Glenwood Springs man leads 80-year-old mom on Grand Canyon rim-to-rim trek

For even the most avid hiker, the trek from the north rim of the Grand Canyon to the south rim is a daunting task.

With a nearly 6,000-foot decent on the north side to the river, and almost a 5,000-foot climb out on the south, the 21-mile journey through the rugged terrain can be overwhelming.

For 80-year-old retired registered nurse Janet Weidemann of Grand Junction the trip has always been on her list of things to do.

“It has been a dream of mine to do it,” Weidemann said.

For years Weidemann, and her son David, a physical therapist who lives in Glenwood Springs, had planned on making the rim-to-rim adventure together.

Weidemann had attempted to book reservations for an overnight stay at the historic Phantom Ranch at the bottom of the canyon in the past with no success.

“For several years we had been talking about it, and on various occasions tried to get reservations down at Phantom Ranch,” David Weidemann said.

About 13 months ago, she tried one more time and was able to secure the last reservation of the 2018 season.

After spending the night on the north rim Sunday, Oct. 28, the pair rose from their camp near the start of the Grand Canyon North Kaibab trail to take their first step to making a life-long dream a reality.

With David’s rigid schedule of walking 25 minutes and resting 5 minutes, the Weidemann’s set off at 7 a.m.

“I think that was one strategy that worked very well to help my mom push beyond what she had been able to do in training,” David said.

The 14.3-mile, 5,781-foot drop into the canyon took around 10 hours to complete that first day.

“A significant piece of the success of our endeavor was being blessed with a perfect weather window,” David added.

Mother and son bunked in a cabin at the Phantom Ranch on the north side of the Colorado River that evening to rest their weary bodies.

They awoke before sunrise to eat a hot breakfast and pack their gear.

Crossing the Colorado River on the Kaibab Suspension Bridge, they set out for the southern ascent in the faint dawn light, using their individual headlamps to help guide the way.

“I knew from my experience it would take much longer to hike out,” said David, who had made the hike from the south rim to the Colorado River on several occasions, but never tried to go rim-to rim.

They chose to make their ascent up the South Kaibab Trail for the unparalleled views and expansive vistas of the canyon.

At 7.3 miles, the trail is shorter than the north trail, but it is a much steeper climb.

“You just felt the Grand Canyon was wrapping its arms around you going up South Kaibab,” Janet Weidemann said.

David hooked a short line to his mom to help with the climb up the large steps and steep inclines of the 4,860-foot vertical gain.

With a steady pace and continuing the schedule of resting every 25 minutes, Janet and David summited the canyon in a little over 10 hours to complete the journey on Oct. 30.

“I couldn’t have done it without my son,” Janet said.

“I’ve always known that she was a very determined person, and if she decided she wanted to do something, it’s highly likely it was going to happen,” David said.

When asked if she would do it again, Janet Weidemann said, “If I was younger, I would do it again in a heartbeat.”

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