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I then started looking up summits named after her, wondering if I could just beat her to those. Newman Hill in Amador County is pretty weak, at less than 500ft elevation and less than 100ft of prominence. That would impress no one. There's also Newmans Knob in the Sierra Nevada and I'd already tagged that obscurity, so score one for me. But that was all California had to offer. I needed something more and looked in other western states. My search found nine such summits scattered over five states, with five of them in Arizona. This would do nicely. The closest ones were a pair NW of Flagstaff, East Newman Hill and Newman Hill, both towering well over 8,000ft. And so on short notice I packed gear, loaded supplies, said goodbye to loved ones and set off on my vengeful quest.
Almost immediately it became clear that July is not the best time for this. As I entered California's Central Valley, the thermometer climbed to over 100F and didn't relent until I was across the state - 109F in Bakersfield, 104F in Barstow. I prayed to the air-conditioning gods not to fail me as I sped over hundreds of miles of baking desert lanscape, tenuously holding to life in my small volume of deliciously chilled air. It was still 104F in Needles when drove through at 9:30p. Not until I reached Kingman did the temperature drop below 90F and finally by the time I reached Williams it had cooled to the 60's, after climbing to nearly 8,000ft. By this time it was near midnight and I needed sleep. My first choice was near a bridge on what I thought were the outskirts of Williams. I settled in to find five cars driving by and two trains screeching over the bridge - all within ten minutes of climbing in the sleeping bag. This definitely would NOT do. It also occurred to me that my location just off the pavement might draw the attention of the Williams police. I never did pay those two speeding tickets from years earlier and suspect there might be a warrant out for my arrest in Arizona. Small detail. I reluctantly got up and drove another 15min to find a very quite spot in the Kaibab National Forest, all the while wondering why I hadn't done this to start with.
After a restless sleep (wondering if my gear selection would be appropriate for the Newman twins), I was up with the sun not long after 5:30a. They don't believe in daylight savings here for some reason, so it's pretty darn hard to sleep past 6a without something to block out the sun. I drove 15mi of Forest Service Road 171 north from Interstate 40 at Bellemont. This was much better than it sounds because most of the roads were good gravel roads, regularly maintained. Only the last three miles were on somewhat rougher dirt roads, but really no trouble for the van. I parked at the Kendrick Mtn TH and began my climb around 7:20a. I used Kendrick Peak, a P2K and Wilderness HP, as a warm up before attempting the Newmans. Though it rises to over 10,000ft, it has a trail to the summit which makes it pretty trivial over the course of its 4.5mi. I spent two hours on this nicely graded (but very switchback-y) trail, climbing up through forest with occasional views until one breaks out at the summit. The area is much greener than the Sierra Nevada, with bunch grass in abundance wherever there is a break in the trees. The Pumpkin Fire had burned much of the area in May of 2000, but the area is recovering quite well. Young trees and ferns can be found in abundance. At the saddle just below the summit there is a ski hut with two bunks and sparse furnishings. I signed a register I found there because my autonomous nervous system has taken over that function from my frontal lobes.
A manned, or in this case, womanned fire lookout is found at the top of Kendrick. Carol was an extremely welcoming host who was doing her first stint in a fire lookout after a career as ranger, EMT and general bad ass for the Forest Service. We talked about all sorts of things as we took in the views from her office - it's a pretty spectacular view for 360 degrees, even taking in a portion of the Grand Canyon almost 50mi to the north. Before I left she gave me some cautionary words about the Newmans, noting they were off-trail, difficult to find and protected by daunting obstacles. Past adventurers had suffered needlessly. I thanked her for her concern but was determined to press on.
With the preliminary out of the way, I descended a few miles of the trail to about the 8,800-foot level. The two hills could be seen in the middle foreground framed by the 9,300-foot Sitgreaves Mtn 9mi in the distance. Their formidable defences gave me pause, but my resolve quickly returned. I left the trail and began the harrowing descent along the ridgeline connecting Kendrick to East Newman Hill. The Pumpkin Fire had left much downfall across the slope, causing me to pause often to work out the best plan of attack. This was generally solved by stepping over them. As I neared within a few hundred yards of East Newman, I was met by a wall of grass slopes, rising almost 70ft over that distance from its saddle with Kendrick. Loose lava rocks were hidden in the grass, waiting to turn an ankle, or worse, at the first suggestion of inattention. These were the dangers Carol had warned me about, and my focus was steely and sharp. It was 10:30a before I pulled up to the highpoint of East Newman. It has fine views overlooking the Flagstaff Plateau to the south and of Kendrick to the northeast. The money shot is to the west, however, where Newman Hill rises from the flanks of Kendrick. Though 15ft shorter than East Newman, it makes up for it with more than 400ft of prominence - this was the beast I had come to slay.
Much of the details are foggy now, some completely lost in the mayhem that ensued once I left the summit of East Kendrick. Without a guiding trail, I was often confused in the tangle of forest and grass, the sun now beating down on me with an intensity hovering close to 75F. Almost sweating profusely, I was forced to rely on my wits, Gatorade, and my GPSr. The struggle lasted nearly 25min and threatened to continue for several minutes longer as I puzzled over which rock was the highpoint. I was thrilled to find a small register bottle tucked under one of these as it meant I could now use the peakbagger app to log this summit in real time. I immediately decided to rechristen this so-worthy summit as Laura Newman Hill which has the unfortunate side-effect of rendering peakbagger, listsofjohn and the USGS/BGN all incorrect and superannuated. The register dated all the way back to 2013, covering much of the modern mounaineering era, most of the entries from Arizona residents. Most importantly, there was no entry from Laura herself. My victory was now total.
It would take another fifteen excruciating minutes to extract myself from the clutches of the mighty Laura Newman Hill, and it was with near-exhaustion that I returned to the TH and my awaiting vehicle sometime before noon. Still, the adrenalin coursing my veins would allow no rest and I needed to work my body into a calmer mood before I could rest and savor the day. I did this by tacking on a few bonus peaks in the the area - Antelope Hill and Government Knolls, North and South. What had caught my attention was that Gordon MacLeod had climbed all three of these along with a whole bunch of other summits in the area. In fact, Gordon has climbed nearly 200 peaks in Coconino County to nmy paltry total of nine. I don't think I'm yet ready to challenge Gordon...
For more information see these SummitPost pages: Kendrick Peak
This page last updated: Fri Jul 29 11:56:38 2016
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