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