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