Anthony Loos has competed in mixed martial arts and currently studies karate. However, the Altoona Tracker Boat Center Associate says a recent accomplishment was by far the most physically demanding thing he has ever done. Here's his story:
Our karate master instructor decided to sponsor a trip to the Grand Canyon. However, this wasn’t a vacation/pleasure trip…well, at least not most people’s idea of pleasure. It was specifically to hike the Canyon and to give his students something to achieve – both physically and mentally.
Our group of 15, led by our karate master, flew into Phoenix on May 1. I had checked through my Bass Pro Shops tent and other camping gear in a suitcase and had my clothing and personal items in my carry on. I packed light.
In our rented 15-person van, we headed to Flagstaff, stopping for lunch, and then pulled in at Mather Campground on the South Rim. We spent the rest of the evening making camp and preparing for the next day’s journey.
Friday morning, May 2, it was up and at 'em at 5 a.m. for our breakfast of bagels and peanut butter – calories and carbs to get our energy going for the day. Then we headed to the Canyon.
With my Go Pro camera strapped to my chest, we began our descent into the Canyon, entering at the South Kaibab Trail. We had picture-perfect conditions – sunny, very few clouds, and 45-50 degrees when we started at 6:30 a.m. It reached about 95 and stayed in that range for much of the day. That meant dressing in layers with lightweight, sweat wicking clothing. I also packed rain gear for the hike, because one never knows if the weather will change.
It was typical, dry Arizona air – that combined with the few clouds could cause some problems for the unprepared. Research I did before the trip suggested a calorie intake of 300 calories an hour during this type of hike and 20 ounces of water an hour. This would differ from person to person. For example, one member of our group is a marathon runner so her requirements would differ because her body was used to the exercise. So, I had my Ascend Hydration Pack with 70 ounces of water and there were refill stations along the trail. I also packed pretzels, fig bars, energy bars, and honey, for its natural energy boost.
Our plan was to descend into the Grand Canyon and back out in the same day. Despite cautions against that idea, we were determined that we would finish. The grueling hike was close to 19 miles, with a one-mile elevation down and back up. The four-hour trip down turned into twice as long coming back up.
We navigated our way down the South Kaibab Trail to the Colorado River, where we took an extended break and splashed around in the water. We crossed the Colorado on the South Kaibab suspension bridge, made our way over to the Bright Angel Suspension Bridge, and headed back up the Canyon on the Bright Angel Trail.
Of course, a hike back up a trail is typically the toughest part…and this was no exception. Our group of 15 had gradually migrated into three groups based on our speed. We had radios to communicate and provide some good-natured ribbing and encouragement. Our group talked while we walked, taking in all the sights, but the terrain is always changing, so keeping an eye on where we were stepping was very important.
There were several switchbacks, which were the toughest part, because of their steep grade. Then it would level off for a while. Good hiking shoes or boots are paramount. We were more than simply walking, often stepping over wood or brick erosion control steps, or hiking on rocks, gravel, dirt, sand, and rock hopping over natural creeks. My RedHead hiking shoes were great. Oh, and we had to watch for the pack mules carrying riders up and down the trail…they have the right of way…which meant we also had to watch for mule droppings!
Other than the regular exercise I get through karate, I “trained” for the hike by doing five miles a day on a treadmill, for about three weeks, at the full incline position. Next time, I’ll do ten. The last mile of the trail was tough…it took us about 40 minutes. Our legs and feet felt like lead. The sun was setting and our group decided to sit down and take a quick break. A group of guys going down into the Canyon came by and said, “Good job - you’re just five minutes from the top!”
I guessed their five minutes would actually be 20 minutes for us…it ended up being ten. Our group finished the hike in the middle at just under 13 hours. The first group finished at about 9.5 hours, while the group following us finished at 14.5 hours.
Would I do it again? Absolutely. Even though that last mile was pure torture. Even though I didn’t see any scorpions, tarantulas, or rattlesnakes, as I had hoped.
A group of Iowa karate students accepted a challenge and accomplished their personal goals.
There are signs at the beginning of the trail noting that 250 people a year are rescued by helicopter when they reach the bottom.
I, Anthony Loos, was not one of them.
Anthony had his Go Pro set to take photos every 30 seconds on the hike. Take part in the virtual hike here on our YouTube channel!