Hiking Hazards, Grand Canyon
One thing most people (including me) think is that they are around sea level at the Grand Canyon because you look down into it, but the thing is you are actually 7000 feet up in elevation and at the bottom is around sea level. That means you have less oxygen so when you hike, bring lots of water. The rangers at the canyon always say drink a lot of water.
When hiking in the Grand Canyon, the biggest danger isn't falling into the abyss or getting bit by a rattle snake -- it's dehydration. Obviously, being in a desert, there are very few natural sources of water once you get below the rim. Bt what most people don't realize is that the altitude, hot sun and very dry air conspire to rob your body of water at a much faster pace than a European, East Asian or eastern North American would expect. Therefore, it is important to hike with an adequate water supply, which of course depends on the distance you're covering, the temperature during your hike and the time of day. One of the reasons many people choose to start their climbs out of the canyon bottom before sunrise is to avoid the heat and associated water loss. How much water is enough? For a hike up the canyon, we'd go with two gallons/four liters. But ask a ranger, they know better than us and they have more incentive to give you the right answer -- after all, they're the ones that would have to rescue you!
When I went back to the Grand Canyon in June of 2008, my son and I noticed the trails were becoming more slippery. I believe this is a result of the constant mule traffic. It was tougher and more dangerous going DOWN than up. Lots of sand causing the trail to become more of a hazard. Don't be alarmed, just go slowly and pick out your steps.
I did want to take the time to make people aware of this danger.
I would hope some of this is common sense, but just in case, I'll state it here. Every year, Grand Canyon rescue staff have to intervene for over 300 hikers who have become injured or ill on the trails below the rim. This number would be lower if the folks taking the trails had an honest assessment of their abilities. Fatigue is NOT an emergency according to the National Park Service. You will be charged a fee for rescue services regardless of the cause. Take time to understand your own abilities, as well as the issues unique to Grand Canyon BEFORE hiking below the rim.
Another interesting point is that Mules have the right of way, apparently some hikers didn't know that and accidents that harmed hikers, and killed mules have occurred.
Water (lots of it), food, and the rest should be old info for hikers in the desert. Also remember you are starting out at the rim altitude of over 7000 feet - so preparations for high altitude hiking should also be in your mind.
So stay safe so trip will remain on budget, no mules will be harmed, and you'll have a lot of fun :)
Make sure and take a second or third pair of shoes. You will encounter a lot of mule manure on the hiking trails in the Grand Canyon.
Personally, I don't like the mules using the trails so much. They leave their waste and beat up the trail. It also stinks! Remember, it isn't the animals fault.
Watch you step!
If you plan on renting a mule or hiking down to the bottom of the Grand Canyon, it's advised that you don't plan on coming back up the same day. It's best to book a cabin way ahead in advance (almost one year) or pitch a tent. It's fast going down but coming up .... not so pleasant...heh. Helicopters rescue tourists all the time for this mistake.
If you hike down any trail at the grand Canyon, you will probably encounter some mules heading up or down. You need to yield to the mules. I have been told by handlers to stay to the side and be quiet and still.
There have been a number of problems with the animals getting spooked by people, resulting in problems for the people on the animal. The mules carrying people are the best behaved and the mules carrying food/garbage/tents from the bottom tend to be more wild.
I think they are great to watch as they pass by but they can pose a danger to the riders and you. These are big animals!
Get a pair of comfortable shoes. The way down the trail strains the front part of you feet (toes), while the way back up the trail is a real challenge to your calves, especially if you are carrying a rucksack. It will ruin the whole experience, if you are all blisters when you get back to the rim of the Canyon.
The trail is well marked. You may often encounter trains of mules. In this case stop and always yield way.
Below is a link to the National Park Service website, which I find particularly helpful.
The descend in the Canyon is misleadingly easy. Unlike normal mountain hiking, here you go downhill first. Make sure that you have a realistic idea of how far you have gone and how tired you are. As a general rule of thumb, the climb uphill takes twice the time it took you to descend into the Canyon.
Don't overexert yourself. Keep in mind that the farther you go down, the farther you gotta go to get back up! Sahib's Knee can be a problem on the way down, so watch your knees and step with a spring in your step. On the way up, don't be surprised if your legs get weak. Rest, but keep moving!
One of the canyon's activities is a donkey, mule, or horse-ride into the canyon. While this is fun for the riders, it can prove somewhat hazardous to hikers. Be on the lookout for these groups, and get to the side when you see them coming. It makes things easier for them and safer for you.
If your hear thunder, there's a good chance of rain. And rain means a chance of flash floods. So if you're hiking in the canyons or low-lands, head for high ground. Or risk being swept away by the raging water.
This picture shows several water falls that were created by a sudden rain shower.
Canyon goers, I'm about to embark on my second canyon expedition. If you are reading this then you are already ahead of yours truly. I hiked the Kaibob Trail to Phantom ranch alone two Decembers ago. Awesome experience. Obviously, now I know that it shouldn't have traveled alone. If you come face to face with a big horned sheep, hug the mountain and observe a really unique animal in in's natural habitat. The animal hopped of the trail went down about twenty yards and got back on the trail. Happy hiking you crazy mofos.
Approximately 450 people have to be evacuated from the Grand Canyon every year due to falls, heat stroke, injuries, etc. The funny thing about that is this: a vast majority of the people that have to be rescued are NOT the elderly, children, or mobility impaired. By far, the average evacuee is a fit, in-shape male between the ages of 18 and 40! Let this be a lesson, jockboy! You may think you're "man" enough to hike down to the bottom and back in one day. You're not. So bring lots of water, food, and sunscreen, and leave some of the TESTOSTERONE back at camp!
I walked down the path in the Grand Canyon but it was the end of March and they were experiencing some very cold weather which caused much ice on the path. As I walked down with my friend I lost my footing many times on the ice because I was wearing sneakers. Take every precaution when walking on the path.
If you plan to go beyond this point , make sure you are in good physical condition, bring plenty of water and make sure you are well prepared