Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Part 2 of Grand Canyon Rim to River Hike Via South Kaibab-Bright Angel Trail

Before continuing to the main content of this post, let me quickly share with you the interview I had with Nature Center Magazine. If you have some time, I invite you to read my thoughts on nature and blogging. Thank you so much - Betchai

Mules Carrying Some of Hiker's Camping Gears
This is the continuation of Grand Canyon Rim to River Hike via the South Kaibab-Bright Angel loop trail Part 1. In part 1, you will find the summary of hike and description of the route. In Part 2, we discuss the other questions frequently asked about this hike.

2. Why not do it safer as several days backpacking trip?
This hike is done by most as a 3 day backpacking trip, which is what is recommended by the park and is really ideal to take in all the beautiful scenery of Grand Canyon. Acquiring a backcountry hiking permit necessitates applying on the first of the month 4 months before the intended month of the hike. For example, if you intend to hike April, you apply first day of December to get a greater possibility of getting permit as all dates are filled up on the first week. For more information on getting backcountry permits, please go to Grand Canyon National Park backcountry permit page.
Now, what if you were not granted a permit at the dates you wish because they were full? Or the weather became unfavorable at your assigned dates for backpacking? Though of course we agree, that the safest option for this hike is following the park's recommendation, but it is not also impossible to do this as a DAY HIKE where you won't be needing permit anymore. Though it is not recommended by the park because of the number of rescues  they get each year ( an average of 500 rescues/year) who mostly were UNPREPARED DAY HIKERS. The key is PREPARATION to be able to finish this hike successfully without calling for help. It's really a beautiful hike, filled with so many ohs and ahs in every turn.
3) If doing this hike in one day, what are the most important elements that we should consider and prepare for?
It's not the distance that the park rangers worry for most of the day hikers, as 17 miles can be done by most in one day if it is on a gentler terrain with favorable weather conditions. It is the altitude + STRENUOUS CLIMBING + INTENSE CANYON HEAT + DEHYDRATION (desert environment) that the park wants you to do it slow by doing the hike in several days and be more aware of your physical abilities and training in such conditions. Unfamiliar hikers get deceived by how easy it was going down, without much water and walking on unsafe shoes, they go down the Grand Canyon. Then, when they are tired, dehydrated, heat exhausted,  having foot injury from not wearing the right shoes, they find out that they could not make the hike back up and needed to BE RESCUED. But again, this can be avoided with preparation, and knowing your physical limits as a hiker. In the trail, you will see so many WARNING SIGNS discouraging hikers from doing the day hike, showing athletes, runners who lost their lives hiking down the Grand Canyon. Again, it is your call, to whether follow these signs, turn around and apply for backpacking permit and wait your time, or continue on because you have prepared for it. This hike won't really be tough for prepared and experienced desert canyon hikers. Some hikers (including us) had done it safely, with preparedness. Please visit the Grand Canyon National Park Hiking Tips- Hiking Smart page to learn more how to prepare for this hike.
4) What was the temperature at the rim at the start of the hike and temperature at the river?
We took this hike first week of April, but the condition can vary anytime of the year. We took the first Hiker's Express Bus that leaves Bright Angel's Lodge 6:00 am to South Kaibab Trail. Probably we started our hike down via South Kaibab trail about 6:30 a.m. at 27F (-2.8C) while the highest temperature we had at the inner gorge was 77F(25C)! It was pretty windy when we started the hike above the rim, which made the temperature a lot colder than -2.8C. Good thing we were prepared for the COLD AND HEAT, wearing lightweight, windproof, and breathable layers.
during the colder early morning of the hike
Why lightweight clothing is very important, because in this hike, you want to be as LIGHT AS POSSIBLE, with FOOD AND WATER as the two heaviest items in your backpack (though we were guilty of having CAMERA + LENS as the heaviest in our backpack). You will usually find extreme lightweight, breathable, windproof jackets that can fight subfreezing temperatures in specialized outdoor stores such as REI, Patagonia, North Face, Adventure 16, etc.
At the Inner Gorge, Bottom of Grand Canyon
If the temperature when we started was below freezing at the top, the temperature at the river down the canyon was in high 77F (25C)! The temperature difference between low and high was about 50F! However, 77F when hiking in exposed heat (the trail is exposed) for hours, it felt like in the HUNDREDS! Because of hiking in exposed heat, wide brimmed hats are advised, so is bringing sunscreen. I usually do not want my arms feel greasy, I avoid repeated application of sunscreen in my arms by wearing light, breathable hiking shirt with SPF. 
The temperature however may not be this pleasant if you are hiking in the summer, it could be in the HUNDREDS at the inner gorge. This is probably the reason why in your hike you will see so many warning signs to TURN around if you are doing day hike only, because the bulk of the tourists go to Grand Canyon in the summer.
Boat Beach, Colorado River, Grand Canyon National Park's Inner Gorge
5) Is it worth it? 
This probably is the most common question because more than 90% of the visitors of Grand Canyon simply experience it from the rim. Yes, it is really worth hiking down to experience the canyon up close, as close as you can get. As you go down, you also are going down the natural history  deeply hidden in the layers of the rock. You do not really have to go down all the way to the river to have a deeper appreciation of the depth of Grand Canyon's beauty, you can just hike down South Kaibab up to a certain point you are comfortable. Just keep reminding yourself, that you will take twice or more than twice as much time climbing up.

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  1. You are indeed a very good tour guide.

    and a photographer.

    And a adventurer.

  2. another wonderful adventure for you and your faithful hiking partner and buddy, Khai. thanks for the tips too they are very useful because i am thinking of doing hiking someday too.

  3. Cool post and photos on the Canyon trail. Sounds like a fun time and hike.

  4. Oh boy, doesn't sound like for me as I have back problem and won't be able to carry any heavy on my back. I'm enjoying your post, however.

    I also didn't know that you would need a permission to hike in the park..Fascinating information!

  5. We always wanted to do this hike. Almost got a permit one year.

  6. haha! can i repeat Rainfield's words again? :D

  7. let the Canyon path take you a long way...

  8. It sounds like an amazing hike. I don't think I would be prepared but for a strong hiker it sounds like a must-do.

  9. Just came back after reading your wonderful interview! Really liked it.
    As for the post, the captures are all so great and your tips will definitely be very useful for anyone planning to travelling there.
    Have a lovely weekend betchai :)

  10. You've had an amazing journey, Betchai! The trail and hiking sounds very challenging.

    I'm just going to enjoy your gorgeous pictures and imagine that I was there.

  11. You are such a wonderful tour guide and I enjoyed every minute!!

  12. Thanks for the Q&A. Very helpful : )

  13. Do you guys hike every weekend? You have been to so many beautiful places. I think this one is one of my favorites. It is like a visual field trip every time I visit your blog.

  14. I am not sure if I have the guts to go that far now. I used to be ok, but the older I get the more skeptical I become of heights.

  15. hi betchai! those were nice photos. it seems that u were enjoying a lot! (: Anyways, though the giveaway was ended would like to inform u that I will link u back in my new domain (: I definitely want an update from ur site. (: i love reading your articles. TC ♥

  16. Miss Beth, these shots are breathtaking, and they show this is such a challenging trek... hehehe... And echoing the last question in you post if it is worth it, the pictures say a resounding yes...

  17. We never had a chance to do the hiking because we have a baby, hopefully we can do this when my daughter is old enough to hike.