Colorado, USA, resident John Jepkema is proving to the world that age is nothing but a number.
On 7 November 2019, at the age of 91 years 152 days old, John became the oldest person to cross the Grand Canyon rim-to-rim on foot (male).
John performed the rim-to-rim trek beside his other senior friends, spending five days backpacking through the trails with the group.
Crossing the Grand Canyon rim-to-rim is no easy feat.
The journey involves setting off from the North Kaibab Trail on the North Rim, descending 14.3 miles (23 km) and 6,000 feet (1828.8 metres) to the very bottom of the canyon before heading towards the Bright Angel Trai and climbing an additional 4,500 feet (1371.6 metres) and 9.6 miles (15.4 km) back out to the South Rim.
“It was something to do with my friends,” he said.
“I scheduled five days. Lots of time to view and socialize.”
Beginning at the North Kaibab trailhead at the north rim of the Grand Canyon, John had already trekked rim to rim in both directions when he applied for the record title.
“When I found out it was an open record, I said ‘Let’s go for it’,” said John.
“My daughter Julie said, ‘I’ll hike the canyon with you, Dad.”
For four months leading up to his record attempt, John would walk five to eight miles five days a week.
“I did lots of walking with a full pack and as much trail and elevation changes as possible,” he said.
“I would walk three miles to morning coffee with a thirty-pound pack and then walk back home.”
Although John ultimately proved to be resistant enough to break the record, there were some difficulties that he ran into along the way, including steep areas going up to the south rim.
“I had to think about where I placed my feet,” he admitted.
“I would need to sit on a flat rock for a few minutes every hour or so.”
John says some of the views and experiences along the way made the hike worthwhile, including the big horn sheep he saw and the opportunity to meet and talk to different people.
Although he does not currently have any plans to break future records, he does plan on working on his balance and endurance for his day hikes moving forward.
However, he does offer some words of encouragement to those wanting to attempt to hike the Grand Canyon themselves.
“Sidewalk miles are not the same as trail miles,” he said.
“Fifteen to two thousand miles a year with a lot of it on trails carrying a pack should put you in shape.”
John is proud of his record-breaking achievement and says he had no idea he would eventually set a record as he approached “old age.”
“It was kind of neat what I was able to do,” he said.
“You are as old as you think you are. Stay active and keep moving.”
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