As planned, this past weekend I made it up to Flagstaff to tackle Humphreys Peak. My friend, Rozanne AKA Mountain Matron, and I drove up Friday night in hopes of adjusting to the change in altitude while our two other friends, Laura and Tiffani, decided to join us Saturday morning. The drive up was pretty uneventful but no matter how many times I venture north out of the valley it boggles my mind how much elevation we gain in just a few short hours. To put it in perspective, Phoenix sits at just over 1,000 ft while Flagstaff is at 7,000 ft.
On our trip up we had plenty of time to discuss our game plan for the following day. Rozanne also happened to touch on the expected weather. While I had somewhat of an idea of what to expect on the mountain I didn’t realize Flagstaff in general was so cool at this time of the year. Now, wouldn’t you have expected me to research that too? Considering I’m a planner and analyzer I have absolutely no idea why I didn’t. Thankfully the forecast looked clear and we were greeted with absolutely gorgeous weather as we arrived into Flagstaff. After grabbing a quick bite to eat and grabbing some vegan fro-yo (Say what?! It was so good I went back the following night too….) we made our way to the Ski Lift Lodge and settled into our cozy little cabin for the evening.
While the Ski Lift Lodge is pretty simple and basically like a hole it the wall I loved the tiny quaint “village” it created just 7 miles from the trail head. I also loved how anytime we’d step outside the subtle fragrance of ponderosa pines filled the air, reminding us that we were no longer in the big city.
Due to the cooler weather and needing to wait for the others to arrive, our day didn’t start out as early as my normal hiking days. However, after touching base with Laura, Rozanne and I decided to hit the trailer sooner than expected realizing that we were going to take it slow and expecting Laura and Tiffani to catch up to us.
The hike started out in a “meadow” of sorts which in reality is where the green and blue ski runs are during the winter at the Snowbowl resort. It was crazy to see the ski lifts above as we made our way across.
Within a half mile we found ourselves on a damp and heavily wooded trail. (Crazy to think that this is just 2.5 hours away from the desert in Phoenix.) This part of the trail provided a steady incline full of exposed roots requiring little exertion. Over time we could slowly feeling the grade increase at a faster rate along with my heart rate. Sure enough Laura and Tiffani caught up to us. After a brief conversation they carried on.
Realizing we’d be dealing with a change in elevation from Phoenix (the main reason we arrived in Flagstaff the night before), not to mention the 3,333 ft of elevation gain we’d experience on the trail, I made sure to educate myself on symptoms of altitude sickness prior to our adventure. While I’ve hiked Picacho Peak, quite honestly I am new to this sort of adventure and I’ve never dealt with such a drastic change in elevation. With that being said, I had absolutely no idea how my body was going to react.