Best-selling author Kevin Fedarko will share his experiences hiking 800 miles through the Grand Canyon at a river permit party, sponsored by the Dolores River Boating Advocates, on Friday.
Fedarko was a reporter for Time magazine and a writer and editor for Outside magazine. He is the author of The Emerald Mile, an epic true story about the history of wooden dories, record boating runs on the Grand Canyon and how massive snowmelt in 1983 tested the structural limits of Glen Canyon Dam.
For a second act, in 2015 he and photographer Peter McBride hiked the entire length of the Grand Canyon to document it and to raise awareness of development threats. Fedarko wrote about the experience for National Geographic magazine and is currently writing a book about the trip.
Rather than a continuous hike, Fedarko and McBride opted for a sectional through-hike over 13 months. It involved hiking sections for a week to three weeks along the north and south sides of the canyon, retreating for more supplies and rest, then resuming where they left off.
In an interview, Fedarko described the yearlong physical challenge of the Grand Canyon trek as “an unrelenting river of pain, punctuated by moments of sublime magic.”
“We were in over our heads,” he said. “The river runs 277 miles through there, but to hike all the contours of the canyon covers 800 miles.”
They carried 60-pound packs, including climbing gear, and were off-trail most of the time, stumbling along broken terraces, weaving in and out of side canyons and negotiating exposed ledges with airy drop-offs.
“It was a complex undertaking. We moved through the rarely visited world between the canyon rim and the Colorado River,” Fedarko said. “There was almost never a stable walking surface.”
Food stashes tucked deep in the canyon required 200- to 300-foot rappels, then they would climb back up to resume the route. Temperatures ranged from a heat wave reaching 111 degrees, to hiking through snow and ice with temperatures below zero.
They used sophisticated mapping technology to guide them. A Delorme satellite texting device allowed them to communicate with experts on the canyon and linked terrain maps to cellphones that gave real-time indications of their location.
“Thankfully, we were adopted by a community of hikers who took us under their wing and made it their mission that we complete the hike,” Fedarko said.
Fedarko said the purpose of the trip was to highlight the pristine wilderness of the Grand Canyon, and that it should be spared from further development.
“Development including massive real estate projects, uranium mines and the Escalade Tramway project threaten to cause irreparable harm to the canyon,” he said.
The event will be held at the Dolores Community Center from 6 to 10 p.m. Local bluegrass band Last Nickel will perform, and there will be food from local restaurants, a silent auction and information on local river permits. Tickets are $12 in advance or $15 at the door.