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How to prepare for a Grand Canyon back country hike.

Updated on April 17, 2014

A view from the bottom at the Colorado

The views are 360 degree and 180 degrees.
The views are 360 degree and 180 degrees. | Source

Here are some questions to ask yourself.

When was the last time you climbed up and down 3 floors of steps, going up only using the second step and coming down only using the 3rd step?

When was the last time you carried fifty pounds of weight?

When was the last time you got really scared?

When was the last time you exercised at 7,000 feet?

When was the last time you jump 3 feet from one rock to another?

When was the last time you needed to use both arms and both legs to get somewhere?

Well I would assume many of you answered positively that you had done some of those things in the not to distant past. I would bet though that no one reader answered all of the positively.

Each of those tasks are required to do a real back country hike/climb in the Grand Canyon.

And now realize that the canyon is 1 mile deep so the notion of three floors would be closer to 500 floors. And that is just the vertical. Most horizontal miles are at least 8. Usually not water along the way. And now take into account that you are 56 years old and sit behind a desk for a living and write silly hubs.

So the most important equipment is you.

One would think that it is your physical condition that matters. And that would be correct. But that does not happen at the gym or swimming pool or jogging. It starts at least a month ahead in your head. And in that head you have to get scared, scared enough to start training and training hard.

So you fill your pack with forty pounds and by the week ahead you are hiking at least 1.5 hours a day. Then you increase the weight and start hitting really steep hiking trails for 1.5 hours a day.

Oh and sometime during the day you had better be doing those 3 floors of steps 3 or four times. Of course depending on your body you will knock it off 2 days or so before the hike and just hike for an hour a day.

And here is the funny thing you will still feel like dying on the hike. There are several reasons for this fact. Unless you live at 7.000 feet you will spend several hours not being able to catch your breath. And that is painful. And that means also that your muscles are not being oxygenated and that causes lactic acid build up that hurts like hell. The next reason is that no matter where you train it is not as brutal of hiking as is the Grand Canyon.

So that brings us to the most important factor of all: Mindset.

So of course you are going to play this song over and over.

And of course this one

Probably this one also

You see here is the deal.

You are doing dangerous stuff. And once you get six miles into it or so, and let just say you crashed and burned and got a compound fracture extruding from the skin. Well their ain't no 911. There is no cell phone coverage. So of course you hike in at least groups of three. We go five or more. Because somebody has to leave their pack and run/hike/climb as fast as they can to get you help. And that is going to be hours and hours away.

Shock and blood loss are a problem. So everyone needs to have some Wilderness EMT training.

In our case we started training our boys to hike at around three years old. They are now in their twenties and fit as fiddles.

So that mindset has to not only prepare you for disaster. But make you smart and alert and cautious enough so that this does not happen.

In the case of the Grand Canyon we would also send one runner down to the river in hopes of catching a river boat with SatPhone as most concessionaires are required and allowed to have. We did evacuate one hiker that was once. And I can tell you that hiker did not prepare and develop the mindset.

Well what do you think you want to come with us on May 1st?

Would you do this kind of hiking/climbing

See results

Just another sunset

Somewhere on the Hance Trail
Somewhere on the Hance Trail | Source

Perhaps this kind of thing is not for every body.

Some folks just like it and other folks just grew up doing it so it is what they do. Most are somewhere in between. It does do one thing for a person, makes other parts of life a lot less stressful. It would appear that it is a bit hard on spouses and moms. But what they get back is a lot better than what left, that is a promise.

It also seems that for some people who have illness, heartbreak, single parents, soldiers and so on that they do they same thing and many, every day.

There is a man who is a river runner who sleeps in the Grand Canyon at least 120 days a year for years and years, he is closing in on 60 and he can still run up the maintain trails and nearly up the back country trails. He is a hero. A big man and a good man. He taught this author a lot about hiking in the Grand. His name is Brian Dierker.

Day break and we had been hiking for two hours

This was a rough one as it peaks out at about 8,500 feet.
This was a rough one as it peaks out at about 8,500 feet. | Source

When you reach camp and finally get to sit down and then lay down.

Yes you know what you have accomplished. And that is a good feeling, although there is a gnawing at your gut that you now have to hike up and out. But when the sunsets down on walls that are over 1,000 feet straight up and on peaks within the canyon and you hear the mighty Colorado river running by and you eat a good meal with an appropriate beverage. You look at your partners and know that you have just trusted them with your life and they have trusted you with theirs there is a bond.

One one time a dad had bad cancer and went through real tough chemotherapy. He just barely lived through it. The son worked and worked on the dad and pushed hard to hike the canyon again. It took a full year. That trail was not so dangerous but long and hot and dry. The son nearly ran the last mile of the hike. Dropped his pack and emptied it and then hurried back up the trail and found his dad 2 miles still to go to camp and hurting. He emptied the heavy weight in his dad's pack into his and encouraged the dad the next two miles down to camp. Those two have hiked over 1,000 miles in the canyon together. That fantastic son is named Brooks Dierker.


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    • Ericdierker profile imageAUTHOR

      Eric Dierker 

      2 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Thanks PS, I really need to update this one, I have been on several since. We met an 87 year old about 8 miles down one time. Keep walking and you will be hiking in no time.

    • pstraubie48 profile image

      Patricia Scott 

      2 years ago from sunny Florida

      My friend is making this hike in March with a group. I would love to go but personal reasons are keeping me at home. this is not the first time she has done this and she is 75...amazingly physically fit.

      Have fun on your hike....

      Angels are on the way ps

    • Ericdierker profile imageAUTHOR

      Eric Dierker 

      4 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Humphrey Summit is where you will find Brian Dierker (Mr. Grand Canyon) He will be back shortly he is finishing up 21 days down in the Grand right now.

    • profile image


      4 years ago

      Eric , I think we may be actually staying in the Flagstaff area, I will do that , Thanks for all the entertainment my friend !.... I have spent many an hour at the rim , a few times , its never ,ever tiring ! and hey ! Even the hiking aint bad !....Ed

    • Ericdierker profile imageAUTHOR

      Eric Dierker 

      4 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Ed get a dime store or better light weight chair to schlep around. The Rim is like a fine wine (schlep that too) If you are a laptop writer, get that thingy with your phone and you will be connected anywhere up there. You can always leave it in the room. When going through Flagstaff look up Dierker in the phone book and give them a call.

    • Ericdierker profile imageAUTHOR

      Eric Dierker 

      4 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      My 27 year old son called me out of the blue the other day, of coursed he asked how my training was going. (nowadays a 5 gallon water bottle stuffed in my pack and stepping onto and down from a 20 inch stool) But basically he called so we could join in a prayer of thanksgiving that we get to do it once again, especially together. Thanks Theresa I will bring you thoughts with me.

    • profile image


      4 years ago

      Eric , I have read all of the "death in the canyon" stories , wew , not for this guy, however ! Next year my wife and friends will hike [ guided ]rim to rim ! I will be the guy waiting at the lodge and writing , doing photographing ! I am proud of you all , but I hate destination hiking and always have ! LOL......hmm maybe I'll wait at the Roughrider saloon ! You've had amazing experiences !

    • phdast7 profile image

      Theresa Ast 

      4 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      This is a fantastic Hub! And what a great adventure, a test of body, mind , and soul. My dad took us four kids on "steep hill" hikes in Greece and northern California, but nothing like what you describe. We came home exhausted and sore in places we didn't know could hurt, but no serious training was required. I could never do anything like this , but I think in a good way, I am jealous of you and your friends. :) Sharing. Theresa

    • Ericdierker profile imageAUTHOR

      Eric Dierker 

      4 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Darn to

      oting, and he is a great inspiration in eating healthy. He is a model who just left the Ford Agency so he gets paid to look and feel good ;-)

    • ologsinquito profile image


      4 years ago from USA

      You have a wonderful son.

    • Ericdierker profile imageAUTHOR

      Eric Dierker 

      4 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Indeed a grand adventure Kathy, but training going up a local hill today made me wonder why they heck I do it.

    • Kathy Carr profile image

      Kathy Carr 

      4 years ago from Chicago, Illinois

      Interesting! Level ground for me please! Don't like driving up mountains or looking down steep valleys. Enjoy, sounds like fun. Grand adventure especially for the boy. Good Hub.

    • Ericdierker profile imageAUTHOR

      Eric Dierker 

      4 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Sometime John these hikes remind me of a good marriage, sharing the struggle and relying on each other is key. Trekking is my preference at my age. And there are great maintained trails for that in the Grand.

      Funny but since I have been an avid walker -- my friends always would laugh and say - E's on a Walkabout.

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 

      4 years ago from Queensland Australia

      I love hiking Eric, but I have never done anything quite so intense as the Grand Canyon. It's also been a few years since I did any serious trekking. This is a great hub about perseverance and supporting one another. Voted up.

    • Ericdierker profile imageAUTHOR

      Eric Dierker 

      4 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Ten months out of the year I agree with you. My four year old loves to carry his own pack with water and goodies for a picnic.

    • Ericdierker profile imageAUTHOR

      Eric Dierker 

      4 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      DDE, so true but walking in nature should be for everyone!

    • raymondphilippe profile image

      Raymond Philippe 

      4 years ago from The Netherlands

      I am not sure this kind of hiking is for me (live in the lowlands, highest hill is something like 300 meters). But I can imagine what a fantastic experience it is.

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 

      4 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      Hiking is not for everyone and sounds an interesting thought.

    • Ericdierker profile imageAUTHOR

      Eric Dierker 

      4 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      I am pretty sore right now, every year it gets a little harder. Thank you.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Those days are over for this boy I'm afraid. I've climbed me mountains and now I just look at them and smile a knowing smile. Have a great hike on May 1st my friend.


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