Posted by: cadavidson | May 6, 2013

Flagstaff 1/2 Humphreys’ & Kachina

Norma and I headed north this weekend to attempt the Humphreys’, Weatherford, Kachina loop in the SanFrancisco Peaks.

I knew we’d risk not being able to make it all the way to the Humphreys’ saddle where the Weatherford trail terminates and joins with the Humphreys’ summit trail for the additional 1.5 miles to the Humphreys’ summit – all 1.5 miles about 10,500 feet. Nevertheless, we’d give it a go. Trip reports vary as much as a couple of miles depending what you read.

The mileage is in the vicinity of:

Humphreys’ trailhead to Saddle: 3.8

Saddle to Weathorford , Kachina Junction via Weatherford trail: 10.5

Junction to Humphreys’ trailhead via Kachina trail: 5.1

For a total of somewhere around 19 miles.

We arrived at the Humphreys’ trail head at approximately 7:30AM. It was chilly, but the whipping wind made the temperature feel far colder.

Norma and I ready for the Humphrey's, Weatherford, Kachina loop.

Norma and I ready for the Humphreys’, Weatherford, Kachina loop.

We set off across the open field that, in the winter is the bunny hill for beginner skiers (such as myself), at a good fast hiking pace. The first couple miles uphill starting at 9400 feet take my breath away! Almost as soon as we got into the trees on the other side of the clearing, we began seeing patches of snow. Not good – if there’s any snow down here, there’s got to me FEET of snow up ahead.  We hit the one mile mark and the snow hiking started. I’d call it ice hiking though, since the snow was not soft at all. I was fortunate enough to have elected to wear my La Sportiva Wildcat trail shoes opposed to my Hoka One One. This ended up being a good decision. I think the Hoka’s with their larger surface area and less aggressive traction would have acted more like snow skis that running shoes.

Norma hiking through a snow / ice patch.

Norma hiking through a snow / ice patch.

We continued on. I kept a keen awareness to the fact that uphill hiking in icey, snowy, and slick conditions is much easier that downhill. While our plans were to do this as a loop, so we would not have to come down through this same stretch, I knew that there was a good possibility that we’d have to ditch the loop idea due to the snow and ice. I knew the snow was only going to get deeper and there were going to be more snow and ice sections of trail as we ascended higher and higher. At 2.25 miles we ascended a long, icy, slick, steep section of trail. We made it through half of and Norma was still going great. I wasn’t getting a “warm and fuzzy” about what lay ahead on the trail. We turned around.

The trail became more "icy" than "not icy."

The trail became more “icy” than “not icy.”

I think Norma wanted to keep going up!

I think Norma wanted to keep going up!

We passed several hikers while slipping and sliding our way back down. The hikers who we stopped to talk to and had plans of summiting, or at least making it to the saddle, all had crampons or other means of preventing slips and falls. The route we were going to take wasn’t going to be exposed to long falls as we would be below tree line for all except for a couple miles, although I did have some doubt as to the condition of the Weatherford trail along the inner bowl of the SanFransisco Peaks. The inner bowl is exposed to the North,  so over the winter it doesn’t receive much sun. There are some rather exposed sections able tree line along this two mile section of trail.

We returned to the cold Humphrey’s parking lot. It’s difficult to go back out into the cold when you’ve already abandoned the primary objective. In our case, we’d abandoned our Humphrey’s, Weatherford, Kachina Loop. We decided we’d head east on the Kachina Trail and turn around at the Weatherford junction. Had we been able to run the loop we were hoping for, we’d have encountered this section of trail between miles 13 and 19. We’d be starting fresh this time with only 4.5 miles in our legs.

Me running some beautiful single track.

Me running some beautiful single track.

Norma running the single track.

Norma running the single track.

Norma was getting angy with my slow pace... so she knocked over this aspen.

Norma was getting angry with my slow pace… so she knocked over this aspen.

 

I was amazed how pretty this section of trail was. Most of the Kachina trail is within 200 feet in elevation of the Kachina Trailhead at 9300 feet. The entire trail skirts the south and eastern flanks of the Kachina Peaks with steep slopes above and below. The trail was mainly of two types: single track and more technical rocky terrain. The single track was typically through large grassy meadows. I notice that there were often many felled Aspen trees in these sections. I can only hypothesize that they were knocked over or broken by avalanches pouring through the open meadows.

Norma navigating some of the Aspen deadfall.

Norma navigating some of the Aspen deadfall.

We made it to our turn around point, the Weathford, Kachina trails junction. Our total mileage at this point was 10, so I figured we’d gone about 5.5 on the Kachina trail. Our pace slowed a bit on the way back. Norma did great the entire time. We kept a good steady pace, and didn’t have to waste time with stops.

All in all, a really nice day on the trails. I nice break from trying to beat PRs and Strava segment times in the Phoenix Mountains. Nice easy pace with some nice scenery. We’ll return to complete the Humphrey’s, Weatherford, Kachina loop later in the season. I’d estimate we will need to give it another month at least before we can make it to the saddle without investing in crampons and winter gear. Do they even sell that stuff in Phoenix?????

GEAR (because I love writing about gear):

Shoes: As I mentioned I wore my La Sportiva Wildcats. I don’t think I’ve worn them since my 2011 Zane Grey (anything to get my 2013 Zane Grey out of my head). I wore the Wildcats with smart wool running socks. I love Smart Wool socks. They’re the best. If you frequently read my blog you’ll know that I’m a huge Hoka One One fan. I’m on my second pair of Stinsons and love ’em. It was a really nice change though wearing the La Sportiva Wildats. They gave me good bite in the snow and ice. I was worried they were going to feel like boards under my feet after wearing the cushy Hoka’s for the past 5 months, but they didn’t. I think this is a testament to both Hoka and LaSportiva. LaSportiva – it’s obvious. But people criticize Hoka so often for being too cushy and weakening people’s feet. Well, I transitioned very nicely into the Wildcats.

I used my Garmin 310XT which never lost signal, not once and has the battery life to get me through long days on the trail.

I wore my new Nathan 2PL hydration vest. I’m growing to live this vest more and more. I love the easily accessible pockets on the fronts of the shoulder straps. A nice place to store items that need to be readily available like a camera, electrolyte pills, GU gels, etc.

GEAR!!!

GEAR!!!

The weather was cold in the shade and warm in the sun. I wore three layers; short sleeved technical shirt, long sleeved tech shirt, and an Asics running jacket.

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Responses

  1. Beautiful pictures. All that snow made me feel right at home. After running at that altitude I imagine the scenery was quite literally “breathtaking.”


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