The last few years have been slow climbing big peaks. For 4 years I averaged 5 Alpine 88 peaks per year, then in 2015 that dropped to 2. In 2016 I got my first with a guided climb of Mount Baker (TR coming soon) and thanks to a busy work schedule it looked unlikely a second was in the works. Then we (Tory, Myself, and our friends and climbing partners Maxime and Julie) had a chance to head to Arizona a day early for our Grand Canyon Thanksgiving trip. I seized it, expecting an easy and fun hike. But the weather had other ideas.
HUMPHREY'S PEAK, AZ
VITAL STATS - L/8.5mi - V/3,400' - E/12,633' - P/6,053'
3 weeks before trip: snow depth = 0"
2 weeks before trip: snow depth = 0"
1 week before trip: snow depth = 0"
2 days before trip: snow depth = 26"
Yeah. That's what happened. We decided to leave Boise a day early to have a nice leisurely climb up Humphrey's Peak, the southernmost highpoint of the western states (sorry, texas, not including you). A big snowstorm blew in the weekend before and blanketed the entire mountain in snow. But no worries - we've climbed snow before. In fact 3 of us had climbed Mount Baker a few months earlier. How could Humphrey's be harder?
Well, it was. Not at first. The snow was well packed enough on the switchbacks that we didn't need snowshoes, which is good because we didn't bring any. Tory was the first to turn back. The altitude started to get to her and she felt lightheaded. She toughed it up until about 11,000', where the tracks suddenly left the trail and went straight up the slope. I guess someone was impatient. That was too much and she said she'd see us back at the car.
The other 3 of us followed the tracks. We made great time vertically but it was exhausting. At 12,000' we spotted some hikers above us. When I reached them they told me I was back on the trail but they were turning back. We would be the first people to reach the summit that day if we continued.
Maxime and Julie followed for awhile, then hunched down behind the rocks, hiding from the frigid blasting wind. They turned around at this point, leaving me to make my way to the summit, visible just up the ridge . . .
. . . or so I thought. I had been warned about the false summits on this peak. When I reached the point up the ridge I nearly collapsed in disappointment - another 1/4 mile of hiking remained to the true summit. I was too close to turn around now so I trudged on through the wind and what was now knee-deep snow. When I finally reached the summit I was overjoyed to find a rock shelter that I could huddle behind and take a breath. The sun was starting to get low though so I didn't hang out too long.
Maxime and Julie took a shortcut down and I followed their tracks. It probably saved us an hour of hiking but the snow was deep and hid many treacherous rocks below. By the time we got back to the car the sun was setting over the desert. And we were already late for our next adventure: Grand Canyon.
Explore more . . .
State Highpoints - Kings Peak, UT - Borah Peak, ID - Mount Hood, OR
Snow climbs - Mount Hood, OR - Mount Baker, WA - Mount Adams, WA - Lost River Peak, ID