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Humphrey’s Peak Climb

October 13, 2011

On 10 October we started the trip and climbed Arizona highpoint Humphrey’s Peak, at 12,633 feet. After a late start, we drove up to Flagstaff by 9:30. Starting at 11:00 and taking an easy pace, the foot of snow on the trail slowed us down significantly.

Before we hit the deep snow.

We continued hiking, and our pace was slow.

Me at the end of the meadow, before the trail goes into the woods.

The trail went through the woods, and the trail surface was snow and ice. The switchbacks went up, and we passed by an avalanche chute.

Me in the chute.

Great views to the West from Humphreys.

Thomas in the chute.

We continued up the switchbacks, until the trail turns to the East, with great views of Agassiz.

Aggasiz from the trail.

We both began to feel the altitude and we both got headaches. It was past noon by the time we got to the 11,400 foot elevation marker, and five hours before we had been 10,000 feet lower in Phoenix. That didn’t help.

Thomas at the 11,400 foot marker.

We climbed a couple switchbacks and got onto the ridge. From there we could see how far we had yet to go. We had considered attempting Aggasiz in the same day, but decided not to because it is illegal unless the mountain is completely blanketed in snow…because there is an endangered plant that is federally protected. The ban on climbing the peak without snow covering it is harming the plant in my opinion, because people bushwhack up and trample large areas of the mountain anyway. If it was legal to climb the mountain legally on a designated path, climbers would be able to climb the second highest peak in Arizona legally and respectfully.

Me in snow, with Snowbowl ski resort in the background.

Thomas emerging above the treeline.

At the saddle, looking over to Aggasiz.

Thomas at the saddle, with Humphreys and the ridge in the background.

The ridge and Humphrey's Peak.

It was not terribly cold, and surprisingly not very windy. But with ice crystals hanging off rocks and trees it was obvious that the peak has been a little breezy in the past.

Ice crystals hanging onto a tree.

Thomas described walking along the ridge as monotonous, and it was a “sufferfest” of hiking through snow and throbbing headaches. But there were great views of all of Northern Arizona.

The North Rim of the Grand Canyon in the distance from the ridge.

Aggasiz and Flagstaff from the ridge.

Thomas approaching the summit.

Thomas calling his mommy from the summit.

Me at the summit.

Thomas at the summit.

We got to the summit at 2:30 and had a snack. The views were great, and Thomas took a nap.

Thomas taking a nap.

Thomas and I at the summit.

We began the descent at 3:08. I thought that timing ourselves would motivate us to descend quicker, and we needed to get down and drive to the Grand Canyon quick so we would arrive at a reasonable hour. We were off the ridge in a half hour with the help of jogging, heavy breathing, Coca-Cola, and a little glissading. We slid through snow to shortcut switchbacks and were able get from the summit to the car in 1:58, by 5:06. We were pretty pleased by that. I glimpsed the meadow through the trees at the backcountry registry, and instead of following switchbacks for another mile, we took the primitive trail to the meadow and walked the rest of the way below the Snowbowl chairlifts. We found out this was not allowed after coming across a sign.

The meadow.

Too late...

Thomas at the sign.

Me at the sign.


We got to the car and drove to the Grand Canyon on Highway 180, and onto 64. We both had headaches from altitude and dehydration, and I drank a half gallon of lemonade and went to bed at 8:00 without dinner. Thomas managed a can of chili before turning in.

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