Mount Tipton, Humphreys Peak, Navajo Mountain
By: Wynne Benti
This was a spur of the moment trip following two days in Las Vegas at the Comdex show. Spur of the moment meaning, no prior planning which led to the last minute purchasing of the White Hills & Mt. Tipton topos for Mt. Tipton on the final day of the conference, with the idea of combining a business/sightseeing trip of the southwest with some added peak climbing.
Anyway! We found that Mercury Blueprint in Las Vegas was a good source for Arizona and Utah USGS maps.
We arrived at Pierce Ferry Road via southbound U.S. 93, Friday night at dusk. We turned left on Pierce Ferry Rd and then right on a dirt road 2.9 miles from the intersection of U.S. 93 and Pierce Ferry Road. We followed this road about 3.4 miles to a passable auto gate and camped at the end of the road, about 3/4 mile beyond the gate. From our location the following morning, we were able to see the saddle to the north of Tipton and that seemed to be the most obvious direction for the ascent, so that is the direction we went. However, I don't recommend going that way, as we discovered, a few hours into the slog. We cut up a ridge slightly southeast of the saddle and proceeded to the ridge directly north of the peak it was on that ridge that things got unnecessarily brushy, itchy, steep and hot.
Once on top of the summit, we discovered a lot of footprints going in the opposite direction of the way we came. Following the footprints and checking the map, we proceeded south off the summit, on a well worn footpath behind a facade of steep rocky cliffs to the west. The footpath led to a stream bed with minimal brush, which we followed down to the Arizona Spring and a jeep trail. (The stream bed is between peaks x5534 and x5872 on the Mt. Tipton topo). This route has got to be the best one for ascending Mt. Tipton. The stream bed is easy to follow, ascends gradually and is fairly clear of brush. We then cut north over fairly level and treeless terrain, to our car.
It took us about four hours to get from Tipton to Flagstaff with a stop for dinner at La Posada in Kingman. We were surprised to find out how inexpensive hotel rooms were in Flagstaff. At this time of year, a room for two costs between $12-$19. There are the usual campgrounds and I'm sure, one could spend the night in the parking lot of the Fairfield Snowbowl ski resort (where the trail up Humphreys begins) if the place isn't operating. The Humphreys trailhead is marked with a sign just above the Agassiz Lodge at the foot of the Agassiz chair lift. We parked in the first level parking lot to avoid being locked in after closing, and walked from there to the trailhead. The trail up Humphreys was well defined though we questioned the accuracy of some of the mileage on the forest service signs - There was 2-3 feet of snow on the summit and a storm was rolling in with winds at lease 40mph. Visibility was poor and it was freezing! We carried ice axes and they came in handy for balancing in the wind. On top of the summit, we attempted to dig through the snow to find the register(if there is one), but never found it.
On an interesting historical note, we visited the Museum of Northern Arizona in Flagstaff and were surprised to find out that the Hopi Indians have based much of their religion on the belief that the spirits of the katsinas (katchinas) live on the San Francisco Peaks, Humphreys & Agassiz.
Using an Southern California Auto Club map, we navigated our vehicle east (following a brief stay at the Bright Angel Lodge on the south rim of the Grand Canyon), to U.S. 160 and then north, to a wide, well graded dirt road known as the "Rainbow Trail" (the only road on land that provides access to the natural arch, Rainbow Bridge, now part of the Glen Canyon Recreation area). About 54 miles from the intersection of U.S. 160 and the Rainbow Trail, we stopped at the Navajo Mountain Trading Post to ask where the road up Navajo Mountain started. The deep trail up the ridge to Navajo Mtn is about 1/4 mile before the turnoff to the trading post, on the west side of the Rainbow Trail. The jeep trail (it is definitely a 4-wheel vehicle trail) circumvents Navajo Mountain and finally ends up on top at a relay station. The road was very muddy following a storm, so we were able to go about two miles before having to walk. We followed the road to an abandoned corral where we found a well worn trail marked with very visible stacks of rocks. This trail cut about 1-2 miles walking distance off the road. On the summit, we found the register "zip-lock bag" put there in September by Don Weiss. The register is in need of a can. There was some fresh snow on Navajo and the day was absolutely beautiful. We were able to see the buttes of Monument Valley to the east. That night, we spent the night at Wahweap Beach on Lake Powell and had a great lunch at this new deli (for a great price) on U.S. 89 on the north end of Kanab in Utah.
Recommend stopping at the old town site of Paria on the way back to Los Angeles on U.S. 89. The movie set, used for the filming of a variety of westerns, like 'The Outlaw Josie Wales,' is still very intact. About a 3/4 of a mile down the dirt road from the movie set are the ruins of the 1880"s community of Pana. Most of the town was leveled in the last part of the 19th century when a flash flood tore down the canyon in which it was built.
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