Sedona Westerners Hike to Mt. Humphreys Summit
October 19, 2018
By Eddie DeJarnette
Viewed from the Humphreys Peak trail, this Bristlecone Pine symbolizes the tenacity of the few trees surviving at the upper edge of the tree line. Tree line is at 11,500 feet on Mt. Humphreys and Bristlecone Pines are the oldest living trees on Earth.
“Because it's there.” was George Mallory's famous quote in 1923 when he was asked by a reporter why he wanted to climb Mt. Everest. This still expresses how some people feel about climbing (or in this case, hiking) to the top of a high mountain peak. At least that's the way it was for me, back in June, when Bob Bareuther told me he was going to be leading a Westerners’ hike to the Mt. Humphreys summit on September 29th.
Although I had only been on a few Dogies’ hikes during the past couple of years that I have been a member of the Sedona Westerners, I had been waiting for the opportunity to go on a hike with those hard-core hikers known as the Rough Riders. Hiking up to the highest point in the state of Arizona with this group was a challenge I just had to take.
So, on the appointed day we carpooled from our meeting points at Posse Grounds Park in West Sedona and the Outlet Mall in the Village of Oak Creek and managed to arrive at the Humphreys Peak trailhead around 8:30 a.m. What awaited us was a 9.5-mile hike up to the summit (elevation 12,633 feet) and back, with an elevation gain (and descent) of 3,100 feet.
It was a nice, cool morning as we set out from the trailhead at the Arizona Snow Bowl parking lot. There was no precipitation in the forecast, but we were expecting winds of 40+ mph at the summit. Bob was joined by co-leader Tom Yager and the group of about a dozen Sedona Westerners headed up the trail.
We were soon in the woods, beginning the long climb over rocks and roots, withsome big step-ups that made for a strenuous hike, requiring more effort as we climbed ever higher into the thinning air. After about three miles we came out of the woods, above the tree line, and arrived at the Mt. Humphreys saddle. From here we pushed on as the rocky trail took us along the ridgeline past several false summits (are we there yet?) and ever closer to our summit goal.
On our way up, we passed by several hikers on their way down, who warned us that the winds were really picking up at the summit. They weren't kidding. As we approached the summit, the wind was so strong that it was very difficult to walk, or even to stand upright and not fall over. Some of the more experienced hikers reckoned it was blowing 50 to 55 mph. As a result, most of us spent our brief time at the summit sheltering behind some rocks, before taking a few quick photos and starting the downward trek.
We hustled back down to the saddle, where we found enough shelter from the wind to have our lunch break. On the way down the mountain, although it's generally better to be working with gravity than against it, when combined with the loose rock and earth (and maybe some tired legs), trying to keep our feet underneath us took a fair amount of effort at times. At least a couple of hikers found themselves suddenly assuming a seated position. Fortunately, other than bruised egos, no injuries occurred.
As I recall, the entire hike took about seven hours. I'm really glad I showed up for this one and I enjoyed hiking with the Rough Riders. As long as you're prepared and reasonably fit, I would definitely recommend you give it a try -- “because it's there” -- and also because it is an opportunity for a very memorable hike. I will be looking forward to doing it again in the future.
If you are interested in joining the club, please visit the Sedona Westerners website at www.sedonawesterners.org/membership. You are invited to our next monthly meeting at 7 p.m., Thursday, November 8, at the Sedona Methodist Church, 110 Indian Cliffs Road. photo & article by Eddie DeJarnette.