I have been planning to hike Humphreys Peak for some time now, patiently waiting for snow to melt. Following a canceled hike behind a closed forest road north of Flagstaff, it was decided upon to hike Arizona's tallest peak. Unsure of weather conditions near the summit of this once more precipitous volcano, with much enthusiasm we forged upward. The contrast between bright stellar Sun and the frigid fast winds made for an interestingly balmy March afternoon. After trekking uphill snow enveloped forest we abandoned the treeline and a solid trail.
Leaving the treeline the snow and slope each became significantly greater. The easier hiking was behind us as we grew nearer to Arizona's only region of Tundra. To avoid falling past our knees in snow, my hiking partner and I improved on an existing trail. Taking lead with my tripod, he ice axed the snow and compacted the most worn footsteps. I photographed from below aiming to capture the slope we were switchbacking across. Once at and above the saddle between the highest peaks the wind was a worthy adversary. Beginning the trail to summit, wind blew snow into my face and lens as I photographed ice crystals alongside the trail.
Enduring the weather conditions I gleefully photographed the alpine environment. The Sun was 2 hours from setting and the lighting across the jagged rocks and continuous white slopes were too beautiful to ignore. While passing 12,100 feet, reality of loss of light forced us to abort summiting. Reluctantly turning back but still photographing, we made our ways down the trail to the saddle. We scoped out our previous switchback path down towards the main trail. Falling through even more snow going down, we made it back to the trail to turn on our headlamps after a short thirty minutes. The remaining 4 miles was more of a bobsled track than a hiking trail, our footsteps from the hike up freezing over for the night. Hiking 11 miles of snow all day was exhausting but absolutely worth it. The low warm sidelighting while trekking between the peaks made for some beautiful images. Exactly what I was working towards all along.