August 17, 2002
Report by Amy Brewster
Just before leaving for Flagstaff, I opened a fortune cookie that said, “Soon you will be on top of the world.” What an appropriate prediction, for the next day we planned to hike Mount Humphreys, Arizona’s highest peak at 12,633 feet!
The Las Vegas contingent journeyed to Flagstaff throughout the day on Friday. We thought we had spotted Alan Nakashima’s black Pathfinder just ahead of us on the road, so as we passed, we looked at the driver. It turned out to be Howard!! You never know when you’re going to see a fellow Mountaineer on the road.
Most of our group met after dark to camp at the trailhead. (I must admit, Joel and I stayed in a hotel because we decided against camping with 6-month-old Toby this time. Next summer, we’ll be brave and try it.) In spite of some late-night arrivals to the parking lot with loud cars and bright lights, the group slept okay and was ready for an early-morning start. Along for the ride were Wild Bill from Phoenix, Gill, Cheryl, Alan N., Voytek, Howard, Laura, Byron, Joel & I.
Cheryl said she wanted to start slow to warm up, so she took off 10 minutes before the rest of the group with Wild Bill and Voytek. As she was the second to the top, I don’t know how slow she really went! It’s all relative, I guess. Only a few minutes into the hike, we were joined by Tom from Baton Rouge, Lousiana. He was hiking alone and was happy to have some company. He had been preparing for altitude by hiking at the Grand Canyon and was a nice, friendly addition to our clan.
The group stayed in regular communication with two-way radios throughout the hike. It was fun to hear the progress of each group and calculate the distance between groups when we’d hear, “We’re passing the boulder field,” or “We’re at the saddle and we can see you.”
Early in the hike, we saw runners coming down from the top. The area is easily accessible for altitude training and this was the goal of many hikers and runners we met along the way. As the day progressed, we saw all sizes and shapes of people, as well as dogs. Because the weather and view are so beautiful, and because it is Arizona’s highest point, the trail was extremely popular.
The first of our group to reach the top were very patient and waited for us to join them for a group summit photo. There were many people on top, enjoying the marvelous view, including a professional photographer who does freelance work for magazines. He was kind enough to take photos of our entire group.
We looked around at the view, which can include the Grand Canyon on a clear day. It was a bit too hazy for us to see it and we were entranced by an innocuous-looking wispy cloud that quickly grew bigger and bigger. That was our cue to get off the top and avoid the potential for lightning strikes during this monsoon season. We estimated when we were close to the end of the hike that we must have passed at least 200 people, still above us on the trail. With the threat of thunderstorms increasing as the day went on, we were surprised that so many were summiting late in the day.
In spite of some minor altitude sickness, we all had a wonderful day. It felt great to get up out of the heat and experience one of the highest points in the nation. We are so lucky to have a beautiful mountain like Humphreys just a quick drive from Las Vegas. Thanks to Gill for planning and leading a great trip!