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Backpacking Humphrey’s Peak 2020

Friday, June 5 We started our hike at the Weatherford Trailhead on Shultz Pass Road just north of Flagstaff, AZ. We left the jeep at noon and began heading up the mountain. It was super hot and sunny when we left. The heat and incline were zapping us pretty quick. Fortunately, this was the first day so we were able to push through the heat. We packed 4 liters of water each. We hiked 8 miles the first day and camped at Doyle’s Saddle (just under 11,000 ft.)

The weather prediction was for high winds so we wanted to find a good place to camp with protection from the wind. Since you can’t camp between Doyle’s Saddle and Fremont Saddle, we chose to stay at Doyle’s and get a good rest before our long day. In total, we hiked 8.8 miles with 35-pound packs and ascended 2810 ft.

The weather was in the 40s at night with high winds. There was still snow on the ground near the saddle.

Saturday, June 6 We got up around 5am. The winds were so intense that the water was refreezing because of the windchill. We were packed up and moving by 6am. It was about 2.5 miles to get to Fremont Saddle. We stopped and had breakfast along the way. I melted snow in my Jet Boil for my coffee. This might have been the best part of the trip for me. I wish I could have coffee every morning on that ridge. We crossed a few places where the snow had fully covered the trail. In one place there was so much snow, we couldn’t find the trail so we used GPS to find the trail.

Just passed Fremont Peak and just before the switchbacks on Agassiz the wind picked up and started blowing clouds into the lower basin. It was so cool to watch. We could feel the cold air coming with it.

Just after clearing the switchbacks on Agassiz, we came to a snow face that was a bit treacherous for us. The wind was gusting at 20-25 so we bear crawled across the face with our packs and no trekking poles. We anticipated some ice on this trip so we rented micro spikes from a sporting goods store in Flagstaff. Thankful we did.

The views between Fremont and Humphrey’s are amazing. When we crossed over to Humphrey’s Saddle, the wind was so intense out of the southwest. Fortunately, it was blowing us against the mountain. We put on our wind/rain shells and moved forward. With Agassiz behind us, we could see Humphrey's Peak ahead of us.

Now for the most intense part of the trip. As we began ascending Humphrey’s, a hiker was coming down and told us that the wind must be 70-80 mph at the top. He said hikers were crawling on their hands and knees to summit the peak. He suggested we turn around and save Humphrey’s Peak for another day. I looked at Will and he said, “I’m still going.” I said, “Then I’m going with you.” The hiker wasn’t lying. It was intense. The wind grew stronger as we climbed the boulders and lava rocks to get to the top. Far above the tree line, there was no sheltering from the wind as we climbed. We began bear crawling the last 50 yards with intense winds. We could see the top of the sign. A hiker coming down told us that just past the ridge was a wind-block of rocks, if we could make it there, we would be fine. We did. What an accomplishment!

We spent less than 5 minutes at the peak and then tried to get down as quickly and safely as possible. We had lunch at the saddle and then descended Humphrey’s trail down to Snowbowl (approximately 5 miles.) My watch (that was recording our trek) died on the way down to Snowbowl so I had to start recording on my phone. Here is Part A of June 6th’s hike.

By the time we got to Snowbowl, we were worn out. Since the Snowbowl restaurant was closed because of Covid-19, we had previously stashed gallons of water in the forest near the Kachina trailhead to replenish our water supply. Not gonna lie, between the wind, 16 miles of hiking, and the ascending and descending, we were tempted to call an Uber to come get us from Snowbowl and take us to our car, but we pressed on. Here is Part B of the day’s hike.

After replenishing our water at the Kachina Trailhead, we hiked (more like stumbled) 2 more miles before finding a place to camp. Will’s face in the photo below says it all. We were dog-tired. The weather was perfect, the backpackers' dehydrated meals were as expected and we were asleep by 9 pm.

Sunday, June 7 We slept in until 5:45am and were packed up and heading out by 6:30am. It was a beautiful morning. We thought we had 8 miles to get back to the jeep but it was just 6. What a blessing. The whole trip was amazing. 37 miles around the San Fransisco Peaks. I’d do it again (not this year.) I need a year to recover.



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