A couple weekends ago I backpacked Humphreys Peak (the tallest mountain in Arizona, located in Flagstaff) and planned on bringing a view camera with. Well…. I ended up using my digital slr instead. I have a field camera so the weight wouldn’t have been that big a deal, however, the snow made me nervous because the camera isn’t mine! Man it snowed like crazy the first day. The first half of our hike the first day was beautiful! It looked like a winter wonderland! It was terribly cold and neither my group or I were prepared! The snow clouds loomed over us the entire hike up and the wind soared. Each step was a total workout with our feet sinking into sparkling, white, powered snow. We were maybe five to six miles from the top and had to stop from exhaustion to set up camp around 4 pm.
I have never in my life experienced cold like this. My feet were frozen, aching from the numbness. All four layers of pants I had on were wet on the bottom and my fuzzy hat was snowy. Our group couldn’t start a fire (go figure!) so we went straight to our tents without eating. It was far too cold to be exposed without a fire. I slept for maybe a good thirty minutes that night and will never forget how unpleasant it was! My partner and I shared a “two” person tent and were relying on hand warmers from REI to help keep our 30 degree sleeping bags toasty and only two of them worked! They didn’t get hot though and were about body temperature. I didn’t think I was going to make it through the night. Any time I would find a way to burrito myself into my sleeping bag without any draught, my partner would start snoring and wake me up! It was a miserable night spent avoiding the condensation from dripping on my face and staying warm…. not to mention that at some point during our VERY long night I had to go to the bathroom. Yikes!
Around 9 am or so I could here a member from our group attempting at the fire once more for some time. Alas! I could here him cheer and the not-so-dry wood crackled. I poked my head out of the tent and the sky was clear. It was still very cold but definitely an improvement from the first day! My body was incredibly stiff and tender from shivering all night that the thought of getting up killed me! I tried putting my shoes on without success because they were rock hard. My shoes, my camel back of water, and my outermost layer of pants froze over night! Even my contact solution turned to slush. The sun started shinning on our camp site and the snow stacked on the trees was melting… of course it was warmer on the second day!
We planned on hiking all the way to the top that day and nobody (especially me!) wanted to camp on the mountain another night, especially at higher altitude! We decided that we would hike a little higher while leaving our stuff behind and then would head back down the mountain. We got back to our vehicles so much quicker than going up of course and the whole way down were wishing we had put our plans off by one day. It would have been so perfect had we done so.
I’ve certainly learned that back packing in the cold is not for me so much and next time if I ever trick myself into doing it again will be WAY more prepared! Here are some pictures I took on this trip. They go in order from the first day/ initial hike up to the day we left.