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How to prepare for a Grand Canyon back country hike.
A view from the bottom at the Colorado
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
Just another sunset
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
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.