Humphreys Peak

  • Humphreys Peak
  • 3851 m.
  • Primary factor: 1841 m
  • Arizona HP, near Flagstaff
  • Location: North 35:20.784, West 111:40.677 (GPS at the summit)
  • Difficulty: (YDS) class 1
  • Climbed November 12. 2006


How to get there: A good starting point is the city Flagstaff in Northern Arizona. From here, take Hwy. 180 in the direction of the Grand Canyon. After approximately 11 kilometer (7 miles), look for a sign saying Snowbowl Road. This road forks right, take it and drive uphill for another 11 kilometer as this road winds it way up to the Snowbowl ski area. There is a large parking area just below the ski area with big signs indicating that this indeed is the trailhead for hiking Humphreys Peak. The location is N35:19.861, W111:42.696, and the elevation is 2843 meter.
Route description: From the parking lot there is a pretty obvious trail that heads across a field then enters the forest. The uphill angle is very gentle as the trail zig-zags in pretty long sections up the hillside. Eventually, the trail contours a bit more around on the south and makes another gentle traverse before it again runs in wide switch-backs up to the saddle connecting Humphreys Peak with the slightly lower Mount Agassiz. From this saddle, proceed on the trail up along the ridge to Humphreys Peak. The trail stays a bit on the left side of the ridgeline most of the way. There are some wooden poles marking the trail in a few places where it may be hard to see among rocks and boulders. There are a couple of false summits along the ridge before you cross a flat area and climb the final small summit hump.

Comments: I had come from Las Vegas the day before, picking Bob Packard up on the Flagstaff railroad station. Bob arrived by van shuttle from Phoenix, directly after successful climbs of the highest mountains in Cameroon and Ethiopia. Despite his long trip, Bob was all motivated to guide me up his local mountain, Humphreys Peak, the Arizona state highpoint on the following day.
We started out with a beautiful blue sky and perfect weather. The time was 0930 and we quickly gained elevation as we walked along the forest trail. Higher up, but still well within the forest, the trail had gotten a very smooth layer of slick ice. As the trail also slanted downhill in this area it became very difficult to make further progress. Bob continued with caution and suceeded by way of non-existent friction, while I quickly put on my crampons for better grip. We agreed that this indeed was "the crux" of the route to Humphreys this day.
We soon gained the saddle and continued along the trail passing the false summits, arriving at the summit at 1315. Unfortunately, the weather had turned cloudy and visibility was somewhat variable, but never truly good. We had lunch and made our entry in the trail register. The weather turned a bit colder and we decided to head down in order to keep warm. We met surprisingly many people along the trail. One party arrived at the summit before us while numerous parties came up while we descended the upper part of the mountain.
The descent was easy with the exception of "the crux" area where Bob explored a lower variant, partly on his butt, while I took a somewhat higher route, hanging onto trees along the way. Bob guided me along a variation of the route in the very lower part, descending more open terrain (ski slopes). We reached the car at 1630, a 7 hour roundtrip under the expert guidance of a man that has climbed this peak about 30 times.
I am grateful for having had the opportunity to do a hike with Bob. His example (at age 70) should serve as motivation and inspiration for everyone regarding how much and how long one may go on hiking and climbing the finest mountains on earth. Thanks a lot for great hospitality and great company!