Ascent of Humphreys Peak on 2012-05-27

Climber: William Musser

Others in Party:Daniel Musser
Date:Sunday, May 27, 2012
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:Car
Peak:Humphreys Peak
    Elevation:12633 ft / 3850 m

Ascent Trip Report

We took the advice of the locals at breakfast that the weather was too bad to climb on the 26th so we went and hiked Elden Mountain(see TR for Elden) thus avoiding having to deal with the rescue and death of hiker-runner on the mountain above today.

We abanonded our plans to summit on the 26th and then got supplies to camp at the TH of Mount Humphries to hit it first thing in the morning. Another good night of sleeping at altitude would be good for Daniel and would allow him to get over his headaches. We spent the night in a tent below the lower parking lot to acclimate below the TH in an alpine meadow of quaking aspen.

There was a lot of excitement at the TH. The few people coming down at 4:30 PM were telling us about a man that died up on the ridge just after the second false peak. The weather had been rough all morning with high winds as predicted. At 11,000 feet the weather report had said 25 degrees with sustained winds at 40 MPH with gusts up to 55 and occasional up to 65 MPH. Along the ridge above 12,000 feet the gusts could reach 75 MPH and be even colder. Yet, all of the snow had melted recently.

We set up our acclimation camp, but deputy sherrifs made us clear the parking area for their search and rescue helicopter that was flying in to retrieve the body. The hikers coming down said the wind was brutal up there and they were all dressed in warm clothes and gloves. The man that died was a mountain jogger (those that train by trail running) and was in shorts and inappropriately dressed for the cold. He had a injury to his head but none of the few climbing teams that day had seen him alive. The helicopter retrieved him around 6:00 PM but as Daniel and I worked on lancing and dressing our blisters with moleskin the body bag was still in the parking area by our car. One of the medics came and offered to help me with my blisters(now the size of half dollars each)which was most kind; but I felt embarrassed to have any assistance when they were dealing with a fatality from the mountain.

That was my fourth helicopter search and rescue observation doing a state HP and that was only my 23rd State HP! Oddly, I have not been on 4 of the more dangerous (AK, MT, WY, and WA).I have now seen hikers-mountaineers removed by helicopter from the SHP of Oregon, Maine, Utah, and now Arizona! Wow...I am bad luck; or this hobby has a higher risk of injury than one realizes.

Daniel and I slept at around 9,200 feet in a tent and it was cold and windy that night. The final rescue crews left at around 8:30 PM and we slept till time to get up at 5 AM to break camp and have breakfast. As the weather report promised, we had a beautiful day. Unlike the brutal winds of the previous day, we enjoyed perfect climbing weather. The winding trail through the forest of large conifer downfall, is a nice pitch unlike the Weatherford Trail along the backside from Shultz Tank to Doyle Pass that we had climbed 2 days before.

Views begin around 10,500 feet and the saddle between Aggasiz and Humphries is well worth the climb. The volcanic crater had much snow inside the former caldera and made for beautiful views and photos. The trail up the saddle has several false peaks but is all class 1 and 2 with little opportunity to scramble if at all.

We passed the jogging cap of the deseased hiker-runner from the day before. At the summit we traded stories with the elite. In the early hours of the morning the folks climbing this mountain are hard core. We passed two joggers that climbed-ran the mountain (all 4.8 miles and 3400 feet) in 2 hours or less. One young man was training for a 50k mountain race at Snowbird and had already climbed the peak the day before and passed the fallen climber before he had died. We met a 65 year old man that was on his second trip up the mountain that morning non-stop training for the 14ers in CO. I have never been passed by so many people of all ages and sexes that were in top shape on any ascent before. As the day wore on, however, the climbers began to look more like me and Daniel and were taking 3 to 5 hours to climb the mountain. By the end of the day, there were plenty of folks out for an attempt that hit the saddle and return without summitting at all. Apparently, the elite start at the break of dawn of get down before all the summitting mayhem begins.

My blisters hurt with each step and it slowed me down considerably. My legs and lungs felt great, but the alpine boots were too much for a dry non-snow hike. The rangers told me we would need crampons and alpine boots but the snow melted before we got there and it was the only boots we had.

From the local news the following day:
"Goodyear man dies on Humphreys Peak in Flagstaff .by Jennifer Thomas
Posted on May 30, 2012 at 9:13 AM
Updated Wednesday, May 30 at 11:34 AM

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Coconino County sheriff's deputies and detectives are investigating the death of a Goodyear man who apparently was trying to run/hike to the summit of Humphreys Peak in Flagstaff on Saturday when he collapsed.

According to the sheriff's office, two hikers found John Greer, 53, unconscious and not breathing about a quarter mile beneath the summit at the 12,000-foot level. They called 911 and performed CPR for more than 30 minutes but were unable to revive Greer.

The county's Search and Rescue coordinator and volunteers hiked to the location of the victim and confirmed he was dead.

Due to the extreme elevation and rugged terrain, the Arizona Department of Public Safety Air Rescue helicopter was not able to land. Instead, a long-line rescue was performed.

The victim's body was transported to the Coconino County Medical Examiner's Office.

Greer's family said he was an avid runner and hiker and was high-altitude training in the Flagstaff area in preparation for an upcoming race."

and another account -

"A man's body was discovered about a quarter-mile from the summit of Mount Humphreys on Saturday in extremely cold and windy conditions. According to information from the Coconino County Sheriff's Office, hikers found 53-year-old John Greer of Goodyear unconscious and not breathing at about 11:30 a.m. Sheriff's officials say the hikers gave Greer CPR for about 30 minutes, but were ultimately unsuccessful. A group of Search and Rescue personnel from the sheriff's office, outfitted in cold-weather gear retrieved the body. The body then was transported by helicopter. The cause of death has not yet been determined and an autopsy is underway.

"We don't think it was foul play," said Coconino County Sheriff's Office spokesperson Gerry Blair. "We were experiencing low temperatures and high winds at the time."

The Arizona Department of Public Safety helicopter couldn't land in the area, so the body was suspended beneath the aircraft with a rope. A remote weather station on Agassiz Peak recorded temperatures at around 22 degrees at the time and winds on Saturday ranged from 30 to 45 mph, according to the National Weather Service in Bellemont.

The man's family said he was an avid runner and hiker and doing high-elevation training in Flagstaff for an upcoming race.
A running race results website lists Greer as having competed in the Whiskey Row Marathon in Prescott earlier this month.

Copyright 2012

Our stats:
Left at 6:20 AM
Topped at: 10:30 AM
Left Summit at: 11:00 AM
Returned at: 2:30 PM

75 additional gain each way plus 40 feet for misc on way up and 20 for misc on way down.
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:3693 ft / 1124 m
    Total Elevation Loss:3643 ft / 1110 m
    Round-Trip Distance:9.6 mi / 15.4 km
    Grade/Class:Mostly 1 with some 2
    Quality:8 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail, Scramble
    Gear Used:
Ski Poles, Tent Camp
    Weather:Cool, Calm, Clear
30F up to 55F
Ascent Statistics
    Gain on way in:3598 ft / 1096 m
        Gain Breakdown:Net: 3483 ft / 1062 m; Extra: 115 ft / 35m
    Loss on way in:115 ft / 35 m
    Distance:4.8 mi / 7.7 km
    Route:Weatherford Trail
    Start Trailhead:camp site SW of Sun Bowl lower parking lot  9150 ft / 2788 m
Descent Statistics
    Loss on way out:3528 ft / 1075 m
        Loss Breakdown:Net: 3433 ft / 1046 m; Extra: 95 ft / 28m
    Gain on way out:95 ft / 28 m
    Distance:4.8 mi / 7.7 km
    End Trailhead:Sun Bowl lower parking lot  9200 ft / 2804 m

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