Waterfall Run – Rim to river to river to Rim

We have a somewhat annual tradition of a running road trip to Arizona for Thanksgiving to be with family. This year we once again were able to put together a great run. Our original plan was an ~35 mile run in Buckskin Gulch and Paria Canyon. After sending out an invitation to a group of local runners and friends, Roch proposed a run in the Grand Canyon that he had been dreaming/scheming of for many years. We called the run the Waterfall Run or Rim to river to river to Rim (R2r2r2R). Roch promised we would not be disappointed and of course he was right.

We all arrived at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon on Saturday night for a chilly night of camping before heading out the next morning. Our route would took us from the North Rim, part way down the canyon meeting up with a series of waterfalls that we followed all the way down to the Colorado River. At that point we climbed above the Colorado River, traversed above the river then dropped down and then back up from the river on trails that are used by river runners. We then followed the next set of waterfalls down and back up the canyon before joining our original descent trail and returning to the north rim. We estimated the run at 30-36 miles and between 9,500′ and 11,000′ of climbing. I knew we would be on a slow pace since I have run less than 60 miles in the 3 months since Leadman as I tried to get healed.

Nine of us (Roch, Catherine, Walter, Matt, Sarah, Evan, Clint, Emily, and Chad) left out of camp at 7:30 for a day we knew would blow our mind. The run was fabulous that included steep rocky terrain, great runnable terrain, a couple great stream crossings, incredible views of the Grand Canyon absolutely every minute of our day. We had absolutely beautiful weather with cool temperatures in the morning, warm weather by the Colorado river and then cooler temperatures coming out of the canyon as darkness set in. The waterfalls were absolutely phenomenonal! One of our highlights of our run were viewing Condors in flight. It was an amazing time with friends and running – what a great combination. We ended up with a great 31 miles run with 9,500′ of climbing. Thanks to Roch for a fabulous run! We ended the night with a great meal and hanging around the fire telling stories.

Check out some of our great photos from the waterfall run and Matt Hart’s photos and video.

We continued our road trip for two nights in Sedona for a great trail run and road ride then onto Scottsdale where we had a great time with family, shopping, pool time, road biking, and of course we always run a double traverse of Camelback. We are excited to return to PC and ready to start skiing again and enjoy winter.

Mud, Snow, Rocks, and Bushes–The Ingredients to a Great Run

I’ve had a quiet and somewhat boring fall spending the last 10 weeks getting healthy after Leadman.  Between my back/hip issue which lead to a knee issue, I have being doing virtually no running.  No running was made easier with a busy October elk hunting and traveling to a friend’s wedding in Stowe, Vt.  I was doing a lot of hiking, which was probably not helping my slow recovery, but it at least allowed me to get out on some trails and get some exercise.

I am finally started to feel healthy again (or at least 90-95% healthy) and have been able to start running without pain.  I have a large list of adventure runs that I have compiled over the past few years and after Leadman, I was really hoping to be able to tick a few of these off.  Well, that hadn’t really happened so I decided that since I was feeling pretty good, I would undertake one of these.  The real run I wanted to do was Summit Park to Big Mt Pass to City Creek.  This would connect some great trail of Great Western, Wasatch 100, and Wahsatch Steeplechase.  This route would be about 30 miles which I knew was too much for me based on my limited running and generally being out of shape after 10 weeks of recovery so it was shortened to the best part – Big Mt Pass to City Creek.  I knew going into this run that it would be ‘interesting’.  In my book, this means we could encounter anything and I was fully expecting some scrambling, cross country running (no trail at all), and bushwhacking.  I was only able to recruit Gemma and Chip to accompany me on this run.  Emily was nice enough to volunteer to drive into SLC to pick us up at City Creek at the end of the run.

Chip, Gemma, and I left Summit Park at 8:30 ready for a 5 hour adventure.  We left Big Mt Pass around 9 taking our time warming up to the top of Big Mt.

     Chad, Chip, & Gemma on top of Big Mt.

From Big Mt, we could see our several miles, but we were unsure how we would traverse around Lookout Peak and gain the ridge to Black Mt.  From Big Mt, we had some great running with everything we wanted, long climbs, rolling descents, mud, snow, and cross country running.

     Chip & Gemma enjoying the great trail after Big Mt.

The great trail eventually lead a couple miles of intermittent snow.  We were surprised by how much snow remained on the mid elevation trails. The snow was mostly supportable so it still made for good running.

     Gemma showing her love of snow – possibly wishing she had her skimo setup

We weren’t expecting to see anyone else until we got past Black Mountain so we were very surprised to find 5 other people (2 groups) on top of Lookout Peak.  We spent too much time chatting with these groups since Chip and I knew a couple of the people.

     Great cross country running after Lookout Peak

When I planned this run, I was very clear with people that there was a trail on the USGS maps, but that I was pretty sure it had grown over and that I knew we could get from Lookout Peak to Smuggler’s Gap, but there would be an unknown amount of bushwhacking involved.  I was hoping that doing this run in the fall would mean less bushwhacking since some of the growth would have died back.  The bushwhacking didn’t disappoint us.  We ended up with around 2 miles of bushwhacking and challenging route finding through the bush that took us close to 2 hours and trashed out legs!

     Part of our epic 2 mile and close to 2 hour bushwhack between Lookout Peak and Smugglers Gap – she was not thrilled.

To avoid some of the bushwhacking, we usually found it easiest to stay on the ridge.  This meant we had a few spots to scramble through which slowed down our already slow pace.

     Gemma not exactly in her element with the exposure

After 5 hours, we finally made it to Smugglers Gap.  I thought we would make the whole run in 5 hours and at this point, we still had around 7 miles to go.  We decided to stick to our original route plan instead of bailing out into City Creek so off we went up and across the crags to Black Mt. 

     Black Mt – all downhill from here – almost

From Black Mt, I knew we had a steep descent ahead of us followed by great running all the way to the City Creek gate.  We expected this section to only take 70 minutes, but being that this was the longest either Chip or I had run in several weeks (Chip was recovering from a hamstring injury), we were not able to descend as quickly as we would have liked.  We eventually made it to the City Creek gate where Emily was patiently waiting for us with salty food and beer. 

We ended up with 21 miles, 4550’ ascent, and 7,500’ descent.  It took us 6:39 of which we wasted probably an hour taking pictures, enjoying the sites, and visiting at the top of Lookout Peak.  It was a great run that I am thrilled to have finally taken the opportunity to do and glad to have had great companions that were patient with the unknowns.