Grand Canyon – Part V: Indian Garden to Bright Angel Trailhead [2014/12/07]
If you haven’t read Part I, Part II, Part III, and Part IV, you should. It seems strange to read Part V first. Go on.
So after waking up and making some Gnorr Instant Side Pasta, and lazing around, it was time to make the final ascent. It is about 3000 feet up to the South Rim and about 5 miles of hiking. Below is the view leaving Indian Garden. You can see the South Rim through the gap in the (quite tall) red cliffs. I’ll be honest, I had no idea how I was going to make it up there. It looked really far away with no obvious trail up.
After about a mile and a half of hiking, I made it to three mile resthouse. You can see it below to the right at the top of those switchbacks. Down below is the trail towards Indian Garden of which you can see it’s yellow trees on the upper left. You can also see the trail out to Plateau Point heading right to the edge of the canyon. Bright Angel Trail is much different from South Kaibab in this way. Because Bright Angel is in this fault, you can see a good ways down the trail. This, in some ways, makes the hike harder because you’re constantly looking at not only where you have to go, but where you’ve been. Also, at about 5000 feet, I started to get kind of weak and short of breath from the altitude. So take any off philosophical musings about this portion of the hike with a grain of salt and/or oxygen mask.
Like I said, it doesn’t look that far down to where I was but it felt far. Really really far.
On second thought, it was kind of far. The picture below shows a good view of it. You can still clearly see Indian Garden and Plateau Point, but they are much farther away. The North Rim of the Canyon looks mostly level with us. That means that we’re probably level with the South Rim, especially since it’s at a much lower elevation.
Are you shitting me? I’ve still got to go up there?! That’s about 1100 feet over 1.5 miles. It was rough. My camera was on it’s last legs, so this is the last view from below the rim. The switchbacks were absolutely ridiculous as you just go up and up and up. The crowds got much thicker at this point and my progress was much slower. I was getting passed by a lot of people. I even was passed by a guy who carried his girlfriend’s pack like a giant baby all the way up. Whatever, I’m from sea level. 6000 feet might as well be Mount Everest.
It took me about 5 hours to make the final leg. It really shouldn’t have taken that long but for a few things, not the least of which was I am out of shape. However, really, the altitude was taking its toll. Right at the end, I was only able to hike maybe 100 feet before having to stop and take three or four deep breaths. I was tired and my feet hurt, but I just couldn’t catch my breath. Anyway, enough whining.
I made it!
When I got to the top, I was so happy. I knew before going that I could make it because tens of thousands of people do it each year, but I was unsure how I would handle it. Overnight backpacking alone, bringing everything I needed down, and hiking in altitude were all new for me. This is the only picture of me that someone else took.
I hope you guys enjoyed the pictures. I figured it was better to post them in this format than trying to shrink the photos to fit in an email. Feel free to share this with friends and family. I assume eventually Google will crawl this and these pictures will make it out into the broader Internet. If you don’t know me then ignore all the stuff I said about being scared of heights and rock formations and taking 5 hours to get from Indian Garden to the trailhead. Easy peasy.
If you’re interested in a postmortem of the trip, pack list, etc., I should have that up soon.