A hike in the Grand Canyon – part 7- The final mile and a half!
The sun was setting as we left the mile and a half rest house – this meant I now had to get my torch out AGAIN! The fact that I had a substandard headlight meant that the only safe way for me to walk was by torchlight – this also meant I could only use one walking stick, not good when you are constantly climbing uphill!
The switchbacks just seemed to keep getting tougher – I was having to stop on everyone, just for a minute or so. On one occasion Iain found me a fantastic rock, I sat down and actually nodded off, sitting upright with my rucksack on! As I started to gently slide off the rock I woke up – that was the last time Iain let me sit on a rock that was on the “drop side” of the Canyon – it would have been so easy just to slide off the edge in my sleep!
We could here girls at the top shouting down to the girls we had met previously – we couldn’t be far now – but then the shouting stopped – they were out. A couple came past us, walking swiftly – “how far are we from the top?” I asked – “Nearly there” they said – in my excitement I put my best foot forward, overtaking Iain – he suggested I slow down and stop setting myself up for disappointment – about 20 minutes on I could see their flashlights, they appeared to be at least a mile away, and they were still going – I flagged again!
That last 1.5 miles we walked at about 0.6 miles per hour – we were absolutely exhausted. Iain was now starting to struggle with his back, probably not helped by the fact that he was wearing my rucksack, and we probably hadn’t set it up quite right; I was struggling with my hip.
Remember the Asian man who was looking for his wife and her sister – well he came skipping round the corner with rucksack and flashlight – telling us he was going to look for them. We told him we still hadn’t seen them, there were no flashlights below us, and now no more above, I think we were the last two people coming out of the Canyon, and he was probably the last one going in – however he was full of energy and walking in the cool of the night. I alluded to the fact that he too was a Barsteward – I asked him, how far to the top – “only two or three switchbacks to go” he shouted as he skipped on down the path. Surely he had to be right?
With renewed vigour once again that our ordeal was nearly over – off I went, leaving Iain a little behind – I wanted to see the end! One switchback, that meant only two more to go, second switchback, last one coming up! Third switchback – then I turned the corner noooooooooo – there was another! Oh well maybe a mistake, forth switchback – this was it – no – another switchback! Not sure I could find it in me to forgive him Barsteward!! By this point I was nearly in tears, I asked Iain “Why did he lie to me? It’s not fair!” Iain just told me to stop setting myself up for failure and to keep putting one foot in front of the other!
As we turned the next corner I could see lights – yes!!!! No, someone had the bright idea of cutting into the rock and putting in Kolb Studio just below the rim of the Canyon – I did wonder about just knocking on the window to see if we could take a short cut and climb in! Surely it couldn’t be far now!
I don’t actually remember the last few yards after that, but I do remember turning a corner and I could see the trailhead – it still brings tears to my eyes now! I walked back a few steps and just leant against the wall, waiting a few seconds for Iain to catch up. I said “you won’t believe what I have just seen!”, “what now?” he replied, obviously concerned I had seen yet another forty switchbacks in the distance! “Come and look” I replied, we walked round the corner together – “It’s the end!” I cried. With that I grabbed my walking buddy’s hand and we crossed the finishing line together! We had done it – we crossed the Grand Canyon, North Rim to South Rim in 42 hours exactly!
As we limped to the toilet block opposite the trailhead, taking off our rucksacks and shivering in damp shirts in the cold night air, Iain produced a crushed packet of cigarettes & quietly lit one (he hadn’t smoked for 42 hours!) we sat down on separate benches, neither of us speaking, not needing to. Now all we had to do was to find accommodation, and for Iain to get wifi and call Val and the children – that was most definitely the only thing on his mind.
How we found accommodation and Ian in my next blog – yes folks there’s more to come!