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Inner Basin Cirque Hike
14 Photosets

mini location map2010-02-19
13 by photographer avatarJim_H
photographer avatar
Inner Basin Cirque HikeFlagstaff, AZ
Flagstaff, AZ
Snowshoeing avatar Feb 19 2010
Snowshoeing14.00 Miles 4,500 AEG
Snowshoeing14.00 Miles   9 Hrs   45 Mns   1.44 mph
4,500 ft AEG
 no routes
Linked none no linked trail guides
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Today felt like spring was in the air. No, not because it was warm and balmy, but rather due to the high winds that were affecting town and especially the Peaks. Somehow, winter in Flagstaff can be blue skies (not always) and calm, and spring can be windy with clouds. Oh, well. I had this trip planned for the day and I wasn't about to let a little clouds and wind get in my way. Besides, on day like this I usually work with the idea that I can turn around when ever I want.

At the trailhead it was particularly miserable, but I think that is just a function of being on the east side of the Peaks, which seem to be the windiest side. I parked my car and started hiking in, from 7,662' (according to the DEX) and at 11am, up Lockett Meadow Road to the Inner Basin. If it weren't for this section of the hike being so boring, I think I would do this more often. I guess that is what summer is for. Either way, I got to Lockett Meadow and took a picture. I kept on going up the valley to the first pumps. I got a picture of them and I did not molest them. I flew past the next few pumps and then the wind really opened up on me. I was way off about the basin being protected by winds from the ridges. I'm sure it was nothing like it was on the western slope, but it was still windy.

I ate an apple at the 9700' pump and shelter and then went on Jake's Cirque Route. Mostly, I followed ski tracks. For the next few miles I felt really tired and couldn't understand why I was so out of shape. Only on the way down would I realize that it was actually a pretty steep grade and that I was tired because I was really exerting myself. It was probably made worse by the uphill fog which made it impossible for me to tell where I was in relation to the peaks.

Eventually, I made my way up a steep powder slope and into the cirque. I was socked in and while I was happy to have made it, I wish it could have been sunny. I was tired, but I wanted to find the slide run out that I saw last week from the rim of the volcano. The snow in the cirque really stabilized this week and the sunny warm conditions turned it to an ice crust with dense layers underneath. My ice axe went in fine, but there were times it was hard to penetrate. I almost didn't recognize the slide when I crossed it because it has melted so much. For some reason, I kept going up. I fought my way up the fairly steep, but still gently sloped slope and made my way to somewhere on the rim. The last 50 feet were the hardest as they got steeper and steeper and may have approached 60 degrees for the last 20 feet and it was close to vertical for the last 5 feet due to the cornice (that shouldn't impress you). I had to kick steps into the snow and made a ladder for the last part. The cornice is very dense, and I jammed my axe into the top and used it to pull my weight up. Odds are, it wasn't as steep as it felt, but judgment tends to be off when it's getting dark. I "peaked" out at 6pm.

At the time I was there, I had absolutely no idea where I was on the rim. I knew I was on the rim (that was obvious) and I knew I was north of the Saddle where the Humphrey Summit Trail and Weatherford Trail meet, but I didn't know much else. Sometime in the autumn someone put little flags along the Summit trail about treeline. I don't care for them, but I was able to see that I was right on the trail based on seeing a few of them. I know I wasn't in the saddle because I could not find the wood signs, and because I looked at pictures of the saddle and the Inner Basin side is very gentle. I did not come up a gentle slope. Based on my memory, some pics I took, and looking at other photos of the area (including a September set by HAZer, "hikingsunshine"), I am now certain I was just past the first false summit. Basically, I was at 12,065' in the first low spot on the trail where it rides right along the rim's edge after leaving the saddle and gaining some switchbacks through bristlecone pines.

The wind was moist with fog and moving around 50 to 60 MPH, and possibly more in gusts. I don't know for sure, but it felt like that with my experience. I didn't linger and I started down back into the basin at 6:10pm. It wasn't bad going down, though I did see just how steep my ascent route was. It took me half the time it did to go up, and I was back at my car by 9:15. I was tired, it was a long day, but I enjoyed it. I want to do this again, either just to the Cirque, but maybe to the rim and possibly with a summit. It might also be fun to do as an overnight trip.

My elevation uses a max of 12,064' on the rim and a starting elevation of 7,662'. I threw in 40 extra feet since I gained a little on the way out. I also added 6 extra miles for the rim ascent and the approach road. I guess that road is about 2 miles one way.
Let's go Brandon!!!!! Let's go Brandon!!!!
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