Hike up Mount Humphreys - part 3
I had hiked up Mount Humphreys on May 17th of this year, but was unable to get to the summit. The hike was planned a week in advance, and there wasn't any snow on the trail until the final mile, and it was not much.
Unfortunately the night before I set out to hike to the summit, the clouds dropped over 2 feet of snow. So the next morning, being May, the snow was rapidly turning into slush. About 12 inches of slush. It was U-G-L-Y. The trail is a big enough effort to hike up without snow, or especially slush, but with slush, it's a gargantuan effort to get through.
Besides the lifting your feet up about a foot higher than normal, when your foot comes down on the slush, the ground below the slush is not level on most of the trail, so you're holding your ankles so that you don't slide down the mountain with each step. It's a lot of work. I had snowshoes, but didn't wear them thinking that it would be more work, but retrospectively, I wonder if it might have been better. Hard to say.
So, starting out, I felt like I had to at least get higher on the mountain than I had previously when there was slush on the mountain, beings that it's much less work to just hike up the mountain on a dry trail than on slush. When I hiked up to 10,500 feet in slush, that was after 17 days acclimating in Flagstaff, and I had a full set of red blood cells for the hike. At least if the trail would have been on dry ground, then I could have made it to the summit I believed.
On the other hand, this time I had another, different type of handicap. I had just completed spending the summer at sealevel, and thus I was way short on red blood cells as compared to the Mount Humphreys summit elevation of 12,600feet.
When I had hiked up in slush, I had reached the elevation of 10,500 feet, and I felt I had to do better than even with the red blood cell handicap.
So, from the get go, I had the thought in my mind that I was going to push myself to at least get to the saddle at 11,760 feet. We got out at about 10:30AM out on the trail walking along at a good pace with a goal in mind.
We met quite a few nice people on the trail along the way, and had a word or two with them to be sociable, and I stopped along the way from time to time to take some pictures and catch my breath. It took most of the day(6 hours) to get up to the saddle, and then it took just over 2.5 hours to get back down. About 70% down the mountain it started getting too dark, so I got out my flashlight for the last 45 minutes of the hike.
I had "hit the wall" with my low red blood cell count about 200 feet below the saddle, but was dedicated to get up to the saddle, so I pushed it on up to the saddle so I could at least get some good pictures, and I was not disappointed by the view up there when I arrived.
I normally can practically run back down the mountain, but having hit the wall, I was a bit shakey, and found that I had to even stop to rest a dozen times or so as I went down the mountain. When I got back to the motel, I could feel that I had overexterted. One should not underestimate the effects of elevation on the body before you get acclimated. I was really very tired that evening. The total time for the hike was about 8.5 hours to hike the little over 9 miles up to the saddle at 11,760 feet, which was about 3200 feet above the trailhead. If I had gone the last mile and 500 feet to the summit, it would have been too dark anyway for good pictures. It was nearly too dark to take the pictures at the saddle. Certainly I should have started out at about 7AM instead of 10AM. I plan to do this hike again sometime when 1) it's not slushy or snowy, and 2) when I have acclimated to at least 6,000 feet of elevation.
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Last Update: November 18, 2015
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