Sunday, October 12, 2014

San Francisco Mountain Ridgeline Traverse - 6 peaks

October 11, 2014

The Ridgeline:
Rees Peak - 11,484 ft.
Aubineau Peak - 11,878 ft
Humphreys Peak - 12,633 ft.
Agassiz Peak - 12,356 ft.
Fremont Peak - 11,969 ft.
Doyle Peak - 11,460 ft.

Total Elevation Gain: ~7500 ft.
Total Distance: ~13 miles

San Francisco Mountain is a large stratovolcano that was built up to an estimated elevation of 15,000 ft. between 1 and 0.4 million years ago.  Today, the top of the mountain is missing and the highest point is Humphreys Peak at 12,633 ft.  It is thought that the jagged peaks that we see today used to be part of the ancestral San Francisco Mountain.  The inside of the mountain is now a deep valley, called the inner basin, that has been carved by glaciers and water erosion for hundreds of thousands of years.  It remains unclear whether the valley is a crater made by result of an explosive eruption, or is an erosional valley eroded slowly through time (U.S. Geological Survey Fact Sheet 017-01).       

View from Sunset Crater National Monument.  Dotted line represents the projected topography of the ancestral San Francisco Mountain
Today, instead of one mountain with one major peak, the mountain has 6 distinct and prominent peaks, including the 6 highest in Arizona.  As soon as I realized all the peaks in the San Francisco Mountains are linked by a long ridge, I made the goal to link them all up in a day.  Fortunately, my friend Paul happened to have the same goal.  We used some information from and just went for it.

Panorama from Rees Peak.  Peaks from left to right: Doyle, Fremont, Agassiz, Humphreys, and Aubineau
We started hiking from the Lockett Meadow around 6:15 am, stomachs full of donuts and bananas. We followed the Waterline Road to the north until it crosses the ridge the leads up Rees Peak.  From here, we got off the trail and followed the ridge all day.  The initial climb up Rees required some minor bushwhacking and was steep.  We reached Rees Peak around 8:30 am.  We hiked down the other side and up Aubineau, down Aubineau and up Humphreys Peak.  The climb up Humphreys required some class 2 talus scrambling for about 500 vertical feet.  The northwest side of Humphreys had a little snow left from a storm that blew through a couple days ago.  We grabbed a snack and kept going.  3 peaks down, 3 to go.

Our route.  We began and ended at Lockett Meadow.
We quickly hiked down from Humphreys in order to stay warm on the windy and chilly ridge.  We scrambled up Agassiz Peak, literally ran down the steep scree slope to the saddle, hiked up Fremont, hiked down and then up our final peak, Doyle Peak.  From Doyle Peak, we just followed the ridge through thick trees until we reached Lockett Meadow and our car.  We did the traverse and summited 6 peaks in about 10.5 hours.  A fun day in the mountains.

"I have a ponytail, whats up." 
The Inner Basin and the rounded summit of Doyle Peak
Upper Inner Basin with Fremont Peak on the left and Agassiz on the right 
Not posing.
What's up world? 
Frigid south ridge of Humphreys
Humphreys Peak
Panorama from the other side of the ridge 
Aspens - no filter

Monday, October 6, 2014

Lake Powell & First Ascent (?) Cookie Jar Butte

October 3-5, 2014

I spent this past weekend with my sister and her family on a houseboat at Lake Powell.  We parked the houseboat in Padre Bay on the north side of Cookie Jar Butte.  The Butte stands about 1,000 ft above the water and seems nearly impossible to climb - except for a weakness on the North Face, which John has been eyeing for years.  So when we weren't skiing, hiking, jumping off cliffs, playing with the kids, exploring, or playing cards, John and I were up on the Butte attempting to put up a new route.      

We quickly realized why this hadn't been climbed before - it was hard climbing, chossy and loose! We sieged the first pitch using a number of techniques, including some scary aid climbing (~5.10, C3).  It took us a couple hours to establish the first pitch.  We left the rope and ascended the rope the following day. 

The next day, the climbing continued and improved (but by no means good climbing).  Each ledge had loose sand and rocks, almost every hold broke off and the pro was iffy, but we free-climbed 2 more pitches nonetheless.  We stopped just below a steep, wide chimney.  The climbing would be great, if the rock were solid but alas.  At this point, we decided to find a way down.  With a little investigation, we found some old bolts and webbing on a nearby ledge.  The webbing broke when we pulled on it.  These bolts were at least 15 years old.  I suspect that whoever put those bolts in had a similar experience as we did.  We are not sure if anyone has stood on top of Cookie Jar but we were definitely not the first to try.  We replaced the webbing and rapped to the ground. 

Cookie Jar Butte
Uncle, Nephew, Mother
Rainbow Bridge
Flattering selfie of us at Rainbow Bridge
Narrow canyons at Lake Powell
Exploring slot canyons at Lake Powell
Deep water soloing
John and Bovi
John on lead, aiding the first pitch
John finishing up 3rd pitch
Cookie Jar selfie

Rappel shadow
Flying baby, distressed mother
More skiing
More jumping

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Mt. Elden

September 11, 2014
Mt. Elden via Elden Lookout Trail (9,298 ft.)
~6.4 miles roundtrip, 2300 ft. elevation

Hiked up Mt. Elden yesterday with an old friend from Georgia, Kristen, who happens to live in Arizona too. It took us about an hour and half to get up and an hour to get down.

Looking to the northwest towards the San Francisco Peaks
The Greater Short-horned Lizard; Usually dwells in arid mountains between 9,000-11,000 ft. elevation
Alligator Juniper tree; Unique to Arizona, New Mexico, and Northern Mexico

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Grand Canyon - Rim to Rim under Full Moon

September 10, 2014

Hiking from one rim of the the Grand Canyon to the other is a physical and logistical challenge.  My buddy, Michael, his wife Emilie, and some other family and friends of his, obtained a permit to camp in the canyon over 6 months ago.  They applied for dates in late September and they were given permits for a 1 night at Phantom Ranch on September 8th and 1 night at Indian Garden on September 9th.  When it comes to camping in the Grand Canyon, beggars can't be choosers (and we're all beggars).  Their plan was to start at the North Rim and backpack across to the South Rim in 3 days and 2 nights.  However, that meant once they reached the South Rim, their car would be 177 miles away by road but only 23 miles by trail.  That's where I come in.  

Michael called me 4 days ago and the conversation went like this:

Michael: "Hey, what's your schedule like on Tuesday evening and Wednesday?" 

Me: "I'm free all day on Wednesday if I need to be.  I have class until 2 pm on Tuesday. Why?"

Michael: "What do you think about meeting me at Indian Garden on Tuesday night and hiking over to the North Rim on Wednesday?"
Me: "Sounds fun, I'm down."

Fast forward to Tuesday evening...I drove from Flagstaff to the South Rim and hiked down with my overnight gear 4.5 miles, ~3000 ft. to Indian Garden where I met Michael and his family.  I brought them bananas and muffins for breakfast for the following morning.  I ate a Chipotle burrito for dinner that I got to-go in Flagstaff. 

Michael: "What do you think about leaving tonight instead tomorrow morning?"

Me: "Yeah sure man, it's up to you."

So instead of negotiating crowds of people, mules, fresh mule crap, and the heat of the sun, we chose to hike across the Grand Canyon in the dark, under the full moon, by ourselves amongst less fresh mule crap.  In the end, it was the best decision.  The entire canyon was illuminated all night by the bright moon.  I barely used my headlamp.  The temperatures were mild and at times, chilly.  Once on the North Kaibab Trail, we didn't see anyone until we were less than a mile from the North Rim, which we reached around sunrise.  It took us ~11 hours to hike from the South Rim to the North Rim via the Bright Angel and North Kaibab Trails with an overnight load (which I didn't end up using) - 23 miles, 5,000 ft. drop, 6,000 ft. gain.  

Bright Angel Trailhead
Bright Angel Trail with Indian Garden below
The Battleship
Indian Garden at sunset
Hi. I'm Kirk and I'm fat
Indian Garden, 30 second exposure 
Colorado River
North Kaibab Trail 
Roaring Springs Canyon

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Kendrick Peak

Kendrick Peak (10,418 ft.) Trail Run via Kendrick Peak Trail 
September 6, 2014

After a lazy Saturday morning, I decided to go run up Kendrick Peak just 30 minutes west of Flagstaff.  Kendrick Peak is the second most prominent peak within the San Francisco Volcanic Field.  The mountain is the product of an extrusion of viscous, volatile-poor lava (rhyolites and dacites) approximately 2 Ma.  For more information on the geology of the region, click HERE.

I started running just after 4 pm.  I planned this late departure because I knew the lighting would be better for photos.  The moderate trail makes its way up the southwest side of the mountain towards the summit and the fire lookout over about 4.3 miles, 3100 ft.  I ran on flatter sections and hiked quickly on steeper sections.  After about 5 minutes of running, a coyote trotted across the trail in front of me without even noticing I was there.  I stopped and watched it trot into the trees, nose to the ground and then it disappeared.  After the quiet moment and thinking about what other wildlife may be around, I continued upward.  I reached the summit in about 1 hour and 15 minutes.  I spent 20 minutes alone on the summit as I watched small rain storms move across the high desert.  Rays of sunshine would occasionally find their way through the clouds and illuminate the small and forested cinder cones below.  The North Rim of the Grand Canyon was obviously visible and lit up by the southwestern sun.  The views were incredible in all directions.  Northern Arizona is my new home and I'm not upset about it.

After a nice break, I made my way down.  I reached the trailhead after about 45 minutes of continuous downhill jogging just before dark.

Wildflowers along the Kendrick Peak Trail
A nice conical cinder cone with a central crater
Fire lookout tower on the summit of Kendrick Peak 
Looking east towards Humphreys Peak 
Scattered rain storms move across the high desert of Northern Arizona
Dark sky, bright beard
Moon rising over Humphreys Peak to the East