Phantom Ranch - mid May

4:35 p.m. on November 18, 2009 (EST)
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I'm a flatlander who has hiked some trails in Colorado but I'm limited to train on a single steep hill about 100' high and that's it. Any suggestions for training for the climb in or out is appreciated. I have secured a spot in mid May at Phantom Ranch cabin and reserved a sack on a mule for items to take. Any tips about the weather on the way in (S. Kaibab Trail) or out (Bright Angel) in mid May is also apprecated. Thanks ahead of time for sharing your knowledge.

10:19 p.m. on November 18, 2009 (EST)
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Yes the GC in May is going to be very hot, so unless you are from Tucson, Pheonix or even(no offense) Hell, it is going to be very uncomfortable.

Go down the Bright Angel Trail as there is water every mile and a half to Indian Gardens Camp at little rest house stops. After IG there will no water except what you carry the next 5 miles to the Colorado River and Phantom Ranch.

You may expect to stay around the ranch area as the bottom there will or could be around 100 degrees or more. There is Bright Angel Creek to soak in during the day.

You won't need much clothing either shorts and a tshirt will be enough even at night when it might get down to 80 degrees. Even if you weren't staying insdie at the ranch you wouldn't need a tent or sleeping bag just a ground sheet and a cotton sheet to cover up.

If you do choose to go down the other trail, the South Kaibab start as early as possible to "Beat the Heat" as there is no water along it and the first water will be at Phantom Ranch not counting the Colorado River.

Don't try to swim in the Colorado, its cold and has strong under-currents.

The same on your hike out, start early to get at least halfway out before the sun rises too high. The canyon below the tree covered rims is mostly open stone and dirt which will reflect the heat back onto you. You may feel like you are walking thru a furnace or hot oven. Any wind except in the morning will feel hot too.

I am not trying to discourage you, but anytime during the summer is going to be uncomfortable unless you have trained in a sauna with no humidity. And you will sweat an average of 1 quart of water every hour in the sun. So carry as much water as you can. You can see how your water intake is by when you take a piss how dark the fluid is. Drink before your'e thirsty.

It is about a 5000 foot descent and hike out. Maybe practice walking up 100 flights of steps with all the gear you plan to take including water.

Be sure your shoe's fit well, not too small or you may get sore toes on the way down and sore heels on the way out. I wear a size larger to have plenty of room. If you are staying at the ranch you don't need heavy hiking boots but do need something with good ankle support.

Eat plenty of carbohydrates and proteins. You will burn many calories especially on the hike out.

A substance like Gatoraide or Gookinaide is good to replace your salts/minerals. Get it in powdered form and take plenty. Rest when ever you feel tired and don't over do it. It can be an enjoyable hike even in the heat of summer.

Expect four to six hours down with sightseeing and picture taking and twice that hiking out. See if you can maybe get a reservation for Indian Gardens Camp halfway out the Bright Angel, but at least start early as possible. At 11 am the sun will be getting hot and will be shining directly on the trail out. The South Kaibab will be in full sun most of the way down just after sun up as the trail goes down a east facing slope. The first few miles may be in the shade below the rim, but from Cedar Point down expect full sun.

The BA trail will be more shaded till about halfway out on the Tonto Plateau, then perhaps in the shade later in the day it you at least take a break there for a few hours.

Enjoy the canyon, you may see Scorpions at night, Taranculas and Rattlesnakes by day. Maybe a Big Horn and Deer, even Bats at night, maybe a Ringtailed Cat or Spotted Skunk and many Ravens, even squirrels too but dont feed them!

There are Horseflies, Gnats and Blackflies. The first ones bite off a lil steak dinner before you feel them.

Go to the Ranger talk near the ranch at night (see the scorpions by blacklight), have a beer (if your'e old enough?) at the ranch and mail a postcard to be carried out by the last place in the USA by horseback (actually Muleback).

Your cell phone won't work unless its a expensive Satellite phone, tho the coverage in the bottom of the canyon maybe limited by the steep inner walls.

If you really like the canyon later get a job there to get a firsthand look at the canyon as an employee with plenty of time to catch beautiful sunrises and sunsets, see places not all tourist's get to see and be able to enjoy the rim(s) of the canyon depending on which one you work. The south Rim is a high Desert-like area with tall Ponderosa pine trees and Juniper,Cedars and Pinion Pines. While the North Rim is 1000 feet higher than the south with larger pines and Aspens.

The closest town is Flagstaff (80miles) on the south rim and Kanab (60) from the north rim.

The south rim has about 3000 employees total including rangers. The north rim has about 500. One can even get a job at the bottom at Phantom Ranch where there are less than 20 employees. Its nice down there in Winter my favorite time to hike the canyon. The rims will be snow covered and cold about 10-30 degrees, while the inner canyon ranges from 40-70 F. during the winter months depending on where you are.

I spent twenty years from 1983 to 2003 hiking the canyon mostly between November to March with one trip at 265 miles over 28 days from the South Bass to the Tanner Trail and many areas in the canyon between. I did it in January.

My average time in the canyon on hikes was two weeks. That's a lot of solitude, but well worth it especially while you are young and fit and have the time.

8:56 a.m. on November 20, 2009 (EST)
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I appreciate your advice. You gave me a lot of information to 'chew' on. What came through loud and clear is, this is a serious hike and we'd better be in peak shape or select alternative routes and try the trip to Phantom earlier in the year. Thank you Gary!

4:54 p.m. on November 20, 2009 (EST)
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Where are you or where do you live, what is your training plans for hiking the canyon?

If you can I would reccomend trying to go down for your first trip before May. It will be hot as I said.

I had a nephew come out to visit me once when I lived in Tucson and he insisted on going to the Grand Canyon in midJuly. We hiked down the BA and out the BA. It was 119 in the shade at the bottom and we and everyone else down there stayed around Bright Angel Creek all day. It took us at his hiking speed all day from sunrise to way after sunset to hike out.

7:21 p.m. on November 20, 2009 (EST)
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Gary just about says it all regarding the conditions to expect, but weather-wise he is only 99.9% correct. In 28 years of backpacking/hiking in Grand Canyon I once encountered snow on the Tonto Plateau over Memorial Day weekend. The point is check the weather forecast and plan accordingly. But yes, you are much more likely to encounter temps in the 100s at Phantom Ranch.

As for training do you have opporunity to walk stairs? Find the tallest building in your area and elevator up then hike down, repeatedly. Next workout, do it all in reverse. 60-90min workouts in this way, and with a ~15 lb daypack (same as water, snacks, etc) will do much more than your 100' hill.

12:42 p.m. on November 24, 2009 (EST)
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Great advice here !! I have floated the canyon twice on a hikers special trip that included about 20 extensive hikes and 225 miles of rafting. I trained hard for 6 months the first time and it wasn't enough. The following year I trained all year and it really helped.Gary knows this area quite well and I would listen to all he has to say VERY carefuly. A great read for anybody even remotely interested in the GC is the " Grand Obcession" about Harvey Butchart. Truly an amazing book about some amazing people in probably the best hiking/rafting area on earth !! Make sure you take in some hikes around Flagstaff if you have time. have fun with your training and your hike-Thanks

May 26, 2018
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