Sunday, May 27, 2012

Grand Canyon - Phantom Ranch to Indian Gardens

We were now at the bottom of the canyon (2546') and as the sign says 'Going into the canyon is optional, coming out is mandatory'. It was time to climb up to the South Rim (6792') which is quite a climb. There are two trails, the South Kaibab and the Bright Angel. The South Kaibab is supposed to have better views but it has no water facilities so the Park Service strongly recommends that you only go down that trail. To go up, you use the Bright Angel which is longer at 9 miles but has water facilities every 1.5 miles and a campground (Indian Gardens) half way up. Since we were on a four day trip, we were booked into the Indian Gardens campground.

To make sure I got all the names remembered correctly, I got the gang to line up in a specific order. So here we have Nirmal, Nirjal, Ramesh, Raj and Kelli. By this stage we really were a team and enjoying each other's company. Nirmal is the brother of Nirjal who along with Ramesh and Raj are in the medical field in the New York / Washington DC area. Nirmal is in IT. I think I would have been well cared for if I toppled over.

Adjusting the backpacks. It's important that they fit well and fortunately, mine did. Even at over 35 pounds, it felt lighter than the school bag loaded with a 15 and 10 pound weights. Hip support really works.

Last minute adjustment.

The path follows the river until we come to the bridge.

Although it was before 7am, the sun was already making an appearance.

Cargo pockets loaded with water and snacks.

The Silver Bridge which leads to the Bright Angel trail. You can read about it here particularly the bit about how the bridge includes a pipeline that feeds water from Roaring Springs to the South Rim for all the tourists to use. 

Since the floor is a grate, the mules cannot use this bridge. You can see the pipeline beneath the grate.

It's quite narrow and I don't think I would want to be sitting on a mule looking over the railing.

One of the major support wires. It's about 2 inches thick.

The river is about 200 yards wide and the flow of water is impressive.

The crossroads at the south side of the river. We were heading off to the left and the Bright Angel Train.

And so we commenced to climb.

In the early morning, there was plenty of shade. By noon, this would all be in open sun.

The path was sandy and Kelli told us that mules are used to bring down the sand. Why they would want to do this is beyond me since sand is more tiring to walk on.

By now were up a hundred feet or so.

In an effort to alleviate the environmental disruption caused by the Glen Canyon Dam, periodically more water than usual is released from the Dam. The last was in 2008 and you can see the level it got to on the rock wall on the other side of the river.

Looking back up river. You can see that you don't want to fall off the narrow trail.

A popular stopping point for rafts on the river. This point is visible from the South Rim.

So we turned a corner and continued to climb away for the river.

Bathrooms and water. This is the most traveled trail  in the canyon so it has the most facilities.

Another rest stop.

Last view of the river.

JRI recommends bringing bandannas which you wet and use to cool your neck. Some years ago, one of Marianne's relatives gave her this cotton snake thing filled with a gel that cools when water is added. It worked very well. Even after several hours, the thing was still cold.

A new blister is born. Narjil decided to call it Henrietta.

A large black bird. There wasn't as much bird life in many parts of the canyon as I expected, particularly small birds.

And so we started up Jacob's Ladder, a long climb up steps.

The poles really helped to keep your balance. Kelli just walked through the water in her sandals.

The trail gets quite steep in parts.

In the afternoon the sun shines on the rock walls which then emit the heat as radiation. In summer it can get to over 120 degrees and this is where even the most fit people can die if they don't have sufficient water and food. Over 600 people have died in the canyon from various causes over the years and the Park Service usually has to helicopter people out at least once a day. You have to be in a really bad way before they will use the helicopter. If you are feeling a bit tired or your feet hurt, that is your problem.

On and on up the stairs. When the going got tough, I remembered all the training I had done to get me here and that helped me continue.

A cave in the cliff face.

More steps with a pole showing the way forward.

Switchbacks are common.

You could tell mules had passed this way.

I don't know how many steps there were, but there were a lot of them.

Looking down at the switchbacks.

The Tapeats layer. To remember the name, Kelli suggested two pizzas since it looks like layers of pizza.

Kelli standing in cooling water in her sandals.

By how we were dunking our bandannas and hats in the small creek to help cool off. The wet hat really felt good on your head.

My water bag removed from the pack. I had almost emptied it. It is so dry that you are taking a drink of water every 100 yards or so. When we stopped for a longer rest we would drink Gatorade for the electrolytes and eat some snacks.

Daisies. I wondered how they had got down here.

We traveled as a team with those in the lead waiting for the others to catch up.

Fortunately the creek provided water for trees to flourish.

This area is quite visible from the South Rim.

Finally we arrived at Indian Gardens. I was quite happy to stay there for the night and to be honest I would not have wanted to continue on to the South Rim. If you consider doing this trip, take the four day version, not the three day. Continuing in the hot afternoon sun has to be really hard.

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