I was totally faking the smile at the airport. I was apprehensive...not that he couldn't make it, but that he was alone with no means to summon help, no one looking out for him, no good 'worst case scenario' plan. Though I've privately cried off my mascara, please note I'm wearing lipstick...no need for him to see me hysterical or anything.
So here he is at the North Rim at 3:30 am, full of piss and vinegar. And adrenaline.
After almost four hours running downhill mostly in the dark for 14 miles, he arrived at the footbridge over the Colorado River. It was a welcome sight. He got off a phone call to me (must have been a landline at Phantom Ranch), to let me know he made it through the night. His voice sounded husky and dry, but upbeat. I felt a lot better knowing that the mountain lions had not eaten him. He did see a bobcat though, along with dozens of deer. And a pterodactyl.
OK, maybe it wasn't a pterodactyl. But it was big.
As seen from above. That's an angry-looking river.
The canyon walls dive straight into the water. For a size comparison, a person would hardly be visible on the rock wall. That's the thing about the canyon...it's so vast, but the scale of it is hard to gauge, and it certainly doesn't ever come through in pictures.
There's not a lot of shade on the switchbacks of the Bright Angel Trail.
You really want to keep focused on the trail. If you don't ... it's a long way down.
He's looking just a little bit deranged, I think. The sun is starting to fry his brain.
Looking back at the route he's travelled. The trail runs inside that gash in front of you, across the canyon.
The last 2 miles were brutal. He was throwing up and of course feeling the effects of heat, fatigue, altitude, jet lag, dehydration... you name it. But he kept going, though his pace was a crawl; he had to stop every hundred yards to rest. This is the sign that greeted him after 11 hours and 45 minutes, at the top of the South Rim.
He reports that it was the hardest thing he's ever done. I knew he could do it. After the stuff he's done adventure racing I felt confident in his ability and preparation. But gosh, it's nice to have him back in one piece!