This past weekend was the annual Phoenix Summit Challenge event.
The challenge consists of completing your choice of 4, 5 or 7 summits among the various mountain ranges located in Phoenix, all in one day. This means, lots of driving around the city from mountain to mountain to stand upon the mountain tops!
This event is put on by the city with the intention to expose hikers to the vast amount of hiking locations within the city and to challenge themselves with completing it all in one day.
In the past two years, I’ve completed the 7 summits. It was a personal goal and I’m happy to say, last year I beat my previous time! Although this year, I decided to take it easy and do 5 summits (which is still a hard days of hiking!).
Seeing as how this year, I took a more relaxed approach to the challenge, I began to experience it in a whole other way.
I saw the community of it.
At 5:00 am in the dark morning sky, underneath the faint twinkling stars above and the white light beams from headlamps the 7 summit hikers begin their day. Excitement and a hurried tension could be felt in the air.
At this moment, it’s hiking etiquette at its best, as slower hikers stay to the right allowing the quicker and more serious hikers pass by on the left. On both ends, cheers of encouragement are heard between one another.
Human nature at its best.
This challenge isn’t a competition. In fact, winners and times are not announced. Instead, it’s up to the individual to get what they want out of this.
By the time we have driven and summited the second and third summit, there is a mix of energy in the air. Hikers are scattered like ants everywhere on all the mountains.
Some on their fourth summit, some on their sixth.
Some have a slow and lagging pace. Some are still determinedly jogging along.
Some are smiling. Some are pulled along the side and catching their breath.
This is when you know the challenge is in full force. The full range of hiking stages being seen on all mountains.
Throughout the summits, you run into the same people along the routes. The girls with pink tutu’s on. The couple with the matching emerald green shirts. The guy wearing the Mexican wrestler’s mask. They all feel like familiar friends as our paths cross for the third time that day.
The last trail of the day is at South Mountain where the after party takes place.
Food trucks line the parking area and the shiny white triangle tarps rise up in the air, letting hikers know the much awaited beer tents are up!
But before the party can happen, you have to walk away pastthis scene and onto the last hiking trail towards the mountain.
The banging of the drums can be heard from the band’s sound check, as we step onto the dusty dirt path of Holbert Trail.
Before the day is over, this trail will have the footprints of all the challengers scattered over it.
As the sun begins to turn that golden color, the sprawled out white lights twinkle from the tents roofs as the after party begins to fill up with victorious hikers. The music becomes louder and the tired hikers sit down to eat a much deserved calorie enriched meal and a local craft beer made with love in Phoenix.
In a day where so much of us were scattered and moving around, we meet one final time to congratulate ourselves and cheers each other for a job well done.