Following on from parts 1 (https://mjhmusings.wordpress.com/2014/11/11/the-grand-adventure-part-1-north-rim-to-river/) and 2 (https://mjhmusings.wordpress.com/2014/11/16/the-grand-adventure-part-2-river-to-indian-garden/), this will finish the tale. The third and final day of the Grand Canyon Crossing: the formidable climb up from Indian Garden on the Tonto Platform to the South Rim. It was the shortest and least eventful of the three days – this trek of 4 miles uphill took us under 3 hours – but it was also the most profoundly satisfying.
Like yesterday we set off in cool shade, watching as the light of day slowly crept down the dark canyon walls. We were following the Bright Angel Trail, but up ahead it seemed impossible that there could be any path up that seemingly sheer South Rim Wall. Indeed, the Redwall Limestone layer would be absolutely impassable to all but professional climbers if faulting in the rock hadn’t torn gaps in it. The trail snaked up these gaps, clinging precariously to the wall with empty space on the other side as it wound upwards. We took on that big slope with gusto, knowing that although it was the steepest of all the uphills we would face, it would also be the last.
With the canyon warming up and coming to life behind us, we charged upwards. Our only stops were brief pauses for refuelling and rehydrating at 3-Mile Rest-house and Mile-and-a-Half Rest-house and the obligation to stand to one side while a troop of mule-riders came past. Standing to the wall-side (never the drop-side), I regarded these riders with eyes that said: you’re cheating; I’ve earned this. Mules are great for those who aren’t fit or able-bodied, for the old and the infirm, but they’re a cop-out otherwise: if you can hike the Grand Canyon, you should.
After the gorges and terraces below, we had returned once more to the thickly layered levels of sandstone, shale and limestone that make up the upper reaches of the Grand Canyon. From the daunting past of 1.8 billion-year-old rock, we were fast returning to the present. The multi-coloured walls were festooned with shrubs and Pinyon pines clinging to any purchase they could find, but I was disappointed in my efforts to spot the fossils that supposedly litter these layers.
Workers have blasted two more tunnels through otherwise impassable sections, equivalents of the Supai Tunnel on the opposite side, and when I reached these I knew I was near the end. The rim and its railed viewpoints were in sight, and coming the opposite way were hordes of day-trekkers and those who, like my parents later, just wanted to stroll down into the canyon for a taste of below the rim. I couldn’t wait to get shot of them. Thankfully they don’t get far enough down to spoil the tranquillity and solitude of the inner canyon.
Up a bit more, round a few bends, pass under the trailhead viewpoint, and suddenly I was there: I had reached the South Rim and the end of the trek. 3 days, 15 hours of walking, 23 miles and 10,000 feet of elevation change later, and here I was. It had been an epic feat, full of amazing sights and scenes. I have experienced the canyon from every side and angle now, and have been thrilled by this deeper acquaintance with it. I’m so grateful for this amazing privilege. All that remains to do is raft down all 277 miles of it, but that will have to wait for another time.
After finishing the trek, I found somewhere to take the weight off my feet and sit in the sun while my parents did their mini-trek. Despite aching all over, I was suffused with a glow of pride and satisfaction. Not only from a personal achievement perspective, but also from knowing that I’d thoroughly earned £3,000 worth of sponsorship for a good cause. I’m so grateful to the 115 people who sponsored me. All that money will go to Cambridge Community Church to help them complete their new building. It’s a building that will welcome all comers, and offer spiritual and practical support to all who need it. I can’t wait to see it finished and open its doors. It’s a great cause, and it’s been a great challenge. Now, with God’s help, I’ve done it.