Sunday, March 4, 2012

Mount Hopkins

This is one that I have thought about for quite some time.  Mt Hopkins is home to the Whipple Observatory, ran by the Smithsonian and the University of Arizona.  On top of the summit is the Multi-Mirror Telescope.  It used to have an array of mirrors that were ganged together to provide the resolution of one big mirror.  A few years ago, the array was replaced by a big 6.5 meter mirror, that was made at UA in Roger Angel's Mirror Lab ( located underneath the UA football stadium ( and I'd bet 1/2 of the 50,000 fans at a Wildcat football game don't know it's even there ! ) )

So, last Wednesday, I did a trial run up the mountain to the 13 km gate, and came back down.  I talked with some friends and they said that lots of people go around the gate and on to the summit, so that was todays task ( March 4 ).

So this morning, I parked at the Whipple Observatory Visitor Center and left at about 10:46 or so, and go to the top about 3 hours later.   It's about 12 miles ( or 20 km ) to the top, and the signposts are all in km's.    The road starts out paved, goes to dirt for about 1/4 mile, has about 1 mile of pavement, then dirt until you get to the 13 km gate.  Then it's pavement the rest of the way to the top.  The grade is perhaps 6.5 to 7%, but gets really steep when you get close to the MMT perched on top of an 8300 ft summit.   The road is narrow, but there was essentially no traffic.   I was passed by one car and one motorcycle going up, and saw two cars and a pickup coming down.   Three hikers and two deer, and that's it !   Quite the difference compared to Mt Lemmon, which is full of cyclists and autos.

Snow ( not a lot but there is still a little in the shadows )

The MMT sits on top of the peak

The MMT looks like a big white box
 Mt Hopkins Visitor Center to Summit

Looking at very steep final piece, and Mt Wrightston in the distance
The last little piece, is exceptionally steep.   It was steep enough that it was too freaky to try to stop, and seemed like the best thing to do was to just peddle like crazy and get on up to the top where I could rest.

Switchbacks, switchbacks and more switchbacks