Route: Grand Canyon R2R2R-alt (AZ)

Location
Arizona, US
Distance
42.7 mi
Description

The "Rim-to-Rim-to-Rim" (R2R2R) is a world-class route, staring on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, running 5,000′ down to the Colorado River, across a bridge, then 6,000” up to the North Rim. Then back again.  Records have been known for decades for doing this on the South and North Kaibab Trails, crossing the river on the bridge near Phantom Ranch.  These are recorded here.

The South and North Bass Trails also allow passage from the South Rim to the North Rim.  While the elevation/distance profile is very similar, these trails are small and scrappy compared to the "Corridor" Kaibab Trails.  Plus, there's no bridge so you have to swim across the river.  Buzz Burrell named this the "R2R2R-alt".

GPS Track

Comments

I'm going to attempt this FKT tomorrow morning.  I'll be going solo/unsupported (the 2nd known solo traverse and first known night swim for the R2R2R).  Should be wild.  Will use Garmin & Suunto GPS watches per usual but also take a SPOT tracker (link below).  I'll do a write up after wards about the "light and fast" gear set up I've got.  I'm jacked to go for this.

I'm going to head into the canyon again before this next winter storm hits.  I created a new SPOT link (although I think the previous link will still show my new updated tracking?).  Fingers crossed the upper rim sections of trail are runnable and not too slippery after the snowfall on Wed/Thu... but hey, there are no bad days in the canyon.

http://share.findmespot.com/shared/faces/viewspots.jsp?glId=0i8W07u5WLU…

Just finished watching Jamil’s video and while impressive the cowboy’s R2R2R Alt. is hardly unsupported. Thornley on the ground giving them beta. 
 

Looks supported to me.

Yes, and Jamil accompanying them on one side, as well... definitely supported.

if a friend hikes/runs with you for any distance you will be classified as Supported, even if they provided nothing else

On Oct 26, 2020, I completed this route in 17:18:05 starting from the North Rim. This is a good option as the road was in great shape. I've never driven to the South Bass Trailhead but I've heard it's rough and my car rides low. There's also a separate fee to cross the Havasupai Reservation. The temps were 19 degrees and my water froze. I also made a wrong turn just after crossing the river, which you can see here. With much better weather and a familiarity of the route, I returned on Nov 5, 2020, and completed it again starting from the north, in 16:35:15. To my advantage, I switched up the river crossing and spent less time in the water. Not being a swimmer, I carried a pack raft. I think my transitions were fast enough, but wearing a pack certainly slowed me down on the trail. Parts of the North Bass are runnable both ways, but both times, I was unable to run as much as I would've, had I been pack-less. At any rate, this was an awesome trip and I'm thinking about returning for a third go. It's a gamble, but this time I'd try and drive to the South Rim then chill hike down to the river - camp & stash - chill hike back up while doing trail maintenance, then send it the following day. I think this would make a big difference as the South Bass Trail is not as runnable on the up and only half the distance, making it better for carrying the pack. This would also leave me pack-less for all but the last few miles, plus I'd experience the waterless (South Bass Trail) in the beginning and end, instead of in the middle. Speaking of water, sources along the North Bass were running clear and I was able to drink from Shinumo & White Creeks plus the Colorado River! However, the slightest bit of weather could change things dramatically. If attempting this route, planning for the weather and current river conditions is critical to your success. More details, photos, and tips from these trips can be found here. Anyone else thinking about hitting this soon? The current 10 day forecast looks unfavorable but the current FKTs were set weeks ahead. Still time in 2020? According to them, yes. According to Mother Nature, we'll see!  

FKT Community, 

It is from an endless well of STOKE I announce that Nate Bender (FB and IG) has convinced me to join him on a run through this phenomenal R2R2R.alt route. We both had chats with Sunny Stroeer (FB and IG) and Josh Sanders (FB and IG) about the route, both of whom were gracious and giving in their beta advice.

I chopped up one of my old tri wetsuits from the Ironman days and rented a bike (Zach's Bikes) so we can respect the closure of reservation land by biking some discontinued forest land roads to access the South Bass Trailhead (which we confirmed permissions for) which will be an 8-10 mile adventure each way in itself (no one can confirm if these old roads are even still passible). ...you know it is an adventure when its an adventure just to get to your adventure...

Our attempt will start between 2 hours and 90 minutes before sunrise on Saturday, Dec 12th 2020. 
Live tracking here: https://share.garmin.com/natebender 

If it goes, this will be my 56th FKT this year (closer to my 59th attempt for the year) so needless to say I am fatigued but this is just too golden of an adventure route to not give it a go with the weather window we have.  

with stoke,
Jason Hardrath  (IG or FB)
Journey to 100 FKTs

 

Thanks for announcement.  Brrr!  With stoke indeed - hope it goes well.  

"You can't get lost on an adventure."

Buzz,

It rained. It sleeted. It snowed.

But R2R2R.alt WENT!

It was a FULL VALUE ADVENTURE!....drive 15 hrs to GCNP, meet up with Nate, pile into rental truck, find hidden jeep trail forest road paralleling reservation on forest land, mtn biking to the trailhead, sleeping in sub-20 degree Temps, start 1hr before Sun rise, route finding, super brisk swim, climbing into a snow storm on the north rim, shivering uncontrollably in wet gear while running out of snow into rain, barely getting warm, then diving into a second cold swim to the waning light, climbing like men possessed back into the snow on the south to stay on pace, briefly resting, biking out in snow, then driving the obstacles of the jeep trail (this time snow covered) to return to civilization. 20 hrs of go time from start of R2R2R.alt to return to civilization. 

Sleep 3 hrs in car.

Now driving the 15 hrs back home. Wildest weekend trip ever!

Still stoked,

Jason

My attempt for one hell of a day

Rim to rim to rim, alternative route, solo: South Bass trailhead to North Bass trailhead

Weather: 100 degrees and sunny

Total time: about 24 hours, including mtb ride to and from the trailhead

Distance: about 42 miles, not including ride to/from the trailhead

Bike to trailhead->run down to the river->swim across->run up the other side->run back down->swim back across in the dark->run back up back to the trailhead->bike back to the car

(2:45am start) After a 7 mile ride from the closed gate to trailhead, locked up my bike to a tree and began the journey down South Bass. I could immediately tell this was going to be a tough one because the trail was not maintained, loose, steep, and sometimes nonexistent.

Made it down to the river (7.5 miles) in two hours flat, taking longer than expected due to the poor condition of the trail. 

Swim was supposed to be the crux of the day, but during the first crossing the river was flowing slowly. This made it easy and fun to cross. Was relieved to get that out of the way. 

Then I made my way to North Bass trail, which was fine for the first few miles but then turned into unmaintained trail that hasn’t seen foot traffic in months and required many miles of bushwhacking and route finding, with only cairns to guide my way. 

As the sun came up, it felt like I was in a preheating oven. Only having a very limited number of natural water sources and my body not letting me eat, I began to develop dehydration and hunger, which persisted for the rest of the run. I ended up having to take breaks every couple of minutes on the way up due to the heat and it crushed my dreams of finishing in sub 14 hours. But I made it to the top, where I refueled and dreaded running back down.

Was able to run much of the way down, although my body temperature was extremely high until the second river crossing.

Finally got back down to the river at 7:30 and it was pitch black. I was gonna have to send it across in the dark if I wanted to get this in the bag, so I went for it and made it.

Could barely stay awake on the way back up south rim, fighting my inner voice to lay down and take a nap (but then it wouldn’t count in my book).

Threw on some heavy metal and forced my way back up the south rim.

Got on my bike and rode back to the car, having to stop a few times as the gps wasn’t working great.

While I wanted to do this one faster, conditions wouldn’t allow. But the whole point was to get it done and that I did.