Who is Ed Viesturs?
Ed Viesturs is America's, and perhaps the world’s, leading high altitude mountaineer. He has climbed all 14 of the world's highest mountains (above 8,000 meters) without the use of supplemental oxygen. In doing so, he became the first American and the 5th person in the world to accomplish this. He has also summited Mount Everest seven times. In other words, this guy is a mountaineer God (okay Reinhold Messner still takes the title). In all those feats Ed Viesturs has climbed some incredible mountain peaks and has always returned. A lot of other mountaineers have summited the same peaks but have never returned. A key lesson to be learned here is that wisdom and not physical strength, bravado, nor the latest and greatest hiking gear is what is needed on the mountain.
A couple of years ago I used to call myself an avid hiker until a very dangerous bug called photography infected me.
Now I wake up two hours before sunrise not to be at the trailhead but to set up my tripod to capture nature’s light. My home office floor is filled with so many camera bags, camera bodies and lenses that the only hiking I do is around this garbled mess to get to my computer.
So when I got a call from my friend, Vince Puccio (of The Heart Attack Grill fame –see previous blog), to go hike Mount Humphrey in Arizona I was definitely onboard. The depressing part was going to my garage and dusting away the cobwebs from my Camelbak and trekking poles.
After picking up Vince at his home in the Coachella Valley we sped toward the California/Arizona border to have lunch in the historic town of Prescott, AZ and eventually rest our heads in the new age town of Sedona. We spent the next day wandering around Sedona hoping their famed vortexes would energize us for our upcoming hike. Before leaving Sedona we had lunch at the Oak Creek Brewery (great food and even better award-winning micro brewed beer). I wouldn’t recommend drinking and driving (or rather drinking then driving) but if you had to then indulge in a pint of the Oak Creek Nut Brown Ale and drive the scenic highway 89A that connects Sedona to Flagstaff.
While the fresh mountain air of Flagstaff was invigorating, we didn’t take too much in since we spent the better part of that evening indoors. Partaking in adult beverages (i.e. micro-brewed beer) is not the most optimal way to prepare for a hike the next day. At least on our part we were contributing to the local economy. We ended the evening in the Monte Vista Lounge, which was convenient since it was in the same building of the historic Hotel Monte Vista in downtown Flagstaff in which we called our temporary home.
Age and dehydration welcomed us in the morning. Our goal was to be at the trailhead by 7:00 AM and we promptly delivered ourselves sometime after 10:00 AM to start the hike. Not a great beginning.
We persevered toward the summit ridge all the while we were blasted with such powerful winds I felt like I was being pounded by a heavyweight boxer. Actually, at times the wind was at our backs that a huge gust would literally carry us up the trail. After all that fun, we reached the inner basin and twice I nearly lost my balance due to the fierce gusts of wind (or maybe I was still in a discombobulated state from the previous night’s wild activities). Either way, Vince and I stumbled around like we were in a drunken state.
All good things (in this case windy things) must come to an end so we decided to turn around head down the mountain. Vince perhaps was suffering more than me since he didn’t have any gloves, proper headgear, and proper eyewear (he later said that his eyes were irritated from the wind). I popped in my Apple earphones, powered up my iPod and marched on down toward the car.
Back in Flagstaff I powered down what looked like a hamburger from Jack in the Box since I all I had to eat the whole day were two fiber bars. We then took our weary bones back to our room at the Hotel Monte Vista where Vince and I pondered the haunted past of the hotel. I googled the hotel on the world’s greatest hand held computer, my iPhone, and I read aloud the Monte Vista’s haunted past.
We decided to put this claim to the test so before we called it an evening we moved the rocking chair to the center of the room. Upon waking up the next morning the chair was still in the same position. Either Grandma Ghost was on vacation or she was present and was too old to move it back to the window.
We checked out of the hotel and started our drive back to California. No summit and no ghosts. Considering I wasn’t in the best condition the day of hike (and my aging body), I still had a great time. No blisters, throbbing knees, bodies blown off mountain, and no ill effects from the altitude. Yes, the summit is optional but on my next trip to Mount Humphrey it will be a requirement. When I do reach the summit I’ll celebrate back in Flagstaff at the Hotel Monte Vista with a beer, Grandma Ghost and the rocking chair.