This was the first year I participated in this event. And I must say, IT WAS AWESOME!
The City of Phoenix, along with their sponsors, runs this event every year. For 2013, participants could sign up for the 4, 5, or 7 Summit Challenge (the All Access Challenge was also available and includes wheelchair-friendly trails).
Naturally, I picked up a few tips along the 16 miles and 3,543 feet of elevation gain we completed (yes, I’m bragging here). So if you want to sign up next year, here’s what you should know.
Registration Begins in August & Sells Out Immediately
Be sure to follow the Arizona Parks and Recreation Association to stay in the loop for next year’s event and take note that you have to be Johnny-on-the-spot with that online registration. There are only 250 available spots in each challenge. This year, the registration for the 7 Summit Challenge sold out in 14 freakin’ minutes! The 2014 event will be the 10th anniversary of the Summit Challenge so mark your calendars now and plan to stay up until midnight the day that thing goes live. I know I will!
Try to Sign Up for the 5 Summit Challenge (At Least)
I don’t know about the other 4’s out there but I sure felt like a big ol’ wuss when I was on the trail. My friends and family may be impressed with my hiking the 4 Summit Challenge but when I was crawling up those trails with the 5’s and the 7’s, I felt like a heel. Of course, it didn’t help that when Lou and I asked a fellow hiker to take our photo on the final summit, she said, “Are you a 5 or a 7?” We had to sheepishly admit that we were “just” 4’s.
Registration Costs Money
In 2013, registration cost $75 for the Summit Challenges. All proceeds benefit trail maintenance and repair. Considering that I get to hike the City of Phoenix trails FOR FREE whenever I want, I say this is well worth it.
The Event Organizers Will Take Care of You
I’m a bit of a stress cadet when it comes to planning (What time should I show up? What if I can’t find parking? What if I have to pee real bad and too many people are around???) The communication from the City of Phoenix and the Arizona Parks and Recreation Association was top-notch. I signed up for their e-mail list and on the day of the event, I knew where to go, when to show up, and what to bring. Parking was a dream and each location had restrooms complete with stall doors and running water! These people seriously know what they’re doing.
Be Sure to Train
Even though we did the wimpiest of the Summit Challenges, we took the training seriously. Weeks prior to the event, we were sure to hike each of the 4 trails to familiarize ourselves with the location. The weekend prior, we hiked 3 out of 4 of the summits. Armed with practice and preparation allowed us to start the challenge feeling like capable, strong hikers. Until we were shamed for our measly 4 summits, of course.
Watch the Weather
When I started training for this, I was hiking in the heat. Then that crazy storm system rolled in and I had to reach to the back of my closet for my rarely used and ill-fitting cold weather hiking clothes. As unattractive as I was, the rain gear, layers, and turtle fur kept me cozy and dry the entire day. Weather forecasting is a wonderful thing.
Pack Heavy, Travel Light
I’m no novice when it comes to all day hikes. But I’m usually on one trail with all my essential items strapped to my back. This time around, we had the luxury of hopping in and out of our car between each trail. Which meant we packed that thing with extra gear, food, drinks, clothes, and other maybe-I’ll-want-this hiking items. It was glorious. But we still managed to forget our most-needed item: extra bandanas (eye roll).
Go to the U Rock Festival
Under normal circumstances, my shyness would encourage me to skip the post-hike U ROCK Festival. This year, however, I was determined to attend so I could do a little face to face marketing for Take a Hike Phoenix. Of course I chickened out with the marketing but we had a blast at the party! We, along with other jolly hikers high from completing the challenge, stuffed our faces with delicious food from the local food trucks, cheered at the raffle give-aways (I didn’t win the $1400 REI backpacking gear prize, grrr), and drank the most delicious beer I’ve ever tasted in my life. YUM.
Embrace the Crowds
I’ll admit that the idea of hiking with 750 other people was not my idea of an ideal situation. But once I dropped my introverted attitude, I found that I was in total appreciation of my fellow hikers. The stream of folks doggedly pursuing each summit was downright inspiring. I ran into a friend from high school, a pal from work, and an old friend who now volunteers for the Central Arizona Mountain Rescue (seriously, what a badass!). I summitted Shaw Butte while chit-chatting with a dude in his 70’s, took photos of other hikers at the summits, and witnessed a blind woman (a blind woman!) climb the mountains with her two guides.
I love hikers, I really do. And I love the Phoenix Summit Challenge.