Super Squats Challenge

This week, my Super Squats Challenge to myself was to conquer the jewel of Phoenix, Camelback Mountain. There are two hiking trails – one for the tourists called Cholla, and one for the triumphant called Echo Canyon. I figured that if I were going to do it, be triumphant about it. In truth, the Cholla hike requires more climbing near the summit that my fear of heights prevents me from even considering.

On a lovely Saturday morning (95 degrees), I set out to climb the mountain that I had been ignoring for a good six years. Back before that, I would regularly hike Camelback, sometimes (stupidly) doing it in the middle of the day in summer. It’s a difficult hike and more than a few have been taken down via helicopter due to injury or exhaustion. Thankfully, that has not been me. Camelback is in the center of Phoenix, surrounded at its base by some of the most beautiful and posh homes and resorts in the Valley. None of that matters until you reach the summit because as you will see, the focus should be on making sure you don’t die.

Round trip, this hike is 2.3 miles, with an elevation gain of 1300 feet. I mentally break this trail down to five phases, and this is the opening climb – stairs.

Now that we got past all those steps, we get to what I call Phase 2 – the Spiderman section. I call it this because while there is a handrail, the people coming down often use it and if they are inexperienced, they can slip and slide. NO THANK YOU! So I tend to get low and crawl up the middle until my fingers cling to the top. PRO TIP – when hiking a steep climb, it’s safer to lower your center of gravity so you don’t tumble. Most people stay high and this makes your fall a lot longer!

PHEW! Now that that’s done, my stomach can drop from my throat and I can continue through a short, flat area before approaching the next climb, which is this (this was taken from the top). Talk about getting your back into it! This is lunges on steroids.

Past those rocks, there is this reward.

Phase 3 – more rocks. I’m really feeling it here, sliding to the right for some relief from the sun. I saw some people who looked like they were not avid climbers, holding hands while coming down. PRO TIP – DO NOT DO THIS. Are you insane? So the person who is afraid and timid is not using both hands to navigate his/her way down and hold on to you instead? This is a recipe for disaster. Get low and do whatever you need to do to keep safe, but DO NOT hold onto someone else!

Phase 4 – this really can be a challenge to your will. You are so close but man, this is a long climb that doesn’t quite get you to the summit. I took about five breaks here as I thought it better than having my heart beat out of my chest. On the upside, at this point, you have “climbing buddies.” These are the people who you end up taking turns leap-frogging through these last phases. Mine were two menz, one of whom was wearing a cloth Yoda backpack. It was so hot, I can only imagine that even Yoda was telling him: Backpack, get rid of it.

Phase 5 – the last surge to the summit but I didn’t take a picture for fear that if I stopped, I would give up and break down into a puddle of tears and sweat. So we are here – FINALLY at the summit. It’s rather spacious, with lots of room to rest and contemplate whether it might be better to have hot firemen come rescue you from the top or if you can make it back down on your own. While doing so, there is a 360 view of the Valley. This is looking west towards the Cardinals stadium.

This is the area known as Paradise Valley and Scottsdale. Rich people live there.

These are the Superstitions mountains – there’s gold in them hills!

This is the South Mountain range, the largest municipal mountain range in the country.

It took me 1:15 up and down, 45 minutes up and 30 down but I will get faster. I also have to say, I caught a glimpse of my backside in my shadow on the way down. Not that reaching the top wasn’t reward enough, but things are looking a lot perkier back there.

Top image source Wiki. All other images from Crasstalk, reproduction not permitted.

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