad. He's been a lot of things over the years. Skateboarder. Mountain biker. Climber. Snowboarder. Bike mechanic. Forest firefighter. Woodworker. Creative director. These days he's a runner, writer, husband, and father. He writes stories to empower dads and encourage them to share outdoor adventures with their kids as a tool to strengthen families and build respect for the environment. He has also been the Communications Director at Road Runner Sports for the last 13 years.