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| | |-+  May 12, 2005, Humphreys Peak, Arizona
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Author Topic: May 12, 2005, Humphreys Peak, Arizona  (Read 1957 times)
dkoelle
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May 12, 2005, Humphreys Peak, Arizona
« on: 05/13/05, 08:24 AM »

First of all, thank you to everyone who provided information about this trip.  That knowledge, the heavy snow this year in the Southwest, and lucky good weather on this business trip bonus day came together to yield a great outing.

About 80 miles north of the heat, desert, and sprawl of Phoenix, I spied the gleaming white pyramid of Agassiz Peak (about 12,300).  The summit of Humphreys at 12,633 is hidden behind Agassiz and is not, I believe, even visible from Flagstaff.  I was ready to hike at 5:50 AM the next morning at the parking lot of Arizona Snow Bowl, elevation around 8,900.  There was snow down to the parking lot.  The forecast low had been 28 in Flagstaff at about 7000 feet, and the snow was pretty hard.  I elected to take skins but leave the crampons behind.

I booted up firm snow and onto the main face of Agassiz.  The peak is sacred to several Native American tribes and summits are not encouraged.  There is also quite a local controversy about snow-making with waste water.  In any case, after gaining altitude on Agassiz I traversed to the Agassiz-Humphreys saddle at about 12,000 feet.  This was a little icy-dicey but OK.  A direct, steeper route would take one from the lower lift area directly up to the saddle.  The water kept freezing in the mouthpiece of my bladder device.  From the saddle I saw a whole world of snow-covered goodness on bowls and chutes on the back side.  The saddle to the summit is about one mile of gentle up-hill at 12,000-plus, overlooking forest, nearby extinct volcanos, desert, and the Grand Canyon in the distance.  Very scenic.  I was struck once again how far and big things can look at altitude, but once you get going its not actually that far/long.  There were only a few other hikers, but the obvious ridge, boot-tracks and an occasional stick-cairn marked the way.  At the summit, some rock-wall shelters and the registry were, I was told, completely buried in snow.

I put on all my warm clothes and was still getting cold.  I was lucky that it was not windy, a common condition in Spring on Humphreys.  The traverse down to the saddle on the thin ridge was icy, so it was survival skiing with magnificent views.  From the saddle, I dropped what would have been the more direct ascent route through twisted, widely-spaced bristlecone pines and firs.  This was great steep, predictable fall-line skiing on just-softening corn at 10 AM.  I knew it was just going to get hotter all day and had plenty of time to get to Phoenix, so I took a lot of breaks to enjoy the mountain as much as possible.  Once I hit the ski area slopes it was express to the car, for a total 6 hour round trip.  I had plenty of time to visit the Museum of Northern Arizona and touristy but still beautiful Sedona on the drive back.  Eventually I wound up in 90-degree Phoenix to check my ski bag at the airport.  
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