Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Camelback Mountain

Camelback Mountain is THE city mountain to climb in the Phoenix area.  It's the tallest, maybe the toughest, the most iconic.  And the most crowded.  I tend to avoid these bumper-to-bumper "Disneyland trails."  Parking has always sounded like a hassle too, so I never got around to it

Bad move.  Because, despite being a Disneyland trail, it was so worth it.  The trail was...    

Beautiful:  big, dramatic red cliffs of rock above you, great views.

Fun:  clambering over rocks, pulling yourself up with handrails, choosing the best path.

Good exercise:  elevation gain of over 1200 ft in 1.2 miles. 

Perfect for a chuckwalla safari:  we found two of these big lizards, even in January.

If you go:

Do NOT go in the summer, unless you're used to hiking in such temperatures.  Even then, hike early, use extreme caution, pay attention to your body's warning signals, and don't try to be macho.  Every summer people have to be evacuated off the mountain.  Many summers we have at least one fatality.  Though many of these fatalities are from falls, I have to think many wouldn't have fallen if they hadn't been fatigued, light-headed, dizzy, disoriented, etc. from the effects of heat exhaustion or heat stroke.  Heat kills more than cold, especially since people don't respect it enough.    

Take some snacks and plenty of water.  Do not underestimate the amount of water you'll need, especially if it's hot.  For a hike this short (but strenuous), you'll still want at very minimum 1.5 quarts/liters of water.  Take more if you plan to spend a long time on the trail, if it's very hot, or if you're not used to this type of hiking.  Turn back once you've used half your water.  

Put everything in a backpack so you have two free hands.  You'll want them on some sections.

Also consider a shade hat, sunscreen, and sunglasses.  The sun's pretty unforgiving, even in winter.    

As for parking, here's what we did:  We arrived at the Echo Canyon Trailhead at about 10:15 on a Thursday in January with beautiful weather.  There was plenty of parking.  Perhaps it was a fluke, but it worked fine.  Try to avoid weekends if possible.  We hiked up the Echo Canyon Trail, down the Cholla Trail on the other side, and then took Lyft back to the trailhead.  It went really smoothly.

Have fun and be safe!

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