The San Francisco Peaks from the east looking toward the Inner Basin. Humphreys Peak, 12,643' is on the right!
Humphreys Peak 12,643'!
The highest mountain in
weather was beautiful! Doerte and I started from the trailhead, 8,800, at the
Snowbowl Ski Area at 7 am. There were only a couple of cars in the parking lot. The Aspens
were just a few days past peak, but were still bright yellows and shades of orange and
The 5-mile trail crosses a lower ski run into the forest and then begins a gradual ascent through the Ponderosa and Aspens. The trail was covered with a beautiful carpet of Aspen leaves. The gradual ascent gives way to switchbacks and eventually tops out on the saddle between Humphreys and Agassiz Peak.
The treeline on the San Francisco Peaks is at an incredible 11,500! From the saddle the route continues up the ridge to the false summit and beyond to the summit of Humphreys Peak at 12,643! A few inches of recent frozen snow made it a little more sporting.
Doerte and I were amazed by the views in every direction. Bill Williams Mountain 40 miles away was easily recognizable. We could see the start of the Red Rock above Sedona, the Little Colorado Gorge, and Hopi Mesas to the east, and even Navajo Mountain in the distance at the Utah State Line! We could see Red Butte and the Grand Canyon to the North. With some binoculars we could have seen the Desert View Watchtower! The smoke from the fires near Swamp Point was still easily visable. The lower flanks were blazing with the turning Aspens. I did not realize there were so many! Certainly a feast for the eyes!
On an earlier visit during Monsoon season we were chased off the summit by lightening and rain. On this day, in October, the weather stayed perfect, and we enjoyed the summit to ourselves. Doerte and I saw the first party of the day as we were descending and later saw 45 more parties coming up! We seemed to be the only ones with an early start.
Humphreys Peak is named in 1870 for General A. A. Humphreys, Chief of Engineers. Agassiz looked like a potential climb, but it is a sacred mountain to the Hopis and is off limits. Fremont Peak could also be climbed. There are many routes up the Peaks, but there is no water. All the snowmelt percolates down into the volcanic rock.
Reinhold Messner climbed Humphreys Peak on his recent visit to America in 1999 after giving an interview to the Flagstaff National Public Radio Station.
The San Francisco Mountains are very old and highly eroded volcanic mountains. They bear little resemblance to their original conal shape of their Pacific Northwest cousins like Mt. Hood and Mount Baker.
We were back at the Trailhead at 3 pm for a leisurely 10 mile, 3,843 gain day on the highest peak in Arizona.
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