11 May 2006 Thursday

We headed up to the Arizona Snowbowl to begin our hike to Humphrey’s Peak.  The info we read describes it as a 4.5 mile hike, the last part being a rock scramble.  With a 9 mile round trip, an estimate of 5 to 7 hours to hike to the top and back.  We started hiking a bit later than we wanted, about 10am.  The area had lots of dead pine trees from the pine bark beetles.  We read about the pine bark beetles in an info newspaper we got somewhere.  The beetle enters the inner bark layer of the tree, where the tree gets nourishment from the roots to the leaves, and destroys it from the inside.  By the time the tree shows any signs of damage, it’s already too late.  

The trail went up gradually and we were quickly hiking thru pockets of snow.  We started at about 9,000 ft elevation and the peak is at 12,633 ft.  As we neared 11,000 ft started feeling the altitude.  It was gradual, but I was getting very sluggish.  We had just hiked the Grand Canyon…I should be in shape for this.  We reached the saddle at about 12,000 ft and it overlooked both sides of the mountain.  The whole backside of the mountain was completely covered in snow.  Really beautiful!  The trail was tough at the top, beyond the saddle.  Lots of loose, sharp volcanic rocks.  There were signs to stay on the trail to protect the fragile tundra, but the trail was difficult to follow.  We got slightly off trail several times.  I felt like I had lead in my legs, it was harder and harder to lift them.  It wasn’t altitude sickness, but I was feeling oxygen deprivation.  After a brief rest, we continued to the first of a series of false summits and I could go no further.  According to the GPS, we were at 12,500 ft, but I couldn’t lift my legs anymore and was out of breath.  Andrew continued, but had set a turn around time of 3pm.  I headed back to the saddle to wait for him and he went on to the summit.  He caught up to me quicker than I expected.  He didn’t make the summit either.  The 3pm turn around time came and he was still about a half mile from the summit.  He turned around and came back to check on me.  What a sweetie!  We went back to the saddle and rested for a few minutes.  We saw more people on their way up at about 4pm.   We saw three guys with daypacks, moving fast and on a mission.  We also saw a girl, by herself, no daypack, no water bottle, just kind of meandering.  We asked if she had water or needed water, but she said no, she was fine.  We wondered if she made it out ok.  As we descended, I started feeling better ad Andrew started feeling worse.  We were both really tired, but Andrew had a headache and was feeling some altitude illness.  I felt better than I’d felt all day!  We rested several times as we went back down the mountain thru patches of melting snow and muddy trail mixed with scree (scree= small loose rocks, especially good for slipping on).  We got back to the truck shortly before sunset.  We went back to our dispersed campsite we had the night before to rest our weary bodies.

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