• Brendan Cutuli

Why You Must Face Your Fears

I have traveled back to Boston after being in Arizona for the main purpose of hiking extensively in the Grand Canyon. My goal, alongside my good friend Max, was to hike from the South Rim to the North Rim back to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. A total of three days would be our timeframe to complete 46 miles of hiking with up to 4 miles of elevation change (ascent/descent).

Not only is this a tall task of hiking within three days for some, there is only one way out of the Grand Canyon during its off season months. The North Rim is completely shut down with services and aid due to cold weather and snow fall from the months of November to May. We were attempting this hike in the first week of March, a week or so after a large snow fall of up to 22 inches occurred at the North Rim on top of previous snow. It was safe to say that our week heading into our trip, we had no idea whether weather would cancel our ability to traverse the Grand Canyon.

Besides weather disorienting our mindset going into the trip, we were unable to acquire a permit to hike up the North Rim due to off season requirements. After an extensive travel from Boston to Phoenix with an 18 hour travel time, we carried on our way to the backcountry office in the Grand Canyon to arrive at 3pm. The sheer joy that arose onto both of our faces was one to cherish because we were offered two nights of possible camping within the Grand Canyon base. What arose was that we had to hike 7 miles down and we needed to become prepared for our hike before the sun set. With no sleep the previous night besides some shut eye in a coffee shop, we raced to gather food and supplies in order to hike R2R2R beginning that night.

Hours later we set off into the sunset and began our journey down the South Khaibab trailhead, admiring the beauty of the wondrous rocks around us.

We turned on our headlamps as we felt 15-20 mph winds rustling our windbreakers on the edges of the switchbacks. As we hiked deeper into the canyon, the winds settled and the clouds shifted to open up the sky with an array of stars. The feeling of hiking in nature under the stars is indescribable especially when you can't see to your right or left. The ability to not see down the long stretches of the canyon while we hiked in the dark offered peace.

We carried a 30 lb backcountry pack along with a smaller 5 lb day pack to accommodate for food and water during day time hikes. The 7 miles at night was fairly easy before reaching Bright Angel Campground to settle in for the night. This was a much needed sleep.

We awoke later than we'd hoped at 9am but this was due to our lack of sleep on the trip in. We began around 10am aiming to face the North Rim and its glory for the rest of the day and night. With our headlamps prepared, we hoped to at least reach the summit before dusk. We arrived at Supai Tunnel, two miles away from the summit, when we encounter the next segment with 3 feet of snow. Due to our late start, we headed back 12 miles to bright angel campground to sleep for the night. We arrived at camp at around 10pm later that night. A full 12 hours of hiking through the Grand Canyon, which was well spent through mental and physical exhaustion.

Our final day ended with a steady 10 mile hike up the bright angel trail on the South Rim. Carrying our full packs were tough ending the last of our hike up the Canyon. Losing energy and motivation, Max and I trekked our way through the last of the hike on to even grounds. The seconds we made it out of the Canyon our bodies began to shut down physically. The need for a bed that night was truly appreciated from a airBnB host in Flagstaff.

My point to you here is that we faced many challenges and fears before taking this trip. We attempted and completed a hike that many do not face in their lives. We wanted to have an experience that pushed ourselves to a place mentally and physically we haven't experienced before. Might I say I learned much about myself and the way my brain acts in difficult times. I could not have asked myself for anything more from this trip because there was lots of knowledge gained.

My best advice is to write down three fears or challenges that seem difficult and tackle each one week by week. Whether its a mental or physical task, set goals for yourself each week. The only way you can develop your mental and physical health is by challenging yourself and working towards improving yourself daily. Spend the time now to set goals and continue progressing your mental, physical and emotional health.

Now to plan my next challenge..


© 2019 by Brendan Cutuli