91-year-old’s 24-mile trek across Grand Canyon certified as world record

CRAIG, Colo. — A 91-year-old Colorado man’s 24-mile rim-to-rim hike across the Grand Canyon has been certified as a world record.

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According to a news release on Tuesday from Guinness World Records, John Jepkema, of Craig, became the oldest man to cross the Grand Canyon on foot. Jepkema was 91 years, 152 days old on Nov. 7, 2019, when he completed his five-day adventure across the natural wonder, the organization said Tuesday.

“It was something to do with my friends,” Jepkema said in a statement.

Jepkema began his hike on Nov. 3, 2019, with friends Ann Wagner, 66, of Craig; Craig Mortensen, 68, of Loveland; Pete Bergmann, 66, of Loveland; and John Whinery, 68, of Loveland, the Craig Press reported.

During the trip, the crew documented Jepkema’s hike, allowing him to submit an application to Guinness.

Jepkema had hiked to the bottom of the Grand Canyon on six other occasions, according to the newspaper.

The journey involves setting off from the North Kaibab Trail on the canyon’s North Rim, descending 14.3 miles and 6,000 feet to the bottom, Guinness said. Then, a hiker must head toward the Bright Angel Trail and climb an additional 4,500 feet and 9.6 miles before reaching the South Rim.

“Sidewalk miles are not the same as trail miles,” Jepkema said.

Jepkema is a retired teacher from Moffat County High School in Craig. In an interview with the Craig Press in October 2020, Jepkema said he received confirmation from Guinness that the record was his.

“Before I started hiking at the age of 79, my greatest achievements were state and regional championships with a pistol,” he said. “I would almost always win the ‘How old are you?’ game that elderly hikers play. Five years ago, I asked Park Service how old was the oldest person to hike the (Grand Canyon) rim to rim. They said that they did not keep age records, but it was an interesting question. One of the team said, ‘You may already have it.’ I checked with Guinness and it would cost me $5 to try.

For the four months before his record attempt, Jepkema walked between 5 to 8 miles, five days a week.

“I did lots of walking with a full pack and as much trail and elevation changes as possible,” Jepkema told Guinness.

Jepkema said he was proud of his record and had advice for people approaching their 90s.

“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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