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Fremont & Doyle Peaks
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mini location map2014-08-09
42 by photographer avatarddgrunning
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Fremont & Doyle PeaksFlagstaff, AZ
Flagstaff, AZ
Hiking avatar Aug 09 2014
Hiking19.87 Miles 5,551 AEG
Hiking19.87 Miles   9 Hrs   26 Mns   2.68 mph
5,551 ft AEG   2 Hrs   1 Min Break
1st trip
Partners none no partners
My brother and some friends with whom we do an annual rim-to-rim trip in September wanted to head up to the peaks for a training hike on Weatherford Trail. Since my son and I had done Weatherford to Humphreys and back at the end of June, I decided to mix things up by tackling the summits of Doyle and Fremont instead. My brother ended up joining me on the off trail adventure, while the rest of our group hiked at various paces and to various destinations (some just to Doyle Saddle and back; some to the Agassiz crossover and back; a few to the Humphreys summit saddle and back; and one to 12,633 and back--all great options on this trail).

My brother and I took off at a pretty good clip, logging about 18-19 min. miles up to Doyle Saddle. From there, we veered off trail up the western face of Doyle. It's off-trail hiking, so I don't know that we found a better or worse way up, but it seemed generally that there were fewer obstacles (tree clumps) to contend with and navigate around if we stayed more on the south/west face of the peak, rather than crossing over a ridgeline you meet closer to the summit that would put you more on a north-side approach. (see gps track)

After the steep climb, we topped out on Doyle to beautiful views. It was very satisfying to capture Fremont, Agassiz, Humphreys, Abineau, and Rees in a single panorama.

We explored the old Doyle cabin, which is 60-70 yards SE of the summit rock pile. [Actually, as I now review the topo maps, it looks like the precise summit is a little further east on the rounded peak, though at only 10-15 feet higher, I'm counting our effort as a summit bag :-$ ] Although the roof of the Doyle cabin is mostly collapsed, there is still a little shelter to be found there in a pinch, and the cabin is equipped with a frying pan, spatula, saw, and a dustpan/broom, so you can tidy up after yourself. We also found a few older and newer summit logs in a tupperware container, along with some emergency candles, lighter, matches and a few other odds and ends. We added our name to one of the new registers under another HAZer who was up there Aug. 2013.

After that, we made a quick descent of Doyle back to the saddle, with our eyes on the next goal: Fremont Peak. Ascending from the east, we stayed fairly close to the top of the ridgeline while climbing up. As the north side of the ridge drops off precipitously in a few places (i.e., the rock-slide/avalanche areas that are readily apparent from the inner basin), when in doubt, we navigated a little lower on the southern side of the ridgeline. However, straying too far down from the ridge to the south could also lead to some steep ravines that would end up requiring backtracking or more technical climbing. Bottom line: my general suggestion is to stay as close to the top of the ridgeline as possible. :M2C: There's no way to avoid a little class 2 rock scrambling, but no real exposure.

As we cleared the treeline and made the final push to the summit, we could see a storm beginning to move in. A hundred feet or so from the summit, I heard the first rumble of thunder in the distance. From the summit, we could see rain falling to the south and west of us. I knew we needed to get off the exposed summit, but our plan was to cross over the summit and drop down into Fremont Saddle, so we continued up and over, stopping only briefly at the summit to snap some photos (forgot to look for/sign the summit register ...) :doh: . I had no desire to backtrack down the way we had ascended from Doyle Saddle--other than the final pitch to the summit (which is steep from any angle), the eastern approach is, overall, much more steep and presents a much more challenging descent route.

Off the top of Fremont summit, we had originally intended to follow the long, relatively level ridgeline around to the southwest "mini-summit" and then from there drop into Fremont Saddle. However, with the thunder rumbling, we wanted to get off the exposed ridgeline and quickly dropped off into the trees on the north-facing slope, descending cross-country through the forested mountain face on various game trails, while generally wrapping around the side of the mountain. The rain descended, and we donned our ponchos, though it never let loose with an all-out downpour. I kept an eye on my GPS altimeter, trying to keep us from dropping below 11,400, so that we wouldn't undershoot the saddle. We thoroughly enjoyed the fresh smells and vibrant forest colors that accompanied the rain, as well as the muffling effect of the overcast skies and rainy drizzle (interrupted by an occasional clap of thunder) as we made our final descent into the saddle. Even when I'm "on trail," that northern slope of Fremont is one of my favorite sections of the Weatherford trail.

At the saddle, we hung out for 30 minutes or so, not sure where the rest of our hiking crew was. We saw a number of groups of hikers descending from Agassiz, passing up their summit attempts in light of the stormy conditions. Eventually, most our our crew came down the trail as well. However, they reported that one gal in our group had made it beyond Agassiz to the summit trail junction and was reportedly still set on reaching the Humphreys summit. Not knowing that my brother and I had opted to tackle Doyle and Freemont Peaks, her plan was at least to keep marching forward until she "caught up" to us (presumably, on our descent of Humphreys). Of course, we were behind her, but felt that we should head up the trail to check on her and, at a minimum, provide some companionship for the long descent back to Weatherford trailhead.

By the time we had decided to continue up the Agassiz switchbacks, the storm clouds were breaking up and the storm was pushing off to the east. So, I felt comfortable venturing above the treeline.

We made it to the 12,000 ft. Agassiz crossover, and thankfully saw our companion marching her way back up to the crossover from the summit-trail side. She reported that she had indeed made the Humphreys summit, and had it all to herself, as everyone else apparently had (wisely) abandoned their attempts in light of the weather. She relayed how she and other hikers on the trail were surrounded by static electricity, making their hair stand on end, while hiking through a pretty solid downpour of sleet and hail. I told her she was lucky, after having tempted Mother Nature so. [-X

The descent from Agassiz crossover to the trailhead was unexceptional (other than, of course, the breathtaking vistas that make this hike a gem in the first place). The skies cleared up and we enjoyed a pleasant, rain-free return hike. Coming back across Fremont, we took the "traditional" trail down and around its northern slopes.

On the way down from Doyle Saddle, we decided to take a "short cut," intending to lop off a section of the trail that bleeds over a ridgeline that separates Fremont's south and southeast faces. Well, as the gps track confirms, we dropped off the trail way too soon and ended up doing some extra bushwhacking to get back to the trail. On the bright side, we ran into a couple of grouse and snapped a few photos.

Our second attempted shortcut was more successful, and more significant in lopping off about a .5 section of the trail that bleeds over on Fremont's south face. I was also more familiar with this one, having accessed it on a previous trip. I'm sure that section was necessary when the trail needed to be navigable by Model T's...

As we rounded the horseshoe bend in the trail by the meadow near the trail register (approx. 2.2 miles from the trailhead), we saw a healthy buck in velvet, grazing in the meadow. The final two miles were a slog, as we were pretty beat.

We stopped in Flag for dinner and then headed back to Phoenix, after another satisfying adventure in the high country. Weatherford is definitely one of my top 5 Arizona hikes!
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