One of the highlights of last weekend’s trip to beautiful Scottsdale was a lovely hike Scott and I took to the top of Camelback Mountain.
(Well…it was mostly lovely.)
Camelback Mountain is the highest point in all of Phoenix. This means once you get to the top, you’ll be rewarded with a stunning 360 degree vista of the city. It also means you’ll be enjoying sed view while breathless, drenched with sweat, and possibly injured.
Scott and I opted to hike the Cholla Trail, as it was the only one open. Little did I know, the route we selected had a difficulty ranking of “Black Diamond”. This meant the following things:
- Long rocky segments and possible drops with exposure
- Dirt and loose rocks with continual unevenness
- 12′ or taller, loose rocks, exposure to drops
For added context, here’s a description of the hike, straight from the Cholla trail website.
The Cholla Trail is less known than its counterpart, the Echo Canyon Trail, gaining the summit from Camelback’s eastern side. The last 1/8 mile before the summit requires rock scrambling.
Be conservative in planning your hike! In addition to a gruelling climb, warm weather months can bring hot, dry desert conditions. Everyone who hikes Camelback for the first time reports that it was more difficult than they expected.
I wasn’t aware of any of this until I was already halfway up the mountain. I suppose it was better that way.
While the above description sounds totally miserable, I legitimately enjoyed the challenge of this hike. Sure, it was hot as Hades and more intense than three back-to-back Turbo Kick classes, but it felt good to get my sweat on. The scenery was breathtaking, and it was a heck of a lot better than being holed up in frigid old Minnesota!
The last part of the hike was definitely the scariest, large in part due to the previously mentioned “rock scrambling”. I’d never heard this term before, but can only describe it as hiking on all fours while fearing for your life. There were large, pointy rocks that were completely exposed. Scott had zoomed ahead of me at this point, which meant I was not only concerned I might fall 1.8 miles to my death, I also wasn’t quite sure I was still on the trail. Surely, climbing up over a ten foot high rock that comes to a point at the top and is totally open to thin air on all sides couldn’t be part of the trail?
(Apparently, it’s totally a part of the trail.)
I took a deep breath, summoned my inner Jon Krakauer, and vowed made that rock my biznatch. Miraculously, I didn’t slip or lose my footing once! Within five minutes, I had reached the summit.
After a few photos, lots of water, and insisting Scott congratulate my rock scrambling prowess at least six times, we began our descent.
Let me say this: If climbing up long rocky segments and possible drops with exposures is a challenge, then making it down them in one piece is about as easy as scoring a perfect score on the SAT while simultaneously running a marathon.
There was whimpering, butt sliding (luckily my floral mania leggings remained in tact), and a few prayers, but I survived. After making it down the technical top third of the mountain, the bottom two-thirds would be a total cake
(Or so I thought.)
Remember that part about the trail boasting dirt and loose rocks with continual unevenness? Turns out walking down that is easier said than done. Particularly when you are A: so incredibly relieved to have made it past the backwards rock scrambling that you’ve foolishly let your guard down, and B: are wearing minimalist CrossFit shoes that provide little to no ankle support.
Just as I was mentally applauding myself for deserving some sort of medal of honor from REI, it happened. My minimalist shoe-wearing left foot landed on a rock the wrong way. I heard a popping noise, felt my ankle roll to the side, and immediately tumbled to the ground. Gazing down to assess the damage, my eyes were stunned to see an ankle that appeared to be well into its third trimester.
To be continued…
Psst! Part 2 is up! Check it out here…