Advice on hiking to phantom in Feb or Aug?

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Gogogo
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Advice on hiking to phantom in Feb or Aug?

Post by Gogogo » Nov 20 2018 1:02 am

Hi there. I’m looking to really increase my understanding of the conditions likely to be experienced in the canyon hiking down the south kaibab and back up the bright angel in either February or August. I hiked this route in December 2007 and also have done a one day hike part down south kaibab, across the tonto platform and up bright angel in September 2006. This is my only experience below the rim and my concern now is that I have two children, the youngest of whom will only turn 8 in early 2019. Where can I find really good sources of info so I can make a sensible decision on whether to make the hike? Thank you

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Gogogo
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Re: Advice on hiking to phantom in Feb or Aug?

Post by Gogogo » Nov 20 2018 1:06 am

@Gogogo Apologies, I should have been clearer .... I am looking to take my two children on this hike and they will be 8 and 10. In August the oldest would be climbing out on her 11th birthday, which would be amazing .... apart from that brutal heat issue! February sounds more sensible but the idea of brutally cold rim temperatures or even a snow storm has my attention! Thank you

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joebartels
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Re: Advice on hiking to phantom in Feb or Aug?

Post by joebartels » Nov 20 2018 6:39 am

@Gogogo
Late March thru early April and early October is typically the most sensible weather.

June through August, temperatures often exceed 100 ºF (38 ºC) in the canyon.
Late May through Early September is not the safest option for you or your children.
Hike Arizona it ROCKS!

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Gogogo
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Re: Advice on hiking to phantom in Feb or Aug?

Post by Gogogo » Nov 20 2018 8:31 am

Thank you. That is clear advice against August.

For us the ideal months are unlikely to be an option until my girls have grown up and left school, as we are travelling from the UK, so I had hoped that if we were sensible in August eg avoiding hiking between 10am and 3-4pm then we might be able to manage it.

Is February a more viable option? I know we could face likely snow and ice in the initial stages and need cleats, which I used on my December 2007 hike. Here my concern is about a brutal cold snap and even a snow storm. We would be staying at Phantom Ranch and buying our meals from there but wouldn’t have much warm food on the way back out.

Thank you

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chumley
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Re: Advice on hiking to phantom in Feb or Aug?

Post by chumley » Nov 20 2018 8:39 am

Gogogo wrote:Where can I find really good sources of info so I can make a sensible decision on whether to make the hike?
The National Park Service has a website that provides the information you are interested in:
https://www.nps.gov/grca/planyourvisit/ ... dition.htm
I would pay specific attention to the Climate Overview and Average Temperature Charts provided here.

The National Weather Service provides historical data for locations across northern Arizona:
https://w2.weather.gov/climate/xmacis.php?wfo=fgz
You will want to focus on two locations: Grand Canyon NP, and Phantom Ranch.

Weather in the canyon can be highly variable all year. Averages are just that... averages ... and you really won't have a good idea what the weather will be like until you are within a week of your visit and forecasts become reliably accurate.

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sam_hikes
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Re: Advice on hiking to phantom in Feb or Aug?

Post by sam_hikes » Nov 20 2018 11:09 am

My suggestion would be Feb as you can always put on an extra layer as here's a sad GC story from SK & 2017 where these kids no longer have a mom. Most GC exposure issues are from heat and not cold.

https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nat ... 542371001/

Maybe some of our GC residents have additional info on her death but from what I was told the kids ran into heat issues and Mom went from help around the area of the TIp-Off emergency phone. Mom then somehow took the spur to the gauging station instead of the obvious left at the end of the Black Bridge. Officials later came upon the kids and were able to walk them down to Phantom without issue. NPS is supposed to make improvements in signage as a result of this tragedy as mom was just feet away from a drinking faucet/emergency phone at Boat Boat as well as the emergency phone at the Tip-Off is not well signed.

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Gogogo
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Re: Advice on hiking to phantom in Feb or Aug?

Post by Gogogo » Nov 20 2018 11:48 am

Such a sad story and unfortunately not an isolated incident. I own a copy of the book “Death in the Grand Canyon” so maybe I should re-read that. Right now I wish I could have dinner with a canyon park ranger and get a real feel for the conditions they frequently see and the mistakes people consistently make. I’m watching you tube videos at the minute to try and improve my knowledge. Thank you all for your thoughts. My experience of hiking in December was fabulous but equally the day after we climbed out it was torrential rain with limited visibility and I don’t imagine it would be fun with children in those conditions. Arguably we can travel and make a sensible decision when we get there as to whether we choose to hike the canyon or simply bail out and hike the rim trails. Thank you

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cactuscat
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Re: Advice on hiking to phantom in Feb or Aug?

Post by cactuscat » Nov 20 2018 9:29 pm

I looked back at my February SK/Tonto/BA hike and I had snow, ice, sunny 70 degree perfection, thick sloppy mud, then more snow and ice - be ready for anything! Generally my Feb. hikes in the Canyon were very enjoyable.
Last edited by cactuscat on Nov 20 2018 9:31 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Gogogo
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Re: Advice on hiking to phantom in Feb or Aug?

Post by Gogogo » Nov 21 2018 4:18 am

Thank you so much for all of your feedback. I really appreciate hearing about the conditions faced.

I have to say, I’ve been watching you tube and seen that the bus goes to the trail head much earlier than I had anticipated .... therefore I have started to wonder again if August is viable so long as we head out on the first bus and start the hike before sunrise using head torches and aim to get to phantom by 11am. The start time obviously doesn’t change the heat of the day, or the potential that the plan won’t work due to injury or some other issue. But I’m wondering if the guidance of avoiding summer is there to alert people to the dangers and discourage those who might try and set off at 10am following a lie in and leisurely breakfast!

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DixieFlyer
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Re: Advice on hiking to phantom in Feb or Aug?

Post by DixieFlyer » Nov 21 2018 5:22 am

@Gogogo
I would it would depend on some extent what sort of hiking condition that you and your children are in. Earlier this year in late Feb, I did a day hike down South Kaibab to the river and came back up Bright Angel. It was around 20 degrees at the start and was in the low 60's down by the river. On the ascent up Bright Angel there was some packed snow on trail for the last 1.5 miles; I put on some microspikes, but they weren't really needed. As Chumley said, the weather can be quite variable in the GC and looking at weather "averages" won't tell you much about a particular day that you are planning to hike.

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Espi
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Re: Advice on hiking to phantom in Feb or Aug?

Post by Espi » Nov 21 2018 7:37 am

I usually try to plan my canyon trips in Feb/ early March. Crowds are down for the most part. I have been sweating with sunburn and shivering in my bag all over the same weekend trip in Feb. Expect anything. Bring micro spikes for 2 miles close to the top.

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chumley
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Re: Advice on hiking to phantom in Feb or Aug?

Post by chumley » Nov 21 2018 8:59 am

The morning downhill might not be as difficult as the climb out from the bottom. It will be hotter there, even overnight, and you’ll want to start very early in order to minimize the heat as much as possible.

If you are a first time visitor, or have rarely visited Grand Canyon, it sort of defeats the purpose of it to hike in the dark when you can’t see beyond the light of your headlamp.

I can’t speak for you or your family obviously, but it is not uncommon for visitors from the Midwest or overseas to be unprepared for the elevation change and extreme heat—which can’t be “trained for” elsewhere.
Highway to hell

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DixieFlyer
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Re: Advice on hiking to phantom in Feb or Aug?

Post by DixieFlyer » Nov 21 2018 9:25 am

@Gogogo
Out of curiosity, what kind of hiking experience do the 8 year old and the 10 year old have? From Phantom Ranch to the South Rim on the Bright Angel Trail is roughly 9 miles with an AEG of around 4,500'. Most of the elevation gain is in the last 4.5 miles from Indian Garden to the Rim. Have they done that sort of hike before? In most hikes out here you start off going uphill and come back downhill; so if you have a problem on the way up you simply turn around and go back down. But you can't do that at the Grand Canyon -- in other words, going up is mandatory, not optional.

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Gogogo
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Re: Advice on hiking to phantom in Feb or Aug?

Post by Gogogo » Nov 21 2018 10:01 am

Yeah good questions. They have experience of hiking rolling hills at low altitude, skiing at high altitude in obviously cold conditions, and walking in high heat but without elevation change. They have seen nothing like the grand canyon .... well, technically my eldest went to Cedar Ridge in June at age 2, but she was being carried on my back! Which perhaps brings us to the very obvious answer that we should be doing short day hikes below the rim and saving the bottom of the canyon until we’ve “tested” their ability. Sigh! I’m a little too keen to get back! Thank you.

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mazatzal
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Re: Advice on hiking to phantom in Feb or Aug?

Post by mazatzal » Nov 21 2018 10:23 am

@Gogogo
Perhaps you could try some practice hikes on Snaefell :)

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Gogogo
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Re: Advice on hiking to phantom in Feb or Aug?

Post by Gogogo » Nov 21 2018 10:31 am

Snaefell?

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mazatzal
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Re: Advice on hiking to phantom in Feb or Aug?

Post by mazatzal » Nov 21 2018 10:35 am

Highest mountain on the Isle of Man?

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Gogogo
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Re: Advice on hiking to phantom in Feb or Aug?

Post by Gogogo » Nov 21 2018 10:42 am

@mazatzal Yes it is, I’m just surprised you mentioned it. But if that’s the test then we’re good to go cos when we did that a few weeks ago my 8 year old put us all to shame!

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Re: Advice on hiking to phantom in Feb or Aug?

Post by CannondaleKid » Nov 21 2018 12:39 pm

Gogogo wrote:But if that’s the test then we’re good to go cos when we did that a few weeks ago my 8 year old put us all to shame!
Hmmm... something tells me that's not a good comparison.

If we can believe Wikipedia, the average of 45 minutes for a typical climb of Snaefell is hours short of the hike from the floor to the rim of the Grand Canyon, plus over 2-1/2 times the elevation gain.
And of course, there is no 'bail-out' option at the Grand Canyon like the tramway on Snaefell.
CannondaleKid

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Gogogo
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Re: Advice on hiking to phantom in Feb or Aug?

Post by Gogogo » Nov 21 2018 2:22 pm

@CannondaleKid :-) you’re right it would be a terrible way to train for the Grand Canyon! Tho I’m not sure about that bail out option .... I had to walk down Snaefell in freezing rain last week as the tram was closed for the season and would you believe I couldn’t even get a drink in the cafe at the top because that was closed too!!! Luckily the heated seat of my car wasn’t far away. As others say, we can’t create the conditions we will face in August. We can sort of replicate the terrain of difficult up and down but not the constant down and then constant up. We can’t train at altitude and we can’t practice the heat and dry atmosphere.

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