Elevation: 12,635 Feet
Elevation Gain: 3,400 Feet
Distance: 9.5 Miles
This weekend, my girlfriend and I managed to accomplish one of the hardest things we have ever done. We made the 9 mile round trip hike to the top of Humphreys Peak. Humphreys Peak has an elevation of 12,633 feet, which is the highest point in the state of Arizona. The peak is located near Flagstaff, in the Kachina Peaks Wilderness.
The Journey Begins
The trailhead starts at a parking lot near the ski lodge. The first leg of the hike takes you through a field of high grass, which is usually covered by snow in the winter. From there, you make your way into the woods where the real trail starts.
At first, the trail seems like an easy hike. It is relatively flat and smooth, with hardly any rocks or switchbacks. However, as you continue on your way it starts to get rocky and much steeper.
Camping No Longer Permitted
At 11,500 feet, camping is no longer permitted according to this sign. The elevation really starts to hit you at this point, especially if you are not used to it. My heart rate was racing, but taking short breaks helps to get over it.
At this point, I wanted nothing more than to make it to the saddle to see some change in scenery. It is hard to stay motivated when you have no view of where you are going, so making it to the tree line was something I was really looking forward to.
The Saddle to the Peak
After what seemed like an eternity, I finally made it to the saddle. Arizona has only one tundra, and this is where it can be found. There is little to no life at this elevation, other than some small plants which can survive the conditions.
The downside, is that making it to the saddle is not the end. There is still one last push to make it to the very top of the peak. Elevation sickness really started to kick in here and I was feeling tired and weak. However, I was determined to make it to the top even if it meant dying…
During the last push, you climb over 3 false peaks that disappoint you when you get over them. I kept thinking the peak ahead was the top, only to get there and see a taller one behind it. It starts to piss you off, until you finally get over the last false peak and see the top of Arizona.
Once you see Humphreys Peak, you forget how tired you are and just push your way to the top. Your adrenaline kicks in and gets you to the top. When I first stepped on the peak, I felt a large sense of accomplishment. It feels great to know you just climbed the largest mountain in Arizona. Here is a picture of me sitting at the top of the summit:
Leaving Your Name Behind
At the top of the peak, is a metal box chained to a rock with a notepad in it. People write their names in it to give themselves a feeling they left something behind. Here is the notepad after we both wrote something on it:
My body hurts, it took forever, and it was freezing at the top. But, it was one of the greatest accomplishments I have made so far in my life. I really feel good knowing that I was able to make it to the top on the first try. The only question now, is where to go next…