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Topic: Bright Angel as compared to Havasu?< Next Oldest | Next Newest >
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Elkins45 Search for posts by this member.

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PostIcon Posted on: Nov. 25 2013, 8:43 pm  Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

First post, but longtime Bacpacker reader.

I would love for someone to give me a sense of the difficulty of the Bright Angel trail in the Grand Canyon as compared to the trail to Havasu Falls. I hiked to Havasu a few years ago, and although I definitely knew I had done something, I still was in pretty good spirits when I got to the top. I'm planning a trip to Phantom Ranch and would like to get a sense of just how much more difficult it feels.

I know empirically that Bright Angel is two more miles and about 2X the elevation change of Havasu. Does that mean it will feel twice as hard? I would really appreciate a comparison from anyone who has experienced ascending both.

TIA
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PostIcon Posted on: Nov. 25 2013, 9:50 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Twice as hard?  Maybe not, but definitely 1.5.  Start early, so that you can get out before mid day if possible, or at least by 2.  If you are going down that route, it will give you a chance to ascertain the length and difficulty for yourself.  9.5 miles and 4400 ft gain is nothing to sneeze at.  My last climb up Bright Angel took 6.5 hours.

The park recommends you allow for 2x the time to climb out as it took to drop in.  After many years of hiking in the Canyon, I find I am only slightly slower out.  The going down kills my knees and I have to take care going down.  So, maybe at 60 something I am so slow going down that it makes up for the stopping and trying to breathe on my way back up.

The trail is well graded, and during the summer season it has water at 3 stops.  You did not say when you planned this trip, but I trust you know how to navigate around the NPS site to find out when the water is working and when it is not.  In the Winter time, the top of the trail has some ice, but the constant mule traffic keeps it somewhat worked over with debris.  Still, if you are planning a Feb trip it would behoove you to get some traction aids like microspikes.  


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PostIcon Posted on: Nov. 25 2013, 10:22 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE


(ol-zeke @ Nov. 25 2013, 9:50 pm)
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Twice as hard?  Maybe not, but definitely 1.5.  Start early, so that you can get out before mid day if possible, or at least by 2.  If you are going down that route, it will give you a chance to ascertain the length and difficulty for yourself.  9.5 miles and 4400 ft gain is nothing to sneeze at.  My last climb up Bright Angel took 6.5 hours.

The park recommends you allow for 2x the time to climb out as it took to drop in.  After many years of hiking in the Canyon, I find I am only slightly slower out.  The going down kills my knees and I have to take care going down.  So, maybe at 60 something I am so slow going down that it makes up for the stopping and trying to breathe on my way back up.

The trail is well graded, and during the summer season it has water at 3 stops.  You did not say when you planned this trip, but I trust you know how to navigate around the NPS site to find out when the water is working and when it is not.  In the Winter time, the top of the trail has some ice, but the constant mule traffic keeps it somewhat worked over with debris.  Still, if you are planning a Feb trip it would behoove you to get some traction aids like microspikes.  

Thanks for the really great info. Your experience with up vs down sounds a little like mine. I actually took 30 minutes less to come out of Havasu than to go in, which was quite a surprise to me.

We're going in the winter, so no water on the way up except at Indian Gardens. I have some traction aids but have never used them. I live in KY so there aren't many places to hike on ice, just the occasional snow pack or slush.
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PostIcon Posted on: Nov. 26 2013, 3:10 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Ol Zeke speaks well.

IF you feel comfy with it you may want to consider ascending the Kaibab rather than the Bright Angel. Winter translates into water availability being much less of an issue. Kaibab above the Tonto is on a ridge (Bright Angel tucked into a side canyon) offering broad views.

FWIW I've done 34 midwinter GC treks (accessing via Hermit, Bright Angel, Grandview or Tanner Trails). And it has been many years since I've ascended from the river in one day. (Many of those trips had me on the Tonto already, ascending from there).

Grand Canyon in winter is a puzzle well worth figuring out. If you are at Phantom Ranch watch for a ranger/volunteer by the name of Sjors (pronounced "Shores"). He has been there 20+ years and is a wealth of knowledge, taught me a lot about rain pockets there. If he is talking, I'm listening.
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PostIcon Posted on: Nov. 27 2013, 4:28 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Bright Angel compared to Havasupai I would say is definitely 2x as challenging.  Bright Angel (both up and down) will bring out any knee issues along with improper boot fit.  Definitely would focus on training with your target pack weight along with gym work to strengthen the quads/hamstrings.....
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PostIcon Posted on: Dec. 02 2013, 11:34 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Twice as hard is probably about right.  Mrs. big_load didn't complain at all hiking out of Havasupai, but Bright Angel was a different story, both during the hike and afterward.
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PostIcon Posted on: Dec. 04 2013, 10:27 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

All this is good to know. Last time I was there I was young and dumb as well as a hiking fool.
Sounds like we should go down Bright Angel to the North rim and back up the Kaibab. (If we can get the pass) (We both have good knees still and trekking poles).
We are already doing practice hikes for the April/May timeframe.
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PostIcon Posted on: Dec. 05 2013, 11:47 am Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE


(WayOutThere @ Dec. 04 2013, 10:27 pm)
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All this is good to know. Last time I was there I was young and dumb as well as a hiking fool.
Sounds like we should go down Bright Angel to the North rim and back up the Kaibab. (If we can get the pass) (We both have good knees still and trekking poles).
We are already doing practice hikes for the April/May timeframe.

A couple of things you should know if you're planning a R2R2R with overnights somewhere below the rim.

April, 2014 backcountry permit lottery was December 1st.  It was probably a little more competitive this year because people who had their permits cancelled during the government shut-down got first dibs.

May, 2014 backcountry permit lottery will be January 1st (and, yes, they really do it on New Year's day.)  May R2R permits are the toughest permits to get, so if you're interested, it's a MUST to submit an application on Jan 1st.  Even then, your chances are probably less than 50/50 for a corridor hike.

Bright Angel trail goes from the South Rim to the Colorado River at the bottom of the Canyon.  North Kaibab trail goes from the river up to the North Rim.  South Kaibab goes from the river up to the South Rim.


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PostIcon Posted on: Dec. 05 2013, 1:02 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE


(TigerFan @ Dec. 05 2013, 8:47 am)
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A couple of things you should know if you're planning a R2R2R with overnights somewhere below the rim.

April, 2014 backcountry permit lottery was December 1st.  It was probably a little more competitive this year because people who had their permits cancelled during the government shut-down got first dibs.

May, 2014 backcountry permit lottery will be January 1st (and, yes, they really do it on New Year's day.)  May R2R permits are the toughest permits to get, so if you're interested, it's a MUST to submit an application on Jan 1st.  Even then, your chances are probably less than 50/50 for a corridor hike.

Bright Angel trail goes from the South Rim to the Colorado River at the bottom of the Canyon.  North Kaibab trail goes from the river up to the North Rim.  South Kaibab goes from the river up to the South Rim.

I was just reading up on this and remember the trails but didn't remember the water spots. I was thinking the second week of May simply because I will be down there teaching at the National Camp School for Scouting.
When I was reading, I did see how hard it would be to get the permit I wanted and also needed to find if there would be water on the North rim or not before the 15th.
We'll see as the month goes on.
Thank you for your imput.


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PostIcon Posted on: Dec. 05 2013, 3:00 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE


(WayOutThere @ Dec. 05 2013, 1:02 pm)
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I was just reading up on this and remember the trails but didn't remember the water spots. I was thinking the second week of May simply because I will be down there teaching at the National Camp School for Scouting.
When I was reading, I did see how hard it would be to get the permit I wanted and also needed to find if there would be water on the North rim or not before the 15th.
We'll see as the month goes on.
Thank you for your imput.

Water at the North Kaibab trailhead may or may not be on by then (it's off now) but there's water year-round at the Backcountry Office close by.

On North Kaibab trail, I think the only potable water available year-round is at the Pumphouse but there's probably a good chance that the spigots at Supai Tunnel and Cottonwood will be on by the second week of May.


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PostIcon Posted on: Dec. 05 2013, 6:58 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Thank you for the help!

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PostIcon Posted on: Dec. 28 2013, 11:09 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Well, we just returned from hiking down South Kaibab to Phantom Ranch, then back up Bright Angel. The hike down was more difficult by both our accounts than the return hike. The last 1.5 miles of BA was frozen solid, making for very slow going. It was challenging, but beautiful and quite rewarding.

We turned around the next day and returned to Havasu to see how the falls had changed after the flood. Havasu seemed more difficult than my memories told me it was, but I don't think I would put it in nearly the same league as South Rim to the river and back.
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PostIcon Posted on: Dec. 28 2013, 11:13 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE


(WayOutThere @ Dec. 04 2013, 10:27 pm)
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All this is good to know. Last time I was there I was young and dumb as well as a hiking fool.
Sounds like we should go down Bright Angel to the North rim and back up the Kaibab. (If we can get the pass) (We both have good knees still and trekking poles).
We are already doing practice hikes for the April/May timeframe.

There's no water on the South Kaibab, and its quite a bit steeper. Going down South Kaibab and up Bright Angel is the normal route recommended by the NPS. Besides, all the views on Kaibab are on the way down.
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PostIcon Posted on: Dec. 28 2013, 11:22 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic.  Ignore posts   QUOTE

Great! I love the canyon most of all when it's frozen.
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