Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Hiking Humphrey's Peak

Just as I suspected, topping out on Humphrey's Peak was a nice case study in rising too quickly in altitude. We left Phoenix on Saturday morning at 5:30 am and after ascending 7000ft, we arrived at the mountain. After driving partway up the mountain passing suffering road bikers riding in some sort of race to the top (crazy), we parked at 9000 feet at the ski resort parking lot. It was an absolutely heavenly feeling with the crisp mountain sunshine. Wearing pants never felt so good.

My knee was actually a bit sore starting out on this hike due to some weird pains acquired during therapy Friday afternoon but they were mostly felt during jogging, not walking. It added to the feeling of excitement and trepidation I was feeling. Going up is always fine, it is the coming down that I get worried about.

We started across the bunny hill and into the woods, leaving civilization behind. When moving to the desert, you can not imagine how much you will miss tall trees. I forget all about their pungent delicious odor until all of the sudden I am back in them and then it just feels heavenly. The first couple miles of this hike wind up deeply forested switchbacks with some glimpses of some views to come. We were hauling along and the knee feeling fine, but I decided it might be a good idea to pick up some walking sticks (might as well use these guns). My sticks were much cooler than all the fancy shmancy trekking poles that everyone else had. Okay, I admit, I was lusting after those lightweight poles. My gnarled sticks weighed like 3 pounds each.

We felt like we were hiking fast, passing groups left and right. The mountain seemed pretty busy really, but the atmosphere was good as the people hiking were all committed lovers of the outdoors and not the bozos you get on really popular but easy hikes. Once we hit 11,400 feet, the trees became much more scarce and all of the sudden, the heart started pounding a little. We topped out at the saddle in about 1.5 hours.

After the saddle, the hike immediately started up the steep exposed Arizona tundra. Most of this is old volcanic rock and due to its crumbly nature requires some concentration. My knee brace went on at this point. It bionic appeal started to get many compliments.

There are something like three false summits on this hike, but knowing this, I wasn't really caring if we were at the top yet, I was just enjoying myself. It was getting progressively more tiring with less effort as oxygen got thinner, but really, wasn't all that bad. Slight headache, feeling of head pressure, but really it mostly just felt like hiking a mountain while sipping on a nice cabernet. Quite pleasant really.

Since we had no hurry, we stopped several times to prevent heart spontaneous combustion and take some pictures of the snow. Snow? SNOW!!! Okay, I didn't get to get skiing this winter due to crappy knee tearages, so I missed out on my snow.

At a little less than the three hour point, we reached the summit. Ate some snacks. Drank some Diet Coke (for the electrolytes...that is how I roll) and signed our names is the little book. Here is our group of Martin, Sarah and I at the top, 12,670 feet above the sea.

We thought we would be much quicker down, and for the top portion, we were. We reached the saddle in about 30 minutes, taking an hour off our way up. But then as we hit the endless switchbacks, we became delirious and for whatever reason, it took forever for us to get down. I definitely slowed way down and my knee did the violent uncontrollable shaking thing most of the way down. No biggie, just weakness leaving the body people.

We finally got back to the car and drove our butts back to sea level pronto. Pretty cool little day hike. Not all that ridiculously hard, but I won't lie, I was ti-ti.

*Some photos (the ones with me in them) were snapped by Martin.

1 comment:

Bill said...

I'm glad you called it a hike...climbs involve ropes! There is another way I've done twice which is via Lockett Meadow. It is something like 14.5 miles round trip that way, and after a while, you hardly see anybody until the saddle. I've done it in winter which really thins out the crowds, too. Great view from up there, isn't it! You'll have to drag me along on one of your adventures one day...I won't bite!