Weathered off Mt Humphreys

26 Oct 2002 - by Alan Ritter

Nathan and I headed out to Flagstaff, AZ, on Friday 10/25. The plan was to climb Humphreys Peak, the Arizona highpoint, on Saturday or Sunday. The weather forecast had deteriorated all week and didn't look promising, but we were booked with flights and motels, so went anyway.

We got up early Saturday morning and were greeted by gathering clouds. The hike starts pleasantly enough at the Arizona Snow Bowl ski area and switchbacks up the slopes through aspens and conifers. By the time we got to the 11,000' level, we were in the clouds and it had started to snow lightly.

The saddle between Agassiz Peak and Humphreys is at about 11,600' and it was snowing steadily and quite windy, with temperatures in the low 20s at that elevation. We made it about 100 yards past the saddle, following the ridge up towards the summit of Humphreys Peak, when there was a flash, followed by a peal of thunder about 2 seconds later. A half-mile is way too close for comfort on an exposed ridge like that, so we beat a hasty retreat back to the saddle and down into the trees.

The snow continued as we hiked back to the car, changing to drizzle as we got lower and into warmer air.

The day wasn't a total waste...we drove up to the Grand Canyon that afternoon and were treated to a few good views before the snow closed in on us there, as well.

At 5 a.m. on Sunday morning, the skies were still sullen and the forecast was for more thunderstorms, so we slept in and played tourist, instead, visiting the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff and Arcosanti on the way from Flagstaff back to Phoenix. Given the amount of rain, sleet and snow we drove through, it was well that we had decided not to try Humphreys again on Sunday.

We were both one day too late (Friday had beautiful weather) and one day too early (Monday looked promising as we flew home), having picked the two days with lousy weather in the past couple of weeks. Better luck next time...can't control the weather, but we'll try it in the summertime when we do return...

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