View Full Version : Humphrey's Peak AZ

04-16-2004, 09:23 AM
Just returned from climbing Humphprey's Peak, at 12,600 ft the highest point in AZ.

It was a perfect climbing day on Monday - not a cloud. I visited the Peaks Ranger Station in Flagstaff at 0730 to make sure the road to the Arizona snow bowl was open (it was) and I did not need a permit ( none needed). I picked up a topographic map, armed with this and GPS coordinates from a hiker I contacted on Arizonahikers.com, I felt comfortable doing a solo hike.

It was cool and quite windy at the snow bowl parking lot ( ~9500 Ft). I put on my snowshoes and started out. The snow was thin and well consolidated at the bottom. There was a trail marker for Humprey's Trail at the bottom of the ski slope, but no register. The GPS route pointed up the ski slope and there were foot prints going up so I headed up following the chairlift. I expected to find some kind of trail entrance into the wooded area the the left of the ski slope but found none, so I kept following the footprints. When I checked my GPS again I was standing near a wooden sun deck not far from the skilift station and above the waypoint for the trail register in elevation. I decided to keep following the ski trail since I knew it would lead above treeline. I followed a narrow easy ski trail around a ridge and entered the bottom of the bowl area.

As I climbed in the bowl I passed a wooden stake with orange tape that looked like some kind of trail marker, regardless I could easily see where I needed to go and was still following footprints. Finally I could see a route to the left of the ski trail that climbed steeply to the ridge. I knew I wanted to be as far left as possible on the ridge from both GPS and the trail map, so I headed in that general direction. The snow continued to be hard packed as the grade steepened. I could see wind blown powder streaming from the ridge.

This where the hard work began. It was an easy walk up to this point, but as the climbing intensified I found it necessary to stop more frequently to let my heart rate come down ( altitude). I never really felt out of breath, but my heart rate would jump up when I exerted myself and quickly recover if I rested. I adopted a slow steady pace that minimized the stops. I finally reached the ridgeline and could see that I had skirted the summit of Weatherford on my ascent and was just above the trail marker.

I headed down the ridge, acutely aware that a fall towards either side of the ridge would probabaly need to be arrested on the hard packed snow with a trekking pole. Humphrey's looked far away and significantly higher than I expected from the ridgeline. I pretty much followed the ridge since traversing below it was awkward on the hard packed snow with snow shoes. I had good traction with the cleated snowshoes and trekking poles, but would have felt less exposed in crampons with an ice axe for arrest. I saw a trail marker lower down the slope from the Weatherford junction and guessed it to be the real Humphrey's trail. I continued climbing over and around 2 more "bumps" and finally had a clear route to the summit.

My GPS indicated I had travelled 4.5 miles in 4 hours from the lot to the summit.

The view was full in every direction, and I had lunch since the wind had subsided. I could see the north rim of the GC, the Painted Desert to the east, and Flagstaff below me. I started back down intending to find the real trail on the descent. I followed a traverse slightly below the ridge, the snow was a lot softer than on the way up. I never found footprints, a marker, or a route that led into the woods. I decided to continue walking down and regain my path in the snowbowl. Once I left the ridge and started to descend steeply I removed my snowshoes and adopted a "plunge stepping" descent since the snow was much softer than on the ascent. I considered glissading, but there were too many exposed rocks and trees and I did not have my ice axe for speed control. Once off the ridge it was like a solar oven in the bowl. I met a snowboarder climbing to the summit for a ride down. The descent seemed to take much longer than I expected, and I arrived back at the car about 7 hours after departure.

This was my first hike out west and I absolutely loved it. The exposure above treeline, ridge ascent, and altitude made this a true Alpine Climb. The only thing in the east that comes close is Mount Washington NH and typically the final ascent there is done in boots since most of the snow is blown clean off the summit and into Tuckerman's Ravine by the famous Mt Washington winds.

Overall - I would highly reccomend this hike, especially if you intend to attempt Ranier and want to get some experience at altitude first.

Jim lombard
04-16-2004, 10:06 AM
Nice report.

The trail-head can be reached from the parking lot by angling left across the ski-slopes into a Douglas fir forest. There was a place to register there. We also had trouble finding it but if you hug the left side of the ski trail you'd have come to it. Of course when we did it we ended up getting off the original trail because of deep snow. You were smart to bring your snowshoes! I agree this is a beautiful area

poison ivy
04-16-2004, 12:55 PM
I enjoyed reading your trip report... I hope you will be posting some pictures! Glad to hear you had a great time on your trip. Humphrey's was also my first real hike out west... definitely a great place to start!

- Ivy

04-16-2004, 06:22 PM
Ivy - I believe it was you who I got the idea from in the first place - I can't thank you enough!!!

KZ:D :D :D :D :D

04-19-2004, 04:53 PM
Until your post, I thought that I was the only one around here who's climbed Humphreys. It was in June. As I remember, the trail leaves a parking lot well below the ski area, climbs up through a meadow, then enters the woods. Unlike most of the trails in the White Mountains, it had plenty of switchbacks, and wasn't particularly exposed until it reached the saddle between Humphreys and Agassiz Peak. I didn't go beyond the saddle because of impending thunderstorms, but overall, I found the hike easier than similar trails in NH.

I have a trip report and pictures at http://www.peakbagger-paul.com/humphreys/humphreys.htm.

Rob S
04-20-2004, 11:58 AM
Great trip report, KZ! Glad you had a great time out west. Sedona is amazing, too, huh? Can't wait to go back.

Very nice website peakbagger-paul!! Easy to navigate, great commentary, and awesome pictures! I have a semi dormant website of my own that I've been wanting to re-do, you've given me the inspiration to start working on it again. :)

Dennis C.
04-21-2004, 03:03 PM
You picked an interesting time of year to climb this peak, KZ. Having your snowshoes allowed you to cover ground without actually having to walk on it (over lots of scree rock). Later in the season (toward summer) it's a lot warmer and also a chance the trails may be closed due to forest fire danger. This is what nearly prevented us from getting it back in early June, 2000.

Quote : "...as the climbing intensified I found it necessary to stop more frequently to let my heart rate come down (altitude)." I think a lot of people get this, myself included.

Quote : "I would highly recommend this hike, especially if you intend to attempt Rainier and want to get some experience at altitude first." Last year when we wanted to acclimatize for Rainier, we found out the best way to get it was to just climb up to Muir and spend a full day there before going for the summit the following night (about 11:30 pm).

Ever given any thought to doing state high points? You've got your start ... and a great one!