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Grand Canyon Hike to Phantom July 1, 2012

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I am considering a trip to the Grand Canyon the weekend before July 4, 2012. The 4th is on a Wednesday next year. Would probably do Slide Rock State Park and Walnut Canyon.

I am considering either Havasu Falls or a hike to Phantom. I would have my 13 year old nephew along with me. We live in Oklahoma and I work outside, so I am conditioned to the heat. He is in good shape but is not conditioned to the heat. Assuming that we start at 5:00AM in the morning, just not sure how hot and how hard this is going to be. I am debating about 1 night or 2 at Phantom.

I have considered going to Yellowstone or Yosemite with him at this same weekend, but thought the crowds might be really bad. I can go at a different time, but this would give me two extra days to do more things if I go the weekend before or after the 4th.

He went with me last year to Lassen and The Redwoods. We did Lassen Peak and hiked 14 miles in the Redwoods and he was still ready for more. He is going with me this year to Carlsbad and Guadalupe. I have decided to try to take him on one trip a year with me and do some things that my wife and daughter aren't to keen on attempting. I am also considering Channel Islands with him for next summer.

Any thoughts on hiking to Phantom or Havasu on the weekend before the 4th? If we did Havasu I would probably also include a day at the South Rim. I have been to the Grand Canyon three times, but haven't been to the North Rim, so a rim to rim hike is also a thought, but then I spend an entire day taking a shuttle to the other side.

Or should I just hold off on this and do it in May or October, when the heat would be more cooperative.

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    Average high in July at the bottom is 106.

    Not sure if you are thinking of camping at Bright Angel or staying in a cabin or the dorm at Phantom. No way I would want to backpack to Bright Angel in summer, with an average low of 78 you get no relief from the heat unless you just sit in the creek. The cabins or dorm would be better but still very tough, and honestly I would not want to be responsible for a 13 year old in the summer heat because if something happened to him, you would feel awful as you are the responsible party.

    Sunrise at the south rim in July will be around 5:15am, getting started at 5am is already too late. You'd probably want to get started by 3 or 4am at the absolute latest. Maybe that sounds crazy but the typical route down is S. Kaibab trail and all but the upper mile or so is in full sun almost all day. I did it in early November and I was extremely grateful to find one very short section of trail that was shaded about 4(?) miles down, that made my day to cool off and recharge for a bit. Can't even imagine how bad it would be in July.

    You could take the Bright Angel trail down, it is more shaded and has water at several points along the way. But it's 2 miles longer and the last 2 miles are along the river, hiking in sand. Imagine hiking 6-7 miles down and then hitting a 2 mile stretch of sand when the temp is 90+, not good. And don't even think of jumping in the river to cool off, the currents are treacherous and most of the trail is too high above the river for you to even access the water, which would make it hellish to look at if you're overheated. Much better to hike that trail on the way up.

    Rim to rim should actually add 2 days, one for the shuttle and one for the hike down as it's significantly longer to reach Phantom from the North Rim. And it's definitely not recommended to hike from the North Rim to Phantom in one day, it's 14 miles or so and you'll hit a section called the Box which is notorious for being like an oven - think narrow canyon with black walls absorbing and reflecting the heat back at you.

    Hold off until October, later in the month would be best.

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    If you were JUST going by yourself, I'd say that a hike down the Kaibab and a hike up the Bright Angel is POSSIBLE in July **IF** you prepare and plan properly. It'll be a major undertaking with SERIOUS consequences if you don't do it right, but good effort would allow you to do it. With a thirteen year old, I'm reluctant to recommend it. WWA gives the reasons I also suggest waiting till October.

    In mid-June, my wife and I hiked down one day, stayed at Phantom Ranch, and went up the next day. Easy? By no means -- we considered getting medical attention due to dehydration after we completed the hike. But if WE could do this hike, then I honestly think ANYONE could -- but I can't emphasize enough: **ONLY IF** you plan and prepare.

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    I would definitely pick Kaibab over Havasu.

    Are you camping or do you have a cabin or bunks in the dorm? Makes a big difference because if not camping then you can carry much less weight, making the 2nd day ascent easier and safer.

    Anyway, you are probably in good enough shape to do the hike out. Just really put down the water the first day (most people get really dehydrated) and get an early start out on the 2nd day. This will mean skipping breakfast at Phantom (I usually bring several Power Bars or similar). And carry as little as possible, just a change of socks, moleskin for blisters and maybe one pair of clean underwear, food for breakfast day 2 (you can eat the other meals at Phantom) and either 2 or 3 quart canteens for water. Works best to carry this in a waist-pack rather than a backpack, keeps you from heating up as much.

    Someone above wrote the ave high is 106 ... this will be in the late afternoon, temps will be in the 80's and maybe low 90's the first half of the hike out (or all of the hike out if you are swift enough). If it's 106 at Phantom it's about 86 at the rim for the high, so starting early lets you avoid the hottest part of the day all the way up.

    The problem is if you hit a day when it's 115 or 118 ... then you have little margin for error. I was in there on a 35 mile hike on the Tonto Plateau in 1990 during the record heat spell (122 F in Phoenix, 118 at Phantom) and a 26 year-old died of heat stroke in the group ahead of us and Rangers did 18 helicopter rescues in the Hermit Basin or others would have died that weekend. I lost 14 lbs even with drinking about 5 gallons of fluids (over 40 lbs of liquids). Now I just say no when it's over 112 F.

    The few teenagers that were on trips I led did better than their parents so if the kid is in good shape I'd take him.

    I'd definitely hike DOWN Kaibab day 1 (shorter, better views, lack of water not a problem going down) and come up Bright Angel day 2 (400 ft less elevation, some shade, water at 3 places, Ranger station at Indian Gardens). The worst part is hiking thru the soft sand by the river, especially when it's hot, so get that out of the way early.

    Anyway, try to get a cabin or dorm reservations and go for it. Honestly it's just not very enjoyable carrying camping gear in July, though you can arrange for mules to carry it for a fee. Think seriously of cancelling if inner canyon temps are over 115 F ...

    haven't been to the North Rim, so a rim to rim hike is also a thought, but then I spend an entire day taking a shuttle to the other side

    Dunno how it's done now but when I was doing 2-3 rim-to-rim day hikes a year the van left from the north rim at 8 AM (IIRC ... never had to take it myself) and arrived at the south rim around noon, so half a day. Guys making their maiden hike would always take cash in case they couldn't hike back day 2. Most of the time we'd just hike south to north in about 8 hours, spend the night in a north rim cabin, then hike back the next day in about 8 hours. Getting started day 2 was always rough but after half hour or so you loosened up.

    Or should I just hold off on this and do it in May or October, when the heat would be more cooperative.

    October and April are usually the two ideal weather months, though I've hit snow in early April and sleet in late October. But no doubt more pleasant than July! If you can do it one of those times, especially if camping is the only option, then I'd say wait.

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    Bill,
    Who needs clean underwear? lol.
    On a serious note. You don't like Havasu Falls area? I thought it would be easier to go North to South. You like South to North better?



    I own a very small sanitation company, so we are out in all conditions. We down a tremendous amount of fluids on the trash trucks in the summer. It is really unbelievable how much liquid three people can drink in 8 hours. In the winter we go through usually only one bottle of gatorade, water, or even coke for each person. In the summer we each drink a gallon of water each day and 64 to 96 ounces of gatorade. We normally drink a 2 to 1 ratio of water to gatorade. We drink G2 or Powerade. The Powerade has more sugar, just like regular gatorade, but it has some vitamins in it as well. We haven't experimented around enough with the recovery and perform gatorades to decide if we like those or not. We seldom drink soda in the summer. It can hit above 100 here for 30-45 days each summer. It is much more humid here. Heat index is often 110. We start at 5:00AM and get as much done as we can before 10:00AM.

    I think the 13 year old would probably do better than me physically, but not sure since he isn't conditioned to the heat.

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    You don't like Havasu Falls area?

    It's beautiful with the waterfalls and blue water but a lot of tourists feel just barely tolerated by the Havasupai, who can seem distant and maybe resentful. You are pretty limited in where you can go down there. I felt more comfortable where I had freedom to go anywhere I could walk. Maybe just a personal quirk ...

    I thought it would be easier to go North to South. You like South to North better?

    Less elevation gain (about 1,400 ft less if coming up Bright Angel, 1,000 ft if up Kaibab) if you go north -> south so most people would agree that it's easier.

    But in the summer heat I thought it was a wash (maybe because we did south -> north first day, north -> south 2nd day when we were a bit tired?).

    The difficulty is the 'up' section. Going south -> north via Kaibab you go down for about 7 miles to the river, then it's about 9 miles of easy level walking by Bright Angel creek until you get to the section that leaves the creek and the heavy lifting starts. I think there's 1,300 ft gradual elevation gain in this section and it seems level.

    I remember a sign reading "North Rim 4.7 miles" where you head up, so less than 5 miles of strenuous hiking to get out. Almost all of it is shaded and the upper half is in the trees, so in the heat this was a bonus.

    Coming north -> south in mid-summer we'd leave the cabins around 4 AM, it took 30 minutes to walk to the trailhead, and it took about 4.5 - 5 hours to reach Phantom Ranch area, where we'd stop and eat a sandwich or something.

    From here you have about 7 miles of hiking 'up' (plus 2 miles hiking in soft sand beside the river if hiking Bright Angel, which most would do). So we'd be starting the 'up' part after 9 AM, with full sun and 7 miles of up. I can remember looking up at the cliffs thinking 'this is going to be tough' as I prefer starting up earlier.

    Usually took 3 hours to hike out up Kaibab, closer to 4 hours up Bright Angel (which we almost never took for various reasons), so you are for sure going to be in the mid-day sun (though getting out before the afternoon high temps). Most hikers take 50% longer (4 - 5 hours), slow ones take as long as 8-9 hours to hike out, in which case you will be exposed to potentially dangerous afternoon temperatures.

    So anyway, south -> north was 5 miles of hiking up in the shade but at higher elevation, north -> south 7 miles of hiking up with no shade on Kaibab or little shade on BA. For me hiking in the shade made up for the extra elevation gain.

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