My wife and I flew out from the Buffalo, NY area on February 17th to spend a few days hiking in the Flagstaff area. We spent a lot of time reviewing this outstanding web site to get as much information as we could about trails, snowpack, terrain, etc. We selected Kendrick for one of our hikes as it looked like a good compromise between the unknowns of how much snow might be on the trail and the anticipated beauty of the summit.
We were worried we wouldn't be able to get to the trailhead due to the closure of Forest Service Roads, but a quick discussion with the Rangers and the Williams Ranger Station the day before confirmed FR 171, although closed at the North end was open from the South and accessible from the Parks exit off I40. Interestingly (and unfortunately), the ranger said the Forest Service closes a lot of the northern Coconino and Kaibab forest roads as people have begin using them as alternate routes to drive all the way to the Grand Canyon. FR 107 and 194 were easily navigated (standard 2WD passenger vehicle would be OK) until the last mile or so of FR 194 and FR 171 to the trailhead, where 4WD became necessary to get through the drifts. This is a great approach though, as it gives you some excellent views of the mountain you are about to climb.
The trailhead map provides an interesting overview of the the serious forest fire that ravaged the area some years earlier, and the impact of that is visible almost continuously as you climb. While it was sad to see evidence of so much devastation, the views that resulted from the loss of so many trees was wonderful.
The morning of the climb was cool at 25F but with no breeze, and there was a heavy coating of frost on everything. There was no snow to speak of at the trailhead. The first half of the climb was actually quite warm, and we stripped to our shirtsleeves to stay cool. There was a little snow here and there, but most had melted as much of the trail was exposed to the sun. Starting about half way to the top, we began hitting areas that were more heavily shaded, and began regularly encountering 1-2' snow drifts. This slowed us down a fair amount as the snow was melting during the day and freezing at night, making a fair amount of ice around the edges. We had to pick our way carefully in many places as the footing was difficult. The trail alternated between areas of no snow, patches of icy snow, and drifts up to 2'. The pitch of the slope with the snow and the bare spots made it impractical to use our snowshoes, but we switched to instep crampons, and that seemed to improve our footing.
We Easterners are used to hiking in areas where the trails are blazed with markers, and we found it difficult as we got to the higher elevations with more snow to keep the trail in sight. Fortunately, someone else had climbed within the last week, and we could make out footprints that we followed when the snow obscured the trail. As we neared the saddle with the old cabin, the snow became quite deep (3-4') and we lost the trail and footprints completely. We ended up bushwacking directly up to the open meadow area, deciding that, while more tiring, it was much faster than trying to re-acquire the trail. When we reached the flat saddle area, the snow was probably 4' deep, and made walking without snowshoes virtually impossible.
We picked up the footprints again and followed them to the cabin, where my wife left her pack for the ascent to the lookout tower. The climber from a week ago had not gone any farther than this - probably because of the depth of the show (his tracks indicated he didn't have snowshoes). Since we couldn't find the trail to the summit (the top of the trailhead sign pointing down the mountain was just peeking through the snow), so we simply headed straight up the last .3 of a mile. We arrived a little out of breath as it is quite steep and as we don't have these kinds of elevations to contend with in the East.
The view from the summit is just wonderful and worth every step of the ascent -- a virtually unrestricted panorama in all directions - the Grand Canyon to the North, Humphreys to the East, Bill Williams Mountain to the South. It was a perfect day - blue sky, no wind and lots of snow. Unfortunately, the trail conditions had forced us to use more time than we had anticipated going up, and as it was 2PM, we snapped a bunch of pictures and then headed back to the cabin to pick up the rest of our gear. We left a few peanuts on the cabin floor for the mice who must find it quite a challenge to eke out an existence at 10,000 feet.
This is a great winter climb. Not necessarily technical but requiring more than just a pair of hiking boots. We were (pleasantly) suprised to find ourselves all alone on the mountain - perhaps that is the norm for this time of year.
What a great mountain - those of you who live in Arizona are certainly blessed with some outstanding hiking opportunities. We hope to return to climb in the summer and perhaps see some wildlife (we saw tracks but no animals on this visit).