I-40 between Albuquerque and Flagstaff is interesting. There is Gallup, NM, then the Red Rocks, which has some amazing rock climbing, followed soon after by the Arizona border, at which point you drive through the Navajo Reservation. As we got within about 75 miles of Flagstaff, we could now make out a tall mountain range FAR above the desert floor. We realized that this was where were going to be climbing the next morning. First we stopped at the Meteor Crater in Winslow, AZ. This was very cool, but it was hard to take in the scale of the crater. The only reference one had for scale, was a life-size cutout of a person at the very bottom, which you could barely make out with the naked eye. A telescope was needed to tell that it was actually a person, but this makes sense since this person was more than a half-mile away from where we were on the rim of the crater. We then continued on to Flagstaff, and from Flagstaff, continued US-180 to the Grand Canyon. We reached the Grand Canyon at about 5 p.m., and we all thought it was amazing. Tons of pictures were taken, but we couldn't dawdle, because we had a mountain to climb.
Left: Rick at the rim of Meteor Crater. The life-size astronaut cut-out is barely visible at the bottom. Right: Humphrey’s Peak looks pretty tall from the Meteor Crater, more than 50 miles away.
Above: Jay (left) and BC (right) step to the edge of the Grand Canyon. Long way down . . .
Highpoint: Humphrey's Peak
Height: 12633 ft.
Highpoint #: 35 for JO, 34 for BC
Trails: Humphrey's Peak Trail
Distance: 9 miles roundtrip
Vertical Gain: 3600 feet
Time Taken: 10 hours
Weather:sunny, cool, 60's
Group: JO, BC, Jay and Rick
Comments: Well, here we were, our first peak over 10,000 feet. This is often called the easiest of the western state highpoints, so we figured it was a good first attempt at one of the western states. Because of the slow progress in Texas, JO and BC left before dawn. After an initial period of getting lost trying to find the trailhead, BC and JO began to switchback up the side of Humphrey's Peak in the dark, and quickly ran into snow. In some parts, the snow was knee-deep or even higher, which slowed BC down considerably. Along the way, BC and JO heard someone screaming for help. A woman was lost in the dark, with no flashlight on a large rockslide at the end of one of the switchbacks. BC and JO gave her some food and got her back on the trail and continued up the mountain. By the time BC and JO had the saddle of the summit ridge in sight, Rich and Jay had already caught up and passed BC and JO. This is around when things really went south for BC. At about 11400 feet, BC began to show signs of altitude sickness. BC and JO both had headaches, but BC was also beginning to get dizzy and nauseous. BC and JO finally reached the saddle on the ridge, and the summit looked pretty far away. BC and JO began around the summit ridge when Jay and Rick again met up, on their way back down. At this point, BC was so dizzy he was tripping constantly and was now having trouble seeing straight. Jay and Rick were concerned about his condition and told BC and JO that it was still a long way up to the summit. BC decided to turn around and go down with Jay and Rick, JO continued up on his own. JO reached the summit about an hour later, and BC struggled most of the way down with Jay and Rick. By the time BC was down under 11000 feet, he started to feel fine again, and he vowed that he would come back to beat this mountain.
Left: The rock slide where BC and JO ran into the lost hiker at night. Right: A view along the summit ridge. The true summit is obscured behind the rightmost peak.
Left: JO on the summit of Humphrey’s Peak Right: The first 3.5 miles of the hike ascend the other side of the ridge to the right. You emerge at the saddle in the middle, then hike atop the ridge.
We ended up crashing at a motel in Flagstaff that night, and in the morning drove back to New Mexico, then up to Santa Fe. It turns out that the garage never ended up working on the truck on Monday, 5/26. BC called around and found a garage that would do it first thing next morning. BC arranged to have the truck towed to this new garage. We decided to try the New Mexico highpoint, so we began driving north towards Taos. However, when we were getting near the Taos area, we saw that most of the peaks in the area were totally covered in snow. Not wanting a repeat of the slogging through snow we endured on Humphrey's, we turned back and stayed in Santa Fe for the night.
The next morning, we returned to Albuquerque, to check on the truck. We explained our plight to the owner of the garage, and he promised to get us on the road that day. He said that the truck needed a new clutch, and could do it for 800 dollars, but it had to be cash. BC went to a bank and had his daily limited increased so he could take out the $800, and the garage finished at about 6:00 p.m. We decided to scrap the rest of the trip (Colorado, Kansas, Ohio and Indiana) and just drive straight home, since we no longer trusted the truck enough to put more miles than necessary on it. We got on I-40 heading west, and we then realized that we couldn't shift. We called the garage, and they said that perhaps there was an air bubble in the Clutch master cylinder and it needed to be bled out. The trick was getting the truck back to the garage. Jay did a great job of starting the truck up in third and staying in that gear (not an easy thing to do, especially around town). We got back to the garage at 8:00 and the mechanics worked on the truck into the night, finally getting done at about 10:00. We thanked them profusely, then got in the truck and headed home once again.
Jay drove all the way from Albuquerque to southwestern Missouri, and we ended up rocketing back to Worcester as quickly as possible. Total time from Albuquerque to Worcester, MA, including stops for food and gas: 35 hours. Well, this odyssey had come to a close, and JO and BC were now more than 2/3 of the way to completing the state highpoints. The toughest were still, however, to come.