Sophia was rather shocked to learn that Arizona had 12,000ft snow-covered mountains. As it so happens, in the middle of a vast swath of flat desert lie the San Francisco Peaks, and the highest natural point in the state of Arizona, Humphreys Peak.
Bagging this summit was a testament to willpower. And the motivational power of fear.
After 14 hours of travel, we finally landed in Las Vegas just after midnight. Our trip itinerary and weather forecast dictated that if we wanted a chance to climb Humphreys, we needed to do so before 11am that same morning before the thunderstorms rolled in. And that meant that we needed to start making the five-hour drive to Flagstaff immediately.
And so we drove through the night. (Sidenote: You cannot drive across the Hoover Dam at 2 o’clock in the morning.) We arrived in the shadow of Humphreys Peak just as the sun was making its scheduled debut. At this point, with 4.5 miles and 3,313ft of vertical climb to the summit, we realized that any prospect of sleeping before hitting the trail had long since expired. Our 11am deadline was looming, and we needed to get our sea-level-spoiled lungs up the mountain and a good ways back down it to the safety of the trees before the storms attacked the peak.
We plodded up the mountain. Eventually, a little delirious, we reached the top of Arizona at 12,633ft. We did not, however, linger. Storm clouds were gathering much too close for comfort, and so we snapped a couple pics of the view and scrambled as quickly as we could over the rocks back to treeline. We had just reached the saddle (and relative safety) when we heard the first peal of thunder.
The craziest part was that there were at least half a dozen other hikers we passed still heading towards the summit. We did our due diligence to caution them that they still had a long hike ahead (there are three false summits before you reach the true summit), and that the forecast called for a lightning storm. One pair turned back only a few minutes after crossing our paths. The others continued onward, heedless to the obvious danger. A mere 11 days prior, a 17 year-old hiker was killed after being struck by lightning on Humphreys Peak.
30 hours after waking up, we made it back to rental car, marking Tait’s 8th and Sophia’s 15th state highpoint.