Saturday, April 8, 2017

Many Questions at Midwest Mountaineering

Rachel Louwsma and Nanci Aeilts at Bright Angel Trailhead.
Rachel Louwsma and Dave Aeilts, three-time Grand Canyon rim-to-river-to-rimmers conducted a clinic at Midwest Mountaineering in March entitled YOU CAN Hike Grand Canyon. Thirty people crowded into the small Expedition Room at 309 Cedar Avenue in North Minneapolis. Most had never hiked Grand Canyon, but were very interested in the possibility. For 75 minutes, Rachel and Dave told stories from the trail, offered advice and answered many questions.

They kicked off the Clinic with a video created by Jason Womack, nine-time rim-to-river-to rim veteran, who encouraged the audience that these hikes are hard but amazingly possible.

We thought you might like to hear Jason's presentation. Click the link below and enjoy!

As you have time, check out Jason and Jodie Womack's Get Momentum Leadership Academy at GetMomentum

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Lights to Lead Us Down . . . or Out

$9.00 at Auto Zone
What is the most important piece of gear you will take on our 2017 North Rim to Colorado River to South Rim hike of Grand Canyon?

This afternoon my son, Chris, sent me this text: “I know we’re not planning a night hike, but I picked up a great little headlight today for $9.00.” See the image at right. Click to enlarge.

When we start our rim-to-river-to-rim hikes, whether it is down the South Kaibab or down the North Kaibab, we start in the dark . . . if only for a few moments. Below is a group that hiked South Rim to South Rim in 2012. It was just before 6:00 a.m.
5:45 a.m. at the South Kaibab Trailhead.
and pitch dark when we gathered at the trailhead to use the restrooms and top off our waterbottles. The only way we could see to do that was by our head lamps.

A Camelbak® hydration system, broken-in hiking shoes, hiking poles, a hat for shade and trail food you’ve tried in training may top a hiker’s gear list, but for “one brief shining
Lamps go out as dawn comes.
moment” (some of you may remember that phrase from the Broadway production of Camelot) at the beginning of a rim-to-rim hike, the most essential piece of gear is the head lamp. Without it, few could see to make a good start.

Here’s what I recorded during my first descent into the canyon:

“Our cadre of hikers quickly descended through a series of severe switchbacks known as The Chimney and then headed north. Our head lamps illuminated the five-to-six-foot-wide path bordered on one side by a sheer rock wall and on the other by a steep drop-off. To those of us at the rear, these lamps appeared as tiny bouncing theater lights outlining the sand trail and guiding us ever downward. Dark night yielded to pre-dawn gray.  One-by-one we extinguished our lamps and strained to make out the growing vistas before us . . . “

Headlamp illuminates hiker
and precipices after dusk.
A second time during a rim-to-river-to-rim adventure, slow hikers like me have appreciated the illumination of a head lamp. I recall climbing the last one-and-one-half miles of the Bright Angel Trail with my lamp on in 2016. My hiking partner Pete and I arrived at the trailhead on the South Rim around 7:30 p.m., and it was already dark. That was an 18-mile South Rim to South Rim hike. Our 2017 24-mile North Rim to South Rim trek will most certainly end in the dark for a percentage of our intrepid hikers.

So, a head lamp is important—to a good beginning of all Grand Canyon hikes and to a successful end to many. Head lamps range in price from $9 at Auto Zone to +$50 at XYZ Outfitters. Whichever you choose, try it before the hike to make sure it works.


Monday, February 27, 2017

Peter's Secrets to a Great Hike

This is our third and final post on how to train for hiking Grand Canyon--this year from the North Rim to the South Rim--about 24 miles. Our expert hiker is Peter Blomberg, now at home in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

Peter has enjoyed hiking Grand Canyon since 2012. During his first hike Peter experienced heat exhaustion resulting in a stay overnight at Phantom Ranch. This incident fueled his interest in how to successfully navigate the "Canyon" in one day by finding the appropriate strategies of training, hydration, salt balance, food, sun blocking and keeping cool. Peter has successfully completed three rim to river to rim one day hikes in 2013, 2014 and 2016. Here are his thoughts.

1. What kind of training regimen do your recommend at the beginning--what changes do you recommend making over the next eight months--and what should the hiker be doing during the
Peter at Cedar Ridge on the South Kaibab.
month of September 2017.

The first order of business is making sure your body can handle the training and ultimately hiking the Grand Canyon. It starts with a visit to your doctor. Get a thorough physical to get medical concurrence you are fit enough to get started.

Start out slow. When you are young, you can hit it hard early on and maybe get away with it. For example, some people will put a 25-pound weight in a pack when starting out. The best thing is to work your way up to that weight over a 2-to-4-month period.

To start with, any type of aerobic activity 3-to-5 times a week for 45 minutes is a good way to go. If you are not at that level, start with 10 minutes and add 5 minutes of activity every 1 to 2 weeks. In 7-to-14 weeks, you will be at that level. Depending on where you live, this can be hiking, snowshoeing, skiing, rollerblading--anything you love to do.

Once you are in shape, add variety to your workouts.
  • Aerobic Training: Depends on your age and fitness. We have a couple family members who run marathons. They changed their training from running long distances to shorter ones (<12 miles) and adding sprints to the training 1-to-2 times a week. The result is they are running faster than they have their entire life. Think about that--you will have more endurance and hike faster using a training regimen like this.
  • Hill Climbing: Trekking up and down for 2 hours per session, 3 times per week will actually physically prepare you to hike the Grand Canyon, even if you do nothing more. That was my experience on my first Grand Canyon hike. I prefer to be in better shape than that. This is an absolute minimum. I recommend you go beyond this to long hikes once a week in the last 2 months prior to hiking.
  • Stair Step Training: This is a good added exercise. The emergency stair case in an office building is a great place to practice 1-to-2 times a week.
  • Long Distance Training: This is incredibly important. Not so much for the exercise, but for learning what works for you: Water/Gatorade hydration regimens, salt intake and foods and supplements that can provide these needed components. The Grand Canyon will be tougher than any training you do, unless you live in the desert. It is hot and it is dry. Hiking under these conditions means you need to know how your body responds to the intake of water and food.
2. What markers should a hiker aim for in the months before a Grand Canyon trek?
  • Month 1 - getting or staying in shape training
  • Month 2 - getting or staying in shape training
  • Month 3 - getting or staying in shape training
  • Month 4 - getting or staying in shape training
  • Month 5 - getting or staying in shape training
  • Month 6 - start your training regimen--aerobic 45 minutes / stairs 15 min 120 steps / 2-to-4-mile hikes
  • Month 7 - aerobic 60 minutes / stairs 30 min 120 steps / 4-to-8-mile hikes
  • Month 8 - aerobic 120 minutes / stairs 45 min 120 steps /8-to-15-mile hikes
  • Month 9 - aerobic 120 minutes / stairs 60 min 120 steps / 8-to-15 mile hikes

If you can do this, the Grand Canyon will be a "walk in the park."

Pointing the way into Indian Garden.
3. How can a hiker switch up his/her training so they spend the proper time on incline, on distance, on steps, etc.
  • Have a routine that varies your aerobics (hill climb/bike/stairs) and works the long distance endurance.
4. What three things are the most important in training for hiking Grand Canyon?
  • Hydration / Salt Balance / Food Plan - worked out so you can handle the heat and eat foods that work for you under stressful conditions.
  • Physical Conditioning - have a plan and work it. If you miss a day don't worry about it. Look forward and then do the next day's exercise.
  • Equipment - Hiking poles, sun protection, and a good hydration system - plus a back pack of adequate size to hold all your food, water and clothing.
Thanks, Peter! Stay tuned to this blog for more valuable information to prepare you for our September 2017 hike.

Monday, February 13, 2017

2017 Training Advice (Part 2)

Kevin's "happy rock" at the Canyon bottom.
In our last post, Jim Louwsma described how he trains for hiking Grand Canyon. This time, Kevin Wilde weighs in on preparing to hike the upside-down mountain. Kevin has hiked the Canyon eight times, often crossing it rim-to-rim-to-rim. "One of the best parts of my year is to train and do the Grand Adventure," says Kevin, who was a marathoner and an ultra runner. "I've slowed down a bit to enjoy God's creation as I get around," says Kevin. "I'm looking forward to my ninth Canyon hike and sitting a spell on my happy rock at the bottom."

1. What kind of training regimen do you recommend at the beginning--what changes do you recommend making over the next eight months--and what should the hiker be doing during the month of September 2017?

Stay active. Walk as much as possible.  Do more next month. Repeat.

2. What markers should a hiker aim for over the next eight months?

Hard to say. Generally I would set milestones such as small hikes and then build up. It's also important to make training friends.

3. How can a hiker switch up his/her training so they spend the proper time on incline, on distance, on steps, etc.?

I think it's 60 percent endurance and 40 percent strength/hills. Train accordingly.

4. What things are most important in training for hiking Grand Canyon?

a. Have a great attitude--NO MATTER WHAT.
b. Be safe and adequately train. Otherwise stay home.
c. Take good friends along for support and to share the adventure.

Monday, January 30, 2017

2017 Training Advice (Part 1)

As promised, this blog post (and the next two posts) will deal with how to train for hiking Grand
Canyon--this year from the North Rim to the South Rim--about 24 miles. I've asked three expert hikers to weigh in on the training challenge. Jim Louwsma, Kevin Wilde and Pete Blomberg. I've asked the same questions of each. Jim will go first.

Jim Louwsma will turn 70 in April. He has hiked the Canyon at least 15 times, mostly rim-to-rim, but also to Havasupai and into the Canyon back country towards the San Francisco peaks. "I love the Grand Canyon, the majesty of its natural setting, the challenge of its hikes, the beauty of its sunrises and sunsets--in my experience, there is no other place like it," says Jim. "Each impending hike reminds me of the need to always stay in shape, which generates many other dividends, like lots of energy and a good quality of life."
Jim Louwsma

1. What kind of training do you recommend at the beginning--what changes do you make over the next eight months--and what should a hiker be doing during the month of September 2017?

I try to stay in reasonable condition throughout the winter by snowshoeing, walking, and riding an exercise bike. When Spring comes, I up the exercise regimen with longer  outdoor bike rides, longer and faster walks, hill and stair climbing. I continue that regimen until about two weeks before the hike, and then taper back.

2. What markers should a hiker aim for over the next eight months?

By July, I want to do the following for each workout: climb 1,500 feet up a steep hill, ride 30 miles hard (average 16.5 mph) walk 6 miles in 1:30 hours, and climb 1,200 steps up a staircase. If I do this through July and August, then taper back, I have always been able to handle the rim-to-rim. To be sure, I am definitely tired when I complete it.

3. How can a hiker switch up his/her training so they spend the proper time on incline, on distance, and on steps?

I like a combination of climbing one day, riding another, walking and then stair climbing. Rest and repeat.

4. What things are most important in training for hiking Grand Canyon?

A variety of regular, challenging workouts (hill work, biking, and stairs) that build up your aerobic capacity and your climbing capability, and as important, your ability to descend. That is why hill climbing is very important. The going down is as important, even more important, for your legs to get in shape for the long descent to Phantom Ranch.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

The 2017 Grand Canyon Hike

North Rim Campground Spaghetti Feedbag - 2015
As announced last fall, our 2017 Rim-to-River-to-Rim Hike of Grand Canyon is scheduled for Friday, Sept. 29, 2017. We'll meet Thursday, Sept. 28, 2017 at the North Rim Campground at 6:00 p.m. for our annual spaghetti feedbag, prepared by Chef Johnny. The following morning, we'll begin the 24-mile hike at the North Kaibab Trailhead at 6:00 a.m.

If you plan to join us, please sign up at This "unofficial" site for our "unofficial" hike also contains great features like:
  • Essentials - Everything that's important to know about hiking Grand Canyon.
  • FAQs - This section tries to anticipate your every question.
  • Grit and Gear- Kevin and Jason share notes on training and gearing up for the hike.
What's most important to do now--when most of the northern United States is still blanketed with snow? GET A ROOM!

View of North Rim hotel balcony.
Many hotel rooms at the rim are reserved a year in advance. As Kevin Wilde puts it, "Wait too long to reserve, and everything will be booked up--and the park won't let you sleep in your car!" So, if you even think you might like to hike with your friends on Sept. 29, 2017, make your reservations now. Hotels inside the park usually let you cancel up to a week in advance and completely refund your deposit. Cancellation policies for hotels outside Grand Canyon National Park may vary.

At the very least, you'll need a room at the North Rim for the night of Thursday, Sept. 28, and a room at the South Rim for the night of Friday, Sept. 29. (If you take the all-day shuttle back to the North Rim on Saturday, Sept. 30 to pick up your car, you may need a third room.)

You can make reservations for lodging at the North Rim Lodge at Make reservations for the South Rim at That's for the Maswik Lodge, Bright Angel Lodge, Thunderbird Lodge, Kochina Lodge or El Tovar. For the Yavapai Lodge, also on the South Rim, you can make reservations at

Hotels outside the Grand Canyon National Park include the Kaibab Lodge and the Jacob Lake Motel at the North Rim, and a variety of lodging choices in Tusayan at the South Rim.

Jim's campsite for the 2015 hike.
Jim Louwsma encourages you follow his example--consider camping at the North Rim Campground. You can make reservations six months ahead of the date you plan to arrive at that campground (where the annual spaghetti feedbag is held) by calling 877-444-6777 or visiting

Important: If the hotel you want to stay at is full, keep trying. With the liberal cancellation policy, rooms will open--especially as the time gets close. Also, if anyone is unable to use the rooms they have booked, offer them to other hikers rather than cancelling them.  Likewise, if you need rooms, send a notice via this blog that you are looking for rooms.

Again, if you even THINK YOU MAY be hiking in 2017, arranging lodging at the North and South Rims is the most important thing you can do right now.

NEXT POST: Training for the 2017 hike.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

The Hike After the Storm

Chef Johnny stirs spaghetti after the rain.
About 23 people ate spaghetti and garlic bread deliciously prepared by our distinguished
camp chef after Thursday's torrential rains. Friday dawned at about 45 degrees at the rim, with plenty of puddles in the trail to work around and rock slides to climb over. About 20 people headed down the South Kaibab Trail between 5:15 a.m. and 6:00 a.m. Friday, Sept. 30, 2016. That's not counting Kevin Wilde and Joshua Seldman who came down the North KaibabTrail and up the Bright Angel Trail on Thursday, September 29, getting temporarily stranded by floodwaters at Indian Garden.

The bulk of the hikers trekked down and up under mostly sunny skies and temperatures that peaked at 86 at Phantom and 83 at Indian Garden. The earliest hiker back to the South Rim, Joe Gesior, reached the top of the Bright Angel Trail at 3:00 p.m. followed by our Russian guests at 4:00 p.m. The last of the hikers crested the trailhead by 7:30 p.m. in the dark.

2016 hikers get to know each other around the campfire.
In coming blog posts, we'll give everyone an opportunity to comment on the best and most
challenging aspects of this year's hike. Many thanks to Johnny Benavidez, Tom Vujovich and Jim Louwsma who originated this unofficial rim-to-river-to-rim hike way back when, and who were in attendance at this year's event. Your passion for the Canyon has given hundreds of people the opportunity to experience it up close and personal.

More on sharing names, addresses, photos and experiences coming soon. Plan now for the 2017 rim-to-river-to-rim hike Friday, September 29, from the North Rim down the North Kaibab Trail to Phantom Ranch and up the Bright Angel Trail to the South Rim--24 miles. Start making reservations and training. An official announcement is forthcoming.