Ascent of Mount Graham on 2015-12-25

Climber: Hal Watrous

Date:Friday, December 25, 2015
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Mount Graham
    Elevation:10720 ft / 3267 m

Ascent Trip Report

This summit was the second of a Christmas Break group of ultra peaks that I attempted to solo in winter conditions. I travelled from the Seattle area down to Sou Cal(San Antonio Peak first)than on to do the 4 ultra's in SW corner of AZ. The paved road was open, in great condition, and plowed to the upper campground at 9100' where it was gated. There was about 18" of snow and a plowed parking area for winter enthusiasts. I was the only one there. It was a beautiful yet gusty snowshoe trip following the unplowed road to the forested summit. I had medium sized MSR 25" snowshoes which with a heavy winter pack and powder snow did not provide enough flotation in the early going. In the Cascades, one gets used to more wet,dense snow conditions where flotation is not usually a major issue. Having said this, as the route opened up to windy conditions especially through the burn areas halfway to the summit, the packed wind layer provided enough support. Yet I constantly had to search for the packed areas along the way.
Overall, I find few reports for winter accents especially in December so I'm hopeful that the few others desiring accents will gather a few ideas here to help with their trip plans. I found that the ultras peaks in most places have such high prominence they attract a lot of snow, wherever they are. Second, the starting points were farther from the summits due to road conditions and available camping. Third, the days are short and in the SW are no more than 9 hours of daylight . Another is the speed which you can go on snowshoes, especially with the need for heavier packs with sufficient winter gear.
I slept in my 15 degree bag(outside temp was about 29) until the wind picked up at 2AM. I woke up to fog and since a weather change later that day was forecasted, became concerned that the road up would freeze over(freezing fog). With sleep deserting me, I decided to drive the road down(6% grade in /Ford Escape SUV) and park and sleep at the lower campground at 6500'(Arcadia Casmpground I believe)and wait things out.. The trip down was icy in places so I'm glad I did. I woke to a clear sunrise and with temps warming slightly to 33, felt the trip would go knowing that it would need a fast pace and a constant watch for changing weather. The trip with snow is a beautiful one, though views from the rounded summit aren't memorable. Ascent time of 5 hours. Descent time 2hours 45 minutes.
Summary Total Data
    Elevation Gain:1600 ft / 488 m
    Elevation Loss:1600 ft / 488 m
    Route Conditions:
Road Hike, Snow on Ground, Scramble
    Gear Used:
Ski Poles, Snowshoes
    Weather:Cold, Windy, Clear
blustery 20 MPH winds sunny skys
Ascent Statistics
    Elevation Gain:1600 ft / 488 m
    Distance:5.3 mi / 8.5 km
    Route:closed and snowbound road
    Trailhead:end of paved road where gated  9120 ft / 2779 m
    Time Up:5 Hours 
Descent Statistics
    Elevation Loss:1600 ft / 488 m
    Route:descended the route
    Trailhead:same  9120 ft / 2779 m
    Time Down:2 Hours 34 Minutes

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