Sunday, August 31, 2014

Humphreys Peak, Arizona High Point

Humphreys Peak - 12,633
August 30, 2014

One of my current hiking/climbing goals is to summit all of the 11 western state high points.  Fortunately, the Arizona state high point is now in my backyard near Flagstaff, Arizona.  Humphreys Peak is the highest point on arcuate cluster of mountains called the San Francisco Peaks just north of town.  In fact, Humphreys and the surrounding high mountains are the remains of an ancient stratovolcano, much like the prominent volcanoes of the northwest U.S.  The surrounding landscape is dotted with younger cinder cones that have erupted as recently as 1,000 years ago. For more information on the geology, check this out HERE

Hiking Humphreys Peak is very straightforward.  Six of us (4 geologists and 2 biologists) hiked to the summit via the Humphreys Trail ~ 4 miles, 3,500 ft. up.  The trail begins at the Snowbowl parking lot and climbs up to a saddle, where it turns north and climbs the ridge to the true peak.  It took us about 3 hours to get up.  We spent almost an hour on the summit enjoying the nice weather and views.  It took another 2 hours to get down.

Completed Western State High Points (8): 
Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming, Utah, Nevada, California, Arizona

Western State High Points to do (3): 
New Mexico, Colorado, Montana

Kendrick Peak to the west
Friendly Firs
Looking east from the saddle between Humphreys and Agassiz Peaks
Casey and Karl on the summit ridge
Bird man George
El pico pic
Tampered with.  

Monday, August 25, 2014

Grand Teton via Owen-Splading Route 2014

August 18-19, 2014

Grand Teton via Owen-Spalding (Trad, Alpine, 3 pitches, 1560 ft, Grade II)

My dad and I began planning an ascent of the Grand Teton several months ago.  I knew I was moving away to start a PhD and I thought it would be a great way to spend some time with my dad before my move.  So...I told my 61 year old dad to start getting his hiking legs under him.  Despite the fact that he has never done any technical climbing in his life, he took the challenge.  He spent the next several months hiking and biking in preparation for our big climb.  I took him out rock climbing and rappelling a couple times to show him the basics of the equipment, but the rest he learned on the fly during the climb.

We planned our climb for August 18-19.  We invited John, my brother-in-law, and another friend of mine, Billie Hancock.  We picked up our camping permit from the Jenny Lake Ranger Station and started our ascent from the Lupine Meadows Trailhead at 6,780 ft. elevation with our heavy packs full of overnight gear on Monday August 18 (tent, sleeping bag, pad, stove, fuel, pots, etc) and climbing gear (ropes, rock pro, helmets, harnesses, etc.).  We hiked up to an elevation of approximately 11,000 ft. at the Moraine Camp where we set up camp and prepared for the climb the following day.  The Moriane Camp is literally perched on a glacial moraine associated with the shrinking Middle Teton Glacier.  We got water directly from the melting glacier and I didn't even bother purifying the water.  We boiled some water for our deyhrdrated meals and put on some warm clothes.  We got to bed early as some evening clouds and showers blew through.

At 4 am the following morning, we awoke to clear skies and cold air.  We sacrificed having a hot breakfast and ate granola bars, english muffins, and fruit snacks for breakfast instead and started making our way up at 4:30 am guided by our headlamps.  We reached the Lower Saddle, drank a liter of water and refilled our water bottles at a natural spring just below the saddle.  From here, the trail ended and the off-trail scrambling and climbing began.  We scrambled up 1,500 ft up challenging terrain to the Upper Saddle.  My dad led the way and kept a great pace the whole way.  The Upper Saddle marks the beginning of the technical portion of the route and is a good place to take a break.  A couple parties were in front of us, which allowed us to take a decent breather, eat some food, put on our harnesses and helmets, prepare to climb, and get cold!  My dad and I climbed as a team, while John and Billie climbed as the other.  I led the first pitch, which traverses across an exposed ledge with a couple awkward moves (Belly Crawl) to the beginning of the double chimney.  For our second pitch, we climbed the short chimney and took the "Cat Walk" variation back to the south (right) towards Sergeants Chimney. Dad, having never climbed on exposed terrain like this before, climbed like an experienced champ.  For our third "pitch," we climbed Sergeants Chimney (low 5th class) and then scrambled up class 3 terrain to the summit, which we reached around 10:30 am.  It was a great climb with no major hiccups.  The summit views were great and the rainy weather, which seemed to hit the rest of the American West, held off just long enough for us to complete our goal.    

We did THE big 100 ft. rappel to get off the summit and then made our way back to camp and eventually all the way out. It was a long day.  In fact, I drove back to SLC that night with Billie and drove to Flagstaff, AZ the following day.  I think I am finally recovered, one week later.  


The Tetons
Me and my pop with the Middle Teton in the background
Hiking in
Waterfall above the meadows camp
My dad high above the valley below
A nice tush
The view from the Moraine Camp - Middle Teton and Middle Teton Glacier
Moraine Camp
Camp selfie
Camp life, PC: John
Sunrise on the Middle Teton
Billie and Pop scrambling up towards the Upper Saddle
The beginning of the first pitch of the Owen-Spalding route
Pop working his way past the "Belly Crawl" section
Pop finishing up Pitch 1
Post Pitch 1 selfie
"Dad, hold on"......"Dad, stop." ....."Dad, stop! I want to take a picture."...."Dad, look at me."  It was a struggle, but debatably the best picture I took.  
Action shot on the cat walk
Jimbo summit celebration
Looking down on Mt. Owens and Teewinot, Jenny Lake and Jackson Lake
Schly guys 
Billie rappelling down
Hiking out
We spotted a mama black bear and her 2 cubs (not pictured).  They were climbing in the pine trees on the right.    

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Sawtooth Scrambling

Williams Peak (false summit) - class 4
Thompson Peak (southwest couloir) - class 3
Mickey's Spire (north ridge) - class 4

August 11, 2014

Following a rather exhausting backpacking tour of the southern portion of the Sawtooth Range, Will and I turned right around and went back up in the mountains to tackle some peaks the next day.  We wanted to climb the tallest mountain in the range, Thompson Peak, and some others along the way.  We started at 6:15 am at the Redfish Trailhead and followed the trail towards Marshall Lake along a heavily wooded and large glacial moraine until a climber's trail splits and travels up the valley towards the saddle between Williams and Thompson Peaks.  The hike was amazing.  The trail kind of disappeared as did the trees, so we just wandered up the valley towards the saddle, trying to avoid any difficult terrain.  We were both surprised to come upon a beautiful, perfectly round, deep cirque lake.  It's not even named!

A quiet and peaceful approach to the mountains
Getting lighter and warmer 
Above the trees and off the nice trail  
Who wouldn't name this lake.  I would like to name it Poppycock Lake.   
Will hiking around Poppycock Lake 
Poppycock Lake
The morning light and the backdrop of Thompson Peak and its' jagged eastern ridge, made for a great surprise.  We continued up the valley, passing little lakes and waterfalls.  We scrambled up the headwall to the saddle.  From here we decided to climb Williams Peak first. says, "Williams Peak is easily accessible from the saddle." Wrong again buddy.  From the saddle, we didn't know any better because it appeared that the peak was very close, but that's because the true summit was out of sight.  We scrambled around on some towers trying to get as high as possible.  We reached the top of a particularly exposed and exciting spire and realized that the summit was still very far away. The true summit was at the top of a ridge lined with impassable towers, nested on top of a thousand feet of 40 degree scree slopes.  How is Williams Peak very accessible from the saddle?

Small lake below the saddle
Filling up our water bottle with fresh snow melt
Getting close to the saddle
Thompson Peak, on our way up Williams Peak
Looking down the western ridge of Williams Peak
On OUR summit, first ascent!
Me scrambling out on a super exposed ridge, Thompson in the background 
Coming down from OUR summit
We decided to go down and head over towards Thompson Peak while we still had energy. We scrambled around the west side of Thompson and up to the saddle on its' southern side.  From here, it was a simple scramble to the summit.  Much more straight forward than Williams Peak.  After summiting Thompson Peak, we scrambled down and up the adjacent peak to the south, Mickey's Spire.  We were both tired and not excited about the descent, but we made it down from the summit to the trailhead in about 3 hours.  Total time on the mountain: 11 hours.

Fortunately, the next day it was raining, which gave us a good excuse to end our trip and go home.  We were tired and we needed a shower.

Some big xenoliths within a hypabyssal intermediate dike
Making our way to Thompson Peak.  Williams Peak on the right. 
Some fun boulder hopping up towards Thompson Peak 
Looking down on the unnamed lake from the summit of Thompson 
Will taking in the views and catching a breather on the summit of Thompson
Guys, Jeff Cronin is a murderer.  
Will making his way up Mickey's Spire 
Looking north towards Thompson and Williams Peaks from Mickey's Spire
Fresh runoff in a beautiful valley
Some sweet boudinage structures in the Idaho Batholith
Poppycock Lake (actually unnamed) and Thompson Peak on the right.