The Canyon was awesome in the snow. We were well-prepared and have cold-weather hiking skills otherwise this hike could have been a nightmare.
Eric (Morel) and I left real early Sat and drove to the Backcountry Office. The GC had a couple of feet of snow last weekend in the big blizzard and some fresh snow Fri Night.
Cloudy and overcast with some flurries. I redeemed some Frequent Hiker Miles for a Bobcat Snowplow with operator to plow me in (see photo). Snow visible Sat morning on Plateau Point. The Rangers at BCO warned us about ice on SK so we hiked down BA to Phantom Ranch. Actually a good change because of the great photo opportunities. Stayed overcast but cleared a little.
Only about 18 people coming up BA and we saw nobody else heading in. A female Ranger in full NPS gear, three military (Air Force) in camo and a family group of 11 - twin brothers age 62 and their clan.
Temps in the low 30's on the Rim then low 40's at IG and low 50's at PR.
I started out in 4 layers on the top - wicking short sleeve T-shirt, Patagonia Capilene 2 long-sleeve shirt, Mountain Hardware shirt and Marmot Precip Gore-tex Rain Jacket. I wore my REI hiking pants. Glove liner and mittens - even though the mittens let me use my fingers, I always pull the right mitten off to shoot photos. I had my Sorel winter mid-height boots, OR gaiters and Kahtoola microspikes. Some flurries but mostly dry and by the second tunnel I changed out of the Precip and put on a Mountain Hardware microfleece vest.
My friend Nunya (Virtual Hike.com) was at Phantom Ranch with a group of 12 so we talked. They had come down SK and the ice was not a bother to them.
Great time with NPS Ranger Bil Vandergraf - Coronado HS class of '72. He likes the Kahtoola microspikes but said that he only gets 80 to 100 miles from a pair under Grand Canyon hiking conditions before they wear out. They sure beat In-step crampons (for comfort & grip) and YakTrax (for grip and durability). His sidearm was holstered on his right and he had another holster on his left. He told us that he now tells most people it's a cordless drill. When he tells them it's his Taser they all want to see it.
Had the steak dinner and great conversation with a fellow Stanford Alum who is finishing her residency in Anesthesiology in Salt Lake City and her mother from Michigan.
Slept in the dorm where it was warm & dry. Eric & I and 5 from Levon's group. Great theology discussion with Ben (Lou Costello).
Ate the early breakfast and hit the trail.
Headed up in a drizzle which turned to freezing rain/flurries and then to a full-fledged serious snowstorm with just a couple hundred yards visibility. No wind so not a blizzard.
I wore my hiking pants, wicking T-shirt, Patagonia capilene 2 and Precip jacket to IG. It stopped drizzling for about 20 minutes so I dropped the hood to cool off a little. My motor runs hot so I built up a lot of sweat under the raingear and in the gloves. I had REI Taku Rain/Snow pants and Capilene 3 with me, but that would have been way too hot. I was really prepared for much colder weather. I have hiked the Canyon in sub-zero temps and those memories are frozen in my mind.
We stopped at IG under the little hut and I changed into Patagonia Capilene 2 legs and Marmot Precip rain pants. Vented the Precip Jacket and pants about 1/4 of the way. I put on the Kahtoola Microspikes for traction in the mud. My gloves were getting damp but I had trouble finding my dry gloves in my pack. Ate a snack and headed up to the South Rim.
From just south of IG to about 1 mile from the Rim it was slush & mush. That was no fun. You couldn't tell the depth of the mush so in some places you would sink to mid-calf. Hiking in this mush is mentally & physically grueling. Redwall slush & mush aint pretty and the mule dung really makes it look like cesspool overflow.
My boots are waterproof but some water leaked in from the top. The boots were great and kept my feet warm even with damp socks. I was prepared for much colder weather and my motor runs hot so I really sweated up in the raingear and gloves.
I thought about putting on dry socks at the 1Ã¯Â¿½ mile Rest House, but Eric convinced me that the heat loss from changing would be worse than the gain and we didnt know how much more slush & mush was ahead of us, so I trudged on in damp socks.
My endurance is pretty good for a guy my age, but I still struggle up the last mile. We tag teamed with the 3 strongest hikers from the Family group who were humping out to get the car started, drop packs and then head back down to help the rest of their family.
The Tecate and steak were worth every step
Overall I would rate the hike down a 98 out of 100.
It doesn't get much better than that. A dozen fewer hikers and this would have been a 100. The hike out was about a 75 out of 100 because of 1) the slush & mush 2) the heat and perspiration in my gear.
The Kahtoola Microspikes are well worth the money even if they only last for 80 -100 miles under Canyon hiking conditions. Dont even think about wearing cotton clothes in cold, wet weather. Waterproof boots are required, dont even think about tennis shoes or non-waterproof trail runners, you will regret it.
The original plan was to have been Hermit Creek, so we had snowshoes. No guarantee that we could have come out on the Hermits Rest road if the snowfall was too much so we changed plans.
We never needed the snowshoes and conditions would have had to have been much worse on the BA. The mules and hikers wear a groove that is too narrow for the snowshoes. We also had gear for much worse weather. But in conditions like this it is better to have and not need than need and not have.