At 6:15 am, the Lion King’s ‘A Circle of Life’ roared to life, signaling the end our slumber in the warm sleeping bags and the beginning of a day which would end with us on top of Humphreys Peak.
After begrudgingly embracing the day ahead, we quickly dressed and hopped into the car. We planned on getting ready and eating at the trailhead as we waited for the third member of our hiking team – Dillon – to arrive. Luckily, we were only about a 25-minute drive, consisting of some good pump up music, from the campsite to the trailhead.
Steven and I went for a less traditional breakfast, so we slathered some PB&J’s together and called it good. Dillon arrived around 7:30 and after greetings were had, we made our final preparations for the hike.
With snow at the higher altitudes, we all had microspikes and Steven and I elected for hiking poles as well. Sadly, one of mine wouldn’t extend all the way so I ventured up the mountain with only one. We also expected it to be pretty windy and frigid at the top so we brought extra layers. This turned out to be unnecessary.
Heading Up Humphreys Peak
We breezed up the first mile of the five-mile trail thanks to it being snow free and still relatively low in elevation. Then the snow appeared.
At first, it wasn’t too bad and we were able to meander through and around it without putting on our microspikes. But then, once it surrounded us, we decided to take a quick break and ‘strap on.’ Not long after this we sorta lost the trail. I say sorta because we didn’t look too hard and then decided to hike straight up.
This decision was not approved by our calves or our lungs. Oh, boy, was it taxing.
We went up that gully and continued moving up and to the right (up and to the right…) until we hit the rockslide area that is above the trail. We gingerly crossed this and then saw that everyone, instead of doing the switchbacks, was simply going up.
So, we, tired from going straight up earlier, proceeded to go straight up again towards the saddle. This was gruuueeelliinnnng. And now we were up over 11,700 feet and us Phoenix boys could feel the lack of oxygen.
Once we hit the saddle, we all took a break, took off layers, and fueled up for the mile push to the summit of Humphreys Peak.
The Top of Arizona
Thankfully, the trail is almost entirely on the south side of the mountain which meant we had nearly no snow for this portion of the hike. Because of this, we moved as quickly as one does when you’re up above 12,000 feet and took a few liberties when it came to route decision making. We took as many quick breaks as we needed, but made good time to the summit.
Once at the top, we were stunned by how nice it was. There was little to no wind, few clouds, and perfect temperatures.
I’ve never experienced Humphreys Peak like this before. In prior years, I’ve nearly been blown off the top, and have had to huddle beside the man-made rock wall.
Once on top, we celebrated with some summit beers. I don’t usually do summit because that’s unnecessary weight to lug up a mountain but this day was a little special as I ended radiation the prior day.
The way down was about as uneventful as you could imagine. We even got to glissade a couple of times which was fun (though I wish I had had snow pants on for this). It, though, could have been worse as we got off the trail again and I postholed a few times and came dangerously close to destroying my knee.
Thank god that didn’t happen.
Once back at the car, we headed into town for a post-hike grubfest. Dillon recommended a Mexican spot, so we followed him down the mountain. The combination of good food and exhaustion meant little talking but that’s how it is sometimes.
Afterward, Dillion had to drive to back down to the valley, while Steven and I headed back to our campsite. There, we lounged and built a roaring fire to occupy the time until nightfall hit. We were both understandably beat from the hike and called it a night around 8:30.
One of the best parts of camping is not having electronics to distract you and you can hit the sack really early.
It’s weekends out in nature, away from the normal life, that keeps you balanced and help reconnect you with good friends.
Until next time adventurers, take care and be safe.
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