Jim Thompson, 80, of Pine did a 10-hour rim-to-rim hike of the Grand Canyon May 15.
This is not his first speed hike of the natural wonder. Thompson has traversed the canyon seven times since he was 70 following hip replacement surgery.
He did an 8-hour night, nonstop rim-to-rim North Rim to South Rim Grand Canyon 22-mile hike at age 75 and again at 76.
Thompson’s first major Grand Canyon hike was in 1999, when he was 58. Accompanied by his wife Sue, then 54, he did the Rim to Rim to Rim — South Rim on South Kaibab trail to North Rim on North Kaibab trail — 21 miles nonstop and a day later North Rim to South Rim, 21 miles nonstop.
He had a hip replacement at age 69, and then, starting at 71, did six yearly South Rim to North Rim 21 miles solo, at night nonstop on the more difficult and steeper Kaibab trails.
Life issues and COVID-19 prevented the hikes for four years. But after months of very intense training, the evening of May 15, at age 80, Thompson crossed from the North Rim Kaibab trail to the South Rim Kaibab trail nonstop and climbed out at the South Rim in 10 amazing hours.
“He had hoped to get closer to his previous 80-hour time as he had trained vigorously, but four years and aging slowed him down a little! Still a magnificent accomplishment and a total of nine Rim-to-Rim treks, with seven done after age 70,” said his wife, Sue.
Thompson’s ability to sustain on lengthy, rugged hikes comes as no surprise to Sue, who marvels at his dedication and physical conditioning.
“He’s in phenomenal shape; the training is nonstop. He gets up at 4 a.m. every day and rides his stationary bicycle at high intensity for an hour and then lifts weights,” she said.
His training also includes walking six to seven miles a day and frequent hikes on 21 miles of the rugged Pine Creek Canyon Trail.
Although his wife sometimes tags along with him on the Pine Creek hike, she says, “I am too lazy to do all the other tough stuff.”
Thompson says he relishes the feeling of accomplishment from doing something others his age wouldn’t even consider.
So what advice does he have for all those couch potatoes whose biggest challenge is to get up and find the remote control?
“Get out and walk as much as you can. You don’t have to set lofty goals but walking is great, great exercise.”
Editor’s note: A portion of this article is from one on Thompson written by former Payson Roundup sports editor Max Foster in 2016.